I am often asked what it takes to achieve success in a team. You know, so that work gets done, the product or service gets delivered, and checkmarks can get put next to all the items on the team results list. The answer is not as complicated as you might think, and my recent musings about my patio garden led to a metaphor that I think illustrates my point well.
Spring is in the air, and I am actively planning how to grow my little patio garden. There are so many decisions to be made – the number and sizes of pots I’ll need, what to grow in each one, and where to place them. Do I want flowers, vegetables, herbs, or ornamentals, and how many of each? Where will I place them – full sun, shade, or a little of both? I’ve been poring over gardening websites and talking to my green-thumb friends, researching fertilizer, water requirements, and plant hardiness. There is no doubt in my mind that in very soon I will have a well thought-out plan for a beautiful patio garden.
But is my plan enough to achieve my vision?
But it occurs to me that as important as a good plan is, it is just the beginning. If I want a beautiful garden for the rest of the year, I will have to do much more. I will need to carefully plant the seeds and seedlings. I will have to nurture and care for them. I will need to give them water, food and fertilizer. I will have to keep an eye out for weeds, and quickly remove them before they grow rampant and take over. The ultimate success of my little patio garden will lie not in the planning, but in all the things I do later.
Which is a lot like what it takes to be a good leader. You can logically plan and outline schedules, workload and staffing. But then you need to carefully assign work to the right people to set them up for success. You have to nurture and care for your staff by giving them the tools, resources and space in which to flourish and grow. And you have to watch out for the weeds –unexpected obstacles, negativity, demoralizing circumstances – and remove them before they proliferate and suffocate the victories and triumphs. The ultimate success of your team and its deliverables will not lie in the planning, but in everything else you do (or don’t) later.
So where are you focusing your time and energy when it comes to achieving team results? Is it on planning your metaphoric garden? Or is it on the people-related activities that come later? I’d love to hear about your (and others) successes (and failures). Please share your insights by commenting below.