Building Confidence Among Your Team With A Plan – Grow Great Daily Brief #193 – April 19, 2019

Confidence doesn’t always stem from competence. A little kid jumps on a bicycle for the first time. He is incompetent at riding a bike because he’s never done it. But that temporary incompetence doesn’t hinder him from holding a strong belief (and desire) to master it.

Gauge the frustration of your organization or team. There can be multiple sources driving it. Frequently teams are frustrated because they can’t see what the leader sees. Perhaps it’s due to the poor communication from the leader to put effective language to the vision or task. Maybe it’s due to a lack of organization within the team and people aren’t sure what they’re supposed to do. Largely I see ineffective, frustrated teams with low confidence. The chaos might be summed up in the fact that the team lacks a plan.

Plans can be rough “back of the napkin” affairs. Or they can be minutely detailed tomes that rival War & Peace (laboriously long and wordy). Few things can elevate a team’s confidence more effectively than a well-crafted and well-communicated plan. So it’s about more than having a plan, but don’t underestimate the power of confidence within your team – and don’t underestimate the ability of a plan to accomplish that.

Let’s walk through some ideas to help you push forward.

Step 1 – Identify the objective (and do it with the team)

Forget the “going it alone” deal. This is about engaging your team and elevating the confidence necessary to get the job done. Let the troops in on this part of the process of planning.

What are we going to accomplish? Make sure you’re really dialed in on the goal. It may (or may not) be what you initially think. Or there may be some other goals that need to be accomplished first. This is why having the team involved upfront can serve to get things off to a great start.

Scrutinize the objective until you’re solid that you’ve got it right. This includes specificity. For example, we want to grow revenues 8% this month isn’t a plan. The objective requires details that answer the question, “How?” At this stage, it can be basic, but there must be an answer to how the team can get this done!

Step 2 – Map out the first steps (and include roadmap markers)

I love the Waze app on my iPhone. I use it weekly. And I’ve learned to never second guess Waze. As a friend says, “She’s always right!” (referring to the female voice that guides the way)

Waze displays your next move, not your next dozen moves. When the app first came out I would scroll to see further ahead because I wanted to know what route she was going to take me. I soon gave up that habit because my trust in Waze increased. And I always knew I’d get sufficient notice before my next turn.

Map out the plan. Go ahead and figure out as many steps or moves as you’d like. Just know that the further down the road you go, things may come up to alter your course. So lock and load the first few moves – the ones you’ll have to make no matter what happens. At least the ones you think you’ll have to make regardless.

What are the roadmap markers you’ll use to gauge the progress? Figure them out. How will you know you’re moving in the right direction? Unlike Waze, your plan and roadmap may not provide the most time-efficient path. Waze saves you time. Time is money, but it’s not always possible to figure out a path that’s fast. And in business, the fast path isn’t always the most profitable or best for long-term success.

The very next steps and the mile markers that demonstrate you’re on track…that’s the focus at this step. Again, like step 1…this is best done with the collective, your team.

Step 3 – Everybody, keep your eyes on the road.

“If the map doesn’t agree with the ground the map is wrong”

? Gordon Livingston, Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now

It pays to pay attention.

The team is moving forward toward the objective. The plan is underway. Constant feedback says things are moving along nicely or it may indicate there’s a bottleneck up ahead. It’s another reason why the power of the collective is so strong. The more eyes on the road the better the awareness of how things are going.

There’s a secret sub-step to this step 3. Open eyes serve no purpose if all the mouths are closed. The team needs to understand the value of speaking up (or speaking out). If team members spot something that looks like trouble to them, but they’re too fearful to speak up…then you’ve got bigger troubles. You’ve got troubles on top of coming troubles.

Make it safe for folks to report what they see as you travel together.

Step 4 – Commit to course corrections quickly. 

Teamwork always pays off more than individual effort. Every member is responsible to advance the project (the plan). Each person has their part to play, their contribution to the whole. There are advantages to having teammates capable of spotting things you might miss. And your ability to see things they may miss…that’s highly valuable, too. It’s the difference in driving around knowing you have no blindspots versus fearing what you can’t see around you.

We’re driving back home from across town the other day. Up ahead is a sea of brake lights on the highway. Oops! Time to fire up Waze to see if we can figure out a way around this mess. By the time I got Waze launched we had just passed an exit, she told us to take in order to turn around. We missed our possible course correction by mere seconds. It cost us some time.

In our organizations, failure to course correct quickly enough can cost us more than time. Money, people and a host of other things can be on the line if we keep going down the wrong path too far.

There’s another team benefit to fast course correction. The team sees the commitment to advance. They realize the importance of achieving the goal…and doing it together. Course correction is attributed to the team’s willingness to do this together. Like passengers in a car – like all of us in the car the other day, facing a sea of tail lights on the highway – we were all going together. It didn’t matter that one person was driving (leading). We were all on the journey together. So it is with your team.

Step 5 – Celebrate all along the way.

Acknowledge the work of people at every opportunity. Instill into the team the truth that if you’re end of the boat sinks, so does mine. A “we’re all in this together” culture is the responsibility of you, the leader AND every member of the team. Guard it as the precious resource that it is. The team’s reliance on one another coupled with their commitment to the objective is urgent and valuable. It’s the difference in getting to where you want to go, or ending up somewhere you’d rather not be.

Recognition is important. Give people credit. Give the team credit. Pour as much fuel on success as you can. Measure success by appropriate behavior and performance to advance the initiative. Celebrate it. It’ll grow the team’s confidence in their ability to reach the goal.

Confident teams working together are hard to defeat. If they’re resilient enough to push through adversity, they can be nearly impossible to beat. And it feeds on itself. Members of such a team are happy and grow increasingly more committed to the team. They don’t want to leave it because being part of it is so rewarding. Fulfilling.

The Dallas Stars’ hockey club under first-year NHL coach Jim Montgomery (Monty) are in the Stanley Cup playoffs. They’ve been missing the playoffs in recent years. That’s why the Stars nabbed Monty from the college ranks. He was a successful collegiate coach with the University of Denver. They won the NCAA championship in 2017. He’s a new breed of professional sports coach. Like Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams.

It’s not an age thing as much as it’s a team or collaboration thing. Bill Belichick is a guy who gets it, too. And he’s old.

These coaches know that winning happens when players are part of the plan. So we hear stories of how coaches do this. On Wednesday night the Stars defeated Nashville 5 to 1, tying this playoff series 2-2. Monty made some changes for this game. He gets feedback from the players. He listens. He makes them part of the process of devising the plan. By all accounts, it’s working. The jury is out of course because professional sports is still largely about talent. Barry Switzer always said, “The team with the best quarterbacking and talent wins this game.”

If a coach making a third or less than his most talented players can understand the value of the collective – and how important it is for that collective (the team) to grow in confidence – then surely you and I can figure this out, too.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!


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