One of my favorite leadership authors, Jim Collins, said it best in his book Good to Great when describing that you build your team around getting the right people on the bus while ensuring they are also assigned to the correct seats. The one crucial piece I wish he would have expanded on is how the leader drives the bus. Most of those reading this leadership tip can remember when we did not have GPS on our phones. Moreover, I vividly recall being on a road trip with my parents in the early 2000s, where my mom printed off directions from MapQuest, and we had to use them to get us to our destination. My father, extremely humble but hardheaded at times, assured us that he knew we were on the right track. To our surprise, we were way off our course, causing us to backtrack and arrive late for our event.
Leadership can be seen in many ways as a bus driver navigating us toward our destination with precious cargo on board. We, as leaders, must envision where our company needs to be in the coming months, quarters, and years. Our team members will follow us if we have done the proper due diligence during the hiring process. The issue is that, like turning down the wrong road, our team can often begin doubting that we are heading in the correct direction. I’ve always used three Cs to define how to keep our team on track: Consistent, Concise, and Critical.
Firstly, if we are not consistent in our goal-making, attitude, and follow-through, our team will not trust our ability to progress forward as a team. Like a dog being distracted by a squirrel running through their plane of view, leaders can often be taken off track chasing a shiny object in the rough. Arguably, the most vital point of this section is being consistent with our attitude. I’m naturally an optimistic person who carries a friendly demeanor, but something that I have had to cope with as a leader is how I handle stress. Like in a poker game, we cannot show our cards when our back is against the wall. If we show weakness or second-guessing, our team feeds off it and will likely become demotivated. The final portion of consistency is following through on what we say we will do. If the group encounters a roadblock that only you can resolve, then swiftly evaluate the priority of the matter and remove the issue for them!
Secondly, and potentially the most difficult to achieve as a leader, is being concise, and defining being concise is, to say the least words while being as comprehensive as possible. Unless you’re a philanthropist (which I highly doubt would be reading this), I suggest you leave the big words at the door when going into a planning session with your team. Being a good leader does not mean that you are the most intelligent individual in the room, leading me to state that we should typically hire people who are much more skilled in their profession of choice than we are. It would be best to focus on establishing a long-term vision of where the company should be in the coming years and begin working backward to describe the milestones that ensure everyone is on the same course. For example, if you are traveling from Ohio to Pennsylvania, then the team should know there’s a problem if we are in Indiana.
The final C is being critical and holding those on our team accountable for their day-to-day activities. Begin by creating a scorecard where employees know precisely what they are expected to do and create a follow-up session to review their performance (indicators) to goals. If you haven’t read the book Making Big Happen by Mark Moses, this is a great place to start. Our team has been working on implementing the theories and tools described in this book throughout the past several months. Using this tool, we have established goal check-ins where the team states if they are off or on track with their objectives. Don’t be afraid to be critical if someone is falling behind. Instead, bring the issue to the forefront, collaborate properly, and be supportive when working together.
In closing, leadership is much more than establishing a vision and expecting your team to get there independently. We must look at ourselves as the bus driver, ensuring everyone is in the correct seats for our long journey to our destination. Like success, the destination is ever-moving and can be most comparable to a multi-stop expedition. Set your sites where you’d like to see your company in the future and head for the milestones that will get you there.
Alex Hogan has worked with two companies under Watertown Enterprises since 2018. He began his professional career in safety, working in several positions with Malta Dynamics Fall Protection. Alex is now the President of 3 Promise Labor Services, which focuses on staffing hundreds of skilled construction laborers throughout the United States.