Teaching physicians say they could teach a medical student – perhaps anybody – in 15 minutes, how to operate on and remove an appendix. There is actually a game on the Internet to teach you how to operate on an appendix. (Isn’t the Internet great!) However, while the physicians claim 15 minutes to teach you how to remove the appendix, they’re quick to cite five years to teach you what to do when something goes wrong.
The planning process with leaders feels the same: 10 minutes to understand the steps, then years to understand the contingencies for when things don’t go as planned. This past week in my coaching assignments, I had the opportunity to coach the planning process. The real, practical example was the executive I was coaching who is responsible for a major building project. I discovered by week nine all the awesome planning was thrown out the window. The building project was over budget and behind schedule, with the key problem being the architect and the engineer stopped communicating and started pointing fingers. My point is this, all the planning feels good, then the positive feelings disappear so fast when people have conflict and stop communicating. It’s so subtle in how it happens, and before you realize, it’s been a month and the project is over budget and behind schedule.
Coaching point: You will always need contingency plans, though you can hedge your bets with these disciplined actions:
Communicate desired outcomes – all the time. Make sure everyone has the same picture in mind as to what the performance standards are.
Communicate clear milestones that must be met for all goals to be achieved. Then celebrate successes!
Communicate and confront all conflicts that could impact budgets and time tables.
Communicate with enthusiasm. It’s contagious.
Communicate in ways that are helpful rather than controlling. A mind shift from “me” to “we.”
Human relations principle: “Arouse in the other person an eager want.” – Dale Carnegie