Given that I’m terrified by the thought of a tidal wave, it’s odd that I’d be writing about sailing through rough waves. But when I think about a leader’s role during crunch time, I can’t help but draw the parallel.
My own sailing experience is limited to a sailing course when I was 13 in little lasers on a calm bay, and now as an adult floating along in my Dad’s schooner but in both cases the circumstances are the same:
1. You plan to go out knowing what the weather is going to bring you.
2. Once you’re out there, it’s just you and the water and you can’t just pull over to the shoulder if a big wave comes along.
Being a leader involves identifying what and when your crunch times are, so you can prepare and lead your teams through them effectively. Once it starts, a successful outcome largely depends on the leaders ability to steer the team through the busy period right through to the end.
It depends on whether the leader is appropriately equipped themselves.
When I talk to leaders who have spent most of their career focusing on their technical skills, they often say, ‘I know I should focus on my ‘soft skills’ but I just don’t have the time. I need to just do the work.’
What they are really saying is ‘I’ve never had to see myself as a leader until now and I’m in unfamiliar waters. Having never had the opportunity to invest in myself and see how leadership can support my technical skills, I don’t know how it will go..‘
And I get that. But being in the midst of a deadline is really hard, especially for the leader. It is not the leader’s job to solve the problem by themselves - they need to set and maintain an environment for the team to come together and deliver. You may be the most experienced subject matter expert in your organisation, but when it’s time to deliver results, that’s not sufficient. Knowing how to effectively lead your teams through crunch times is critical.
So let’s keep it simple and investment small.
1. Know why you’re here: understand your motivations and drivers. As it pertains to each of your crunch times, are they aligned with your organisation’s objectives? Are they aligned with your boss’ objectives? Leadership is hard and you will hit some rough conditions. If you’re not sure, then take the action to get clear. This shows leadership and the clarity you’ll gain will make it far easier to ride the waves.
2. Know your crunch times: Make sure you have clarity on which ones ‘really matter’. Check out my previous post that provides guidance how to do this.
3. Your team’s success is your success: do everything you can to make them successful. Remove roadblocks before they hit them. Reward behaviours that move them in the right direction.
Take action today: talk to one team member, and ask them what is slowing them down achieving a particular outcome. Then remove it.
4. Context is everything: Keep your head out of the sand and focus on the context. Of the situation, of your people, of you. Your team will likely get stuck in the weeds at some point and context is powerful to lift them out and move them forward.
This is just a start, but I encourage you to spend a few minutes getting clear on these ideas. Then see how they translate to better outcomes during crunch time.
About Alena: Alena works with leaders and their teams to connect technical and leadership skills so they can deliver to deadline without killing their people. She is a mentor, trainer, facilitator and coach. Contact her today on firstname.lastname@example.org