How many times have you gotten sucked into the stress of someone else’s timeline or making sure the details of the steps were exactly right? This occurs on teams and in leadership daily, and perspective gets lost. One of the most effective ways to channel the brilliance of your team while grounding it to something solid is to continually give them perspective on their process. Think of it like a Pyramid of Perspective…
So, where’s your vantage point? Each of the levels on this pyramid represent different viewpoints of perspective. In the way that you lead and communicate, you can come from any of the levels of the pyramid, each one coloring your message and influence differently. The deeper you go on the pyramid, the more foundation of grounded perspective you bring to the team. As a leader, you’ve got some choices…
WHEN- Coming from this place, you’re concerned with time (usually never enough), the schedule and the deliverable deadlines. For a competitive team, When is an important and effective driver for them to get to their results and come together before another team beats them to it. High achievers often do their best work under pressure, so time and an impending constraint of When can bring out their best. As a leader, it’s important that you leverage that as a motivator without becoming the watch-checker. If you cross that line to become overly concerned with time, your team can dismiss you as valuing time over content or process quality.
• Build and show timelines to give your team a sense of how their process will play out in concrete terms, and give them a sense of “we are here” on the map.
• Adjust the timeline as you go, making space for their emergent process as they collaborate.
• Strategically, use time and deliverables to create urgency when needed. Deadlines spur action.
HOW- Here, the focus is on the process, the steps and the way we get there. If you’ve got a team of individuals coming from successful yet diverse disciplines and experiences, the How will be important to them. They can get stuck on How your team is approaching the work, attached to a particular process to achieve results from their previous world. I’ve seen potentially brilliant teams crumble because they couldn’t get aligned on process. How your team goes about its impressive disruption is ultimately your call as the leader. It’s critical, because How your team does its magic may be the very thing that sets you apart from your competitors and defines your brand. Yet if you’re overly skewed on form and checking off every box just so, they’ll feel micromanaged and stifled, without enough creativity.
• Direct the approach, honoring and incorporating their expertise, then getting their buy-in on why X is the best way for the team. As the leader, be the keeper of the process.
• Get alignment on it early, check in and adjust course often, looking to make sure the How is tapping their talent consistently and providing a way for it to manifest in great work.
WHAT- This is the outcome or result you’re going for. Achievers and concrete thinkers on your team will always need this to be as clear as possible. If it’s not, they’ll each come to the team’s work with their own interpretation of What you’re trying to accomplish, which can be problematic when they clash with one another. While they each may hold their own important piece in the puzzle, they all need to be working toward the same picture on the box lid to guide them together. Clear focus on the What elevates the team’s dynamic and conversation to a common goal and a reason to rally in collaboration. The more vividly they’re able to envision the outcome they’re going for, the more they’ll be pulled to it, causing the How and When to fall into place to make it happen.
• Get What your team is going for- the change you’re trying to impact- clear and concrete.
• Have the team articulate the goal, get it visually up on the wall of your workspaces, and keep reiterating it for them.
• If the result you’re going for is ambiguous, then set shorter term What milestones along the course for them to focus on and hit.
WHY- All the layers of the pyramid are key in keeping your team and the work focused on the right things at the right times. And Why is is the one that makes the difference between managing and really leading people. The Why both trumps and grounds everything above it on that pyramid, because it gets to the heart of motivation. This could be what brought them all onboard with you in the first place- a mission to ________ (fill in accordingly). It’s their cause, their call, their drive to do the work and push through to the other side. It brings it all back to purpose which is energizing, clarifying and even calming. For you as the leader, getting the Team Why clear and articulated is the most important thing of all, after which everything else (What, How and When) is about execution. This is the conviction that makes the game matter, and the impact of their efforts bigger in the world. It’s what engages these individual brilliant people on your team, bringing their separate Whys and visions of what’s possible in the world to this work together.
• As a leader of disruption, you see the layers of Why to the work. Sort and prioritize them, then keep bringing it back to focus for your team.
• Lead your team with the Why. Tell the Why. Ask the Why. Every time, every conversation, every day.
• Open with the Why, then layer the What, How and When on top.
THE BIG WHY- The deepest level of individual personal drive we all have is our Big Why… why we’re doing this in the great scheme of life. This is our biggest game, truest purpose, greatest good and what gets us out of bed in the morning.
Steve Jobs: “To make a dent in the universe.”
As a leader, get clear about yours. Once you do, it will come through as the passion that fuels everything else you do, and will serve as inspiration for every person you lead.
You also need to get … their individual Big Whys. Once you know their WHY, it can be very powerful, giving you a way to frame communication with them- an entrance into their world at any moment. When they’re in need of motivation, acknowledgment or perspective, you can frame it in the most meaningful way for what matters most to them. Their why is their buy-in, and your why can be their inspiration.
Once you’re grounded in this deepest, most stable part of the pyramid, the others- WHAT, HOW, and WHEN are easy to reference and command as needed, because they’re truly held in perspective of the biggest Why.
• If you don’t already know them, find the Big Whys for each on your core team… by asking them! While this is getting to what’s most essential to people’s core, many don’t talk much about it or even think of it consciously to the level of easy articulation. Getting them to unearth it will help them get more passionate about what their doing, and help you to lead them more accurately.
• As you ask, know that these questions are the kind that may require people to search a little internally for if they haven’t already clarified it for themselves. Give them space to think about it and then ask in layers…
You may ask them, “So why do you do this?”
They may say, “because I’m intrigued by X kinds of challenges,” or some other such practical but not meaningful answer.
You then follow up simply with, “Why are these kinds of challenges intriguing to you?”
They might answer, “Because I really care about X…”
You probe, “Why do you care so much about X?”
…until you’ve asked five levels into their Why. Think of it as helping them peel the layers back on the onion of their Big Why, getting down to their most fundamental Big Why beneath.
As you lead and manage every day, the art of it is to keep perspective for yourself and your team. When, How, What, Why are each important in different ways, can demand its own hyper focus, and can become consuming if you’re not careful. Picture yourself as standing at any level on the pyramid, grounded at that level, easily able to reach every level above it. If you’re standing all the way up in When, you can’t even see, let alone reach the others below you. The deeper you go on the pyramid, the better your perspective is, allowing each of the other levels to fall into place. Standing and starting with Why, you can layer, reference, tap and pull from What, How and When easily, without getting sucked in to them and losing your vantage point.
Your perspective colors how you choose, lead and relate… so keep yourself grounded.