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Learn to Say No_xxl_114377610.jpg

Translation: Don’t ask your team to do what they can’t do

What leads to the failure of many great business leaders and many great political leaders is that they tried to do too much at the same time and end up doing nothing or worse, lots of things poorly.  They did not have their finger on the pulse of the people actually doing the work and got lost in their visions of the future glory of being the leader that delivered the most results, ever.  Their ego’s were bigger than their teams ability.

The temptation is always there to add one more activity to the list of things that must be done. Poor leaders think a couple more snappy emails or one more team meeting and they can charge their teams over the finish line. Nope, that’s in the movies. Not real life.

Savvy leaders know the capacity of their organizations, where they have risks, where they have flat spots, and where there might be real skill gaps.  Clever emails and crisply crafted presentations with cool graphics do not give people skills they don’t have or more capacity, at least for very long.

There is a fine line sometimes between taking a risk and being reckless.  

Great leaders understand the risk.  They can quantify them.  They know what they look like and where they will show up if there is a problem.  They start the risky project with a plan and follow the plan even if it leads them to stop the work.

Reckless leaders look like Evil Kinivel.  They just go jump and hope to land and are ok with a few broken bones.  In the corporate world broken bones are loss profits, lost customers and lost jobs.  There is no room for reckless.

Great leaders the have confidence and courage to say no to a project, even if it has significant upside in revenue and profits if they know it comes at too big a risk and puts the entire years results in jeopardy.  There are few givens in the business world but one of them is, there will always be the next year and the next year will need big ideas.  Smart leaders put the risky ideas on the back burner until they figure out how and when to launch them.

And finally, the great leaders spend time talking to the employees, the one who really do the work, not the managers.   They ask questions that make the employee think about the answer. Not how you doing today, brother? How bout’ them Royals? 

They ask questions like, what would make the work go faster? What are the 2-3 things you want me to know but are afraid to tell me? What’s your biggest concern with the business right now?  What should I be most concerned about today?  And they ask smart follow up questions, and probe a little deeper, until they think they have a handle on the issues.

Great leaders get out of their offices and go the manufacturing plants, talk to customers, and people in the office.  The confident ones do not let the managers steer the entire agenda. The go off the script and go to the places in the distribution centers where a problem might be hiding, they talk to customers they have never seen before, they join people at lunch and ask smart questions.  Great leaders do not let the managers, mange them.

Then they follow up with the employees and thank them for the feedback.  These leaders know without a doubt what their organizations can do and can’t do.  And it might not be what their managers are telling them.  They find out a little about their management team too.

The leaders with the skills to ask the right questions to the right people then have the confidence and courage to make the right call, maybe not the popular call with their management team but it’s the best decision for the organization.

Will never try to pull a snake through a pig in their organizations.


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