Where are we going?

Are we making progress?  It seems like we’re stalled.  You’ve had this experience, too, I suspect.  We push on and deliver as promised.  The project ends with vague success. Maybe we made a few too many compromises.  Maybe we lost support for the effort along the way.  Maybe it was, after all, the necessary work.  Period.

Why does this never happen to the writers of leadership books?  Some work doesn’t wow. Now one likes to admit it because that’s not what we aim for.  But much good work has to be done every day.  By all means, look closely at whether you’ve made missteps.  But since great leaders and managers just don’t stall, and it seems that you’re stalled, obviously, you’re not doing your job; you’re no leader. Or maybe today’s project is a drop in the bucket, which in time is certain to tip the scale of transformation, is just another drop.

Unlike the storied leaders, you have not had your breakthrough revelation.  I mean the big insight that turned a stagnant situation around and prevented ever repeating that situation again.  We want to be that leader. Today, though, there’s a lot of unexciting work to do.  This is what it takes to change things, without a swelling string section. This is the source of big revelations: just doing the work.

The sense of being stalled, accurate or otherwise, challenges all the thinking and planning that led to this moment.  The big ideas and deliberate influencing started the momentum.  People climbed on board.  Now they’re not seeing the benefits you promised.  They’re recognizing how hard the work is.  They’re not seeing the visionary end state.  You’re questioning it it, too.

This is the big challenge in choosing ideas as tools.  There is no way to be sure they’re the right ones until conditions are in place and the results start coming in.  Right now, they are hypotheses.   Everything in the system – too little time, obstacles to communication, the people who are involved, your own planning, other priority objectives – is testing whether this idea is the  the right idea right now.  It would be easier to strike a compromise and choose another idea that looks easier to implement.  And I concede, there is a time for compromise.  But this isn’t it.  This is a time to go deeper into relationships with the people who are testing your hypothesis.  This is a time for listening.  This is also time to review and refocus on the destination.

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