Are you holding your team back by lack of strategic leadership? 

A few weeks ago, I published a series of articles about what I called “duct tape leadership.” It talks about fixes and patched-together solutions that project teams end up using. They use these solutions when their work is out of alignment with the organization’s priorities.

I suggested lots of things that team leaders can do to create more strategic alignment, lead more intentionally, and foster a team environment that’s more conducive to sustainable success.

But, the reality is that many of the challenges faced by project leaders come from gaps with strategic leadership. They have little to do with the size and complexity of their projects. That is to say, challenges have everything to do with the executive leaders and sponsors who decide which projects to pursue.

So, as we head into 2021, now is a good time to consider the role that YOU might play in your team’s difficulties.  

Are you setting your team up for success, or are you contributing to the challenges they face? 

Teams Struggle When Leaders Lack Focus and Clarity

I recently ran a survey asking managers and leaders about their biggest challenges. They shared issues like: 

  • Clarity on what’s needed
  • Competing priorities
  • Changing visions by senior management
  • Moving goalposts
  • Poor engagement or communication from the sponsor
  • Scope creep
  • Timelines
  • Budget
  • Scope
  • Accountability
  • Under-resourcing
  • Lack of relevant training for team members

What’s remarkable about this list is how many challenges arise from a lack of leadership clarity. Including leadership on strategy, priorities, and desired outcomes.

In fact, survey respondents recognized unclear leadership as a big issue.  More than 56% identified strategic planning and organizational change management as the top weaknesses of their organizations.

The good news is that getting clarity at the top doesn’t necessarily require bigger budgets or more resources. It requires a commitment to choosing the most important focuses for the organization. Also, the willingness to say “no” to projects that aren’t a strategic priority, and supporting your team as they do the right work at the right time.   

Doing so will enable your teams to work more efficiently, more effectively, and more successfully. Even when timelines are tight or budgets are limited.

How to Support Your Team’s Growth with Strategic Leadership and Success

In thinking about team enablement, we are often tempted to focus on the specific skills that we believe are in need of development.  We invest in leadership training, project management workshops, new methodologies, and new tools.  

All of that is well and good. Certainly, you should absolutely assess the opportunities on your team. You should also provide training and enablement that’s geared to fill the existing gaps.

But, it’s just as important to be conscious about creating an environment. This also enables the team’s growth and success.

To do so, you’ll need to:

  1. Build and nurture the relationships that enable performance and agility
  2. Create the climate and the structure that serves as scaffolding to success
  3. Eliminate chaos and churn that distracts the team from its core work
  4. Improve team and stakeholder collaboration and engagement

Leadership has a big role to play in creating this environment. Being clear on, and supporting and executing the organizational strategy on top priorities is key to the success of every team member. 

When everyone knows the right work to do at the right times, your team can deliver the most valuable projects on time, on budget, and with better outcomes.  

With strategic leadership, your job is to provide your team with the support, guidance, and environment they’ll need to prioritize deliberately and execute strategically.

What strategic leadership actions can you take now to create an environment where your team can be successful?

Annmarie Curley, Newgrange IT Consulting, LLC

Annmarie Curley – Newgrange IT Consulting

Annmarie has over 20 years’ experience managing global teams and complex projects. She launched Newgrange IT Consulting in 2010 to help clients transform their organizations by successfully executing their strategic initiatives. Annmarie is passionate about helping clients develop a culture of delivering the right results for their organization. She does this by aligning their strategy with execution and building strong collaborative teams.

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