Today's post is a shorter one. Partly because I deeply believe in the idea that small and consumable ideas are powerful and shouldn't be overly drawn out for the sake of word count; and also partly because the upcoming week is my birthday and so I've been using this and next weekend to spend time with friends to celebrate. So with that aside, let's dive in.
Lately, the chatter about pivots on LinkedIn has increased again, and it's made me reflect on successful change management. Rather than grand, sudden changes which can be difficult to gauge effectively and can swing you too far in the wrong direction, it's worth considering the power of fewer, more graceful shifts. Through these incremental adjustments, you're not only gaining a more precise sense of direction, but also fine tuning your strategy based on real feedback. It's a more efficient and smoother way to arrive at your desired destination.
In my youth when learning how to drive, similar to many novice drivers, I was incessantly overcorrecting my steering. This continuous back-and-forth movement on the road must have made the journey rather unpleasant for any passengers. A pearl of wisdom passed on by the driving instructor, however, has resonated with me throughout the years: "To make a smooth ride, always keep your focus further down the road."
This piece of wisdom is pertinent not just to drivers, but to leaders of tech startups too. We often see ambitious leaders at the helm who dive headfirst into the nitty-gritty of the day to day. This might stem from the well-meaning compulsion to demonstrate how they are stewards "up to their elbows" in the pressing issues. However, this doesn't serve as a stable guiding force for the team (or, to continue with our metaphor, steer the car smoothly in the right direction).
As a leader, the most effective role you can play doesn’t involve tinkering with the immediate concerns. The focus should not be on implementing myriads of micro-corrections in the present. Instead, humble your eyesight to a point further down the road, concentrate on the strategic horizon. Strive where you envisage your organization in the future rather than obsess over finessing the present.
Learning how to effectively communicate your direction is crucial. By making every team member aware of your intended path, they can make the necessary adjustments to align themselves accordingly. This iterative process gradually brings all involved closer to the shared objective. I've heard this process called Guided Autonomy, which is an apt description of what you should be trying to achive.
What's better, when team members actively participate in the crafting of solutions, they experience a heightened sense of ownership, preventing feelings of being micromanaged. By encouraging this level of autonomy, they can begin to understand and appreciate the value of their contributions more deeply.
Ultimately, you're hiring and paying for individuals who are experts in their respective fields. Therefore, it becomes paramount to provide them with the necessary resources and information. This enables them to fully utilize their expertise and perform at their optimal levels. Give your team the information they need to correct and drive, and don't constantly jerk the wheel.
Leave room to be awesome,