Know precisely where you are

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Leadership Distinction #48: Situation

The work of rescue operations in the U.S. Coast Guard renders an important, and almost always overlooked, lesson for people in business. Telecommunications with small vessels at sea is often precarious, unreliable, brief. When first receiving a distress signal from a boater in trouble at sea you cannot be sure how long the connection will last. What is the most important piece of information you need to know if help will be brought to bear on the Situation: Where Are You?

Business management teams do not spend nearly enough time getting a full understanding of where they are. Scan a hundred different company business plans and you’ll see loads of objectives, long lists of bullets – things the company wants to get done. 

You rarely see any documentation capturing conversations that explore why and how they got to the current Situation in which they find themselves. But it is in this dimension that we find the reasons why we want to do the things we want to do. When teams arrive at objectives too quickly, without openly sharing individual perspectives for what is presently happening and why we are dissatisfied enough to take action about it, we witness the year to year lurching that results. And the failures that ultimately result from the lurching.

Unlike business leaders of yesteryear the leader of an organization today must be a champion of shared learning. The heightened level of uncertainty that complexity leaves behind in its wake demands that all hands be on deck, that all eyes be on the horizon, that all perspectives be taken in. 

The Situation that originally spurred your leadership initiative has changed, will change again. Rapidly and unexpectedly. Take the time to garner what all members of the team are learning about where the business is today. Be quicker to listen and slower to set what you might think in your own mind should be the objective. In the churning sea of business, you are your only rescuer.

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Episode 47