Barbara's Blog

Look Up Occasionally to Avoid Tripping

Posted on 5/30/2017 by Barbara Blake in leadership executive coaching leadership

Too often we become hyper-focused on what we are doing and miss cues in our environment that may impede success. Take time to do a check by asking questions to keep you and your team heading in the right direcdtion.

The topic for this issue formed in my head minutes after taking a header on the sidewalk. It was very gusty and rainy. My head was down against the wind and the next thing I knew I was sprawled on the sidewalk. My guess is I over balanced and gravity did its job. I wasn’t paying attention to some basic data about me in my environment.

This experience caused me to recall many stories I hear from clients and friends on how they were hyper-focused on a project one moment and the next they were metaphorically face planted on the sidewalk. It is so easy to put on the blinders, ignore our environment because we have a high priority, highly complicated project deadline (overbalancing). We miss cues as to changes in the thinking of peers and bosses, miss new information to assess or not realizing your team is not moving at your speed (gravity).

Fortunately, there is a way to capture those missed cues. It starts with some forensic analysis of past projects, yours and others. There may be a pattern of when the headwinds build, or challenges common that can derail the project appear. Were expectations clear or had they changed and the changes not thoroughly communicated? Were team members at different stages of engagement or hit snags that were kept under wraps in the hopes it would all work out?

Armed with your forensic results you are able to build checkpoints into a project plan to pose a set of questions to scan the environment and make course corrections. Questions such as what has to happen for this project to be successful based on where we are today? At what point are we most vulnerable to changes in expectations or direction or What don’t we know yet, and how does it matter?

Once you scan the environment you are in a better position to assess impact of answers, or lack of answers and make adjustments to the work plan or the communication plan.

I suggest you take this step one further and build a step in a personalized project plan to take time to step back and scan the big picture. Ask yourself how you can prevent problems. Being forward focused is your role as a leader. That’s what your team needs from you. If you have the right team they will solve the right problems. Be sure only the right problems come their way.