If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.
If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.
Do you think that the goal of planning is to execute your plan flawlessly every time? If you believe that, then you probably don’t think making a plan is worthwhile.
Why, then, do we plan?
Although executing a plan exactly as you intended is ideal, it rarely happens. There are usually many variables outside of our control which frequently force us to adjust to the actual conditions. The market is a dynamic environment and we can’t always anticipate things like interest rates or consumer demand. It’s not just your team or department out there doing work- frequently there are many functions working interdependently. Oftentimes we depend on the delivery of external resources. All of these factors inject variability into our operating environment. So as conditions change, and they absolutely will, we are required to adjust our original plan to appropriately address what we experience “on the ground” so we can still accomplish our objective.
So was all that time and effort spent planning wasted?
What makes a plan so valuable is the process you undertake to create it- all the critical thinking and engagement necessary to align your team towards a specific goal. While making the plan, your team gains awareness of the conditions, purpose, and the priorities and expectations you provide as the manager. Those elements are not going to change even if you have to adjust your actions. While creating the plan, you will discuss what truly needs to happen and probably several ways to accomplish each action. The plan, therefore, is a reference point, a goal for how you would like things to go in a perfect world. But when reality occurs and conditions change, your plan allows you to immediately pivot and create a new plan because everyone already has a deep understanding of what is truly important about that scope of work.
When you hit a snag in your plan, and you often will, the most critical factor in allowing your team to respond is your leadership. As the manager, you must assume control and keep the team aligned on the goal, providing updated guidance and direction to keep the group moving toward success. The ability to adjust to the actual conditions doesn’t happen by chance, it happens because the team had a plan in the first place that you will use as a reference from which to adjust.
In Special Forces, when developing a plan we frequently reminded ourselves that “the enemy has a vote.” What that means is even the best laid plans can quickly unravel because we can’t predict how our adversary will react to our actions. We must estimate and assume how the enemy will behave when we make our plan, based on our experience in the business, but ultimately we don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future. Another expression commonly heard in the military is “no plan survives first contact with the enemy.” These expressions tell us that we should expect our plans to change. To avoid being caught flat footed when we execute, we have to try to anticipate everything that could affect our progress (which we call contingencies) and plan countermeasures to respond; ultimately, however, it takes leaders to navigate the team to success when the situation changes. The way to maximize the probability for success is to have a good plan in place from the start. You can’t expect your team to go out there and get it done by shooting wildly from the hip. You need “well aimed fire” to accomplish your objective, and that precision comes from strong planning. To execute work without a plan is to bet on poor performance or even worse, mission failure.
I love to connect with people- it’s extremely energizing and uplifting to create an opportunity to assist others and share experiences. I’d be willing to bet that most of us maintain a handful of extremely strong associations at the nucleus of our network, people with whom we can be absolutely vulnerable.
I had the great fortune to enter 2018 with some of the greatest men I’ve ever known. We served together on a Special Forces team for several years, amassing unique experiences that created a profound bond. I am able to generate significant strength purely by reflecting on the existence of this core group, knowing that no matter how murky or confusing the world may become, I always have capable and selfless people in my corner to look after me.
I don’t believe I can overstate the importance of developing and maintaining such powerful connections with a few other souls for my own emotional well being and sense of self.
Leadership is complex. There is no short list of behaviors to make one a successful leader. Yet, a quick reference guide can help us begin to more deeply consider the art of leadership and develop our teams. I offer these 5 principles, born from my experience as a combat leader, as a baseline for effective leadership behavior.
I don’t profess to be a leadership expert. I would argue that no one is, though many claim to be. The free advice available on social media and elsewhere online is overwhelming.
There is no magic formula or neat, bulleted list that will make you an effective leader or manager. Successful leadership is a lifelong process of education, observation, experimentation, and reflection.
There are a dizzying amount of factors that must be considered in crafting a leadership style or approach in any particular moment: the world is a dynamic environment with constantly shifting conditions; no two teams are alike and every person responds to stimulation differently; the desired objective and available resources (including time)…
Yet, an unwillingness to share leadership experiences or perspectives is also unhelpful, as it prevents others from learning from our own practice. It is in this spirit that I’d like to share my own experience leading teams and managing projects. I’ve had the good fortune to work with some incredibly accomplished and high performing teams. I’ve also been exposed to some mighty leaders and managers. I spend a significant amount of time studying leadership and reflecting on management logic.
Therefore, I offer my point of view in the hopes that it may help others consider leadership, grow, and succeed. I would love to see this blog blossom into a community of management practitioners and leaders who freely exchange experiences, techniques, methods, and ideas to empower us all.
To that end, I invite and encourage you to contribute and share widely.
I’m on a quest to find my purpose.
My calling is to serve- people, communities, mankind, and our planet. My passion is to enable the success of the people around me.
I’m the kind of idealist that expects to be able to change the world, and one way or another I intend to leave it better than I found it.
After 10 years of military service, the latter half of which was leading Green Berets of the US Army Special Forces, followed by an immersion in the private sector, I’ve seen and experienced things that I am compelled to share. This space will give us an opportunity to exchange lessons on life and leadership.
It is not without some reluctance that I launch this blog. I’m terrified of being perceived as a “chest beater,” or someone who emphatically and irritatingly presents their own point of view as the righteous path. In fact, this may be my greatest fear. Humility is something I value greatly and hope that my actions and behavior reflect this closely held belief. I recently completed Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, which inspired me to collect the courage to make myself vulnerable and share myself with the world. It’s not something that comes naturally, but I am realizing this type of vulnerability is important and necessary to more deeply connect with the world and allow for unforeseen opportunities and relationships.
Thanks for contributing to this journey.