Have you ever wished that someone would hand you a detailed plan for a project, a precise script for a difficult conversation, or exact steps to follow to reach some other destination — a cohesive team, better meetings, consistent management practices, healthy eating, regular exercise, an organized home?
When we’re venturing into new territory, or facing a problem that doesn’t yet feel tangible to us, we like the idea of a precise plan, of having steps handed to us. It’s totally human — now that we have a plan, the problem is mostly solved. Phew. We just have to follow the steps.
For example, if we’re approaching a difficult conversation with a member of our team, and an experienced someone walks us through exactly what to say, it’s an immense relief.
And that makes perfect sense. Of course. Why not benefit from someone else’s years of experience and have a plan to follow?
I am often asked for precise steps. People want to know exactly what actions they should take to get to their end result. I’m happy to give a script, plan, or approach to anyone who needs it, but I always share that my real goal is not the specifics of a plan, but the mindset of the person enacting the plan.
Let’s say you’ve got a team with inconsistent performance. Some individuals are hard workers, some are good at teamwork, some deliver great results, but multiple team members are lacking one of those three. As a result, the team’s performance overall isn’t up to par.
You get to pick one of two managers to solve this problem.
Manager A has all the scripts memorized. She knows the recommended order for conversations. She has read every management book under the sun. But she isn’t particularly dedicated to the growth of her team. She’ll follow the plan, but only the plan. If it doesn’t work, she’s exhausted her resources. She’ll stick to the same script no matter the situation, and doesn’t have a lot of ability to improvise.
Manager B has no script. She has little to no experience with the types of conversations in front of her. But manager B is incredibly dedicated to the growth of the team. She cares more about their potential and fulfillment than she does about whether or not they like her. She’s in it for the long game and is happy to approach her team’s performance with the mind of an experimenter. She knows she’ll both fail and succeed along the way and is up for all of it. She’s committed to the end result.
Who is more likely to succeed?
It’s Manager B, every time. She might have a steeper learning curve at the onset, but after starting out, the trajectory of her skill skyrockets. Manager A can get going quickly but ultimately has very little to offer other than knowledge.
Manager A has information. Manager B can create transformation.
Our desire for steps to follow is human + understandable. And there’s nothing wrong with following a plan. But following a plan without addressing mindset never works.
Our mindset determines how we handle the unexpected, how we adjust our leadership style based on the individual needs of our team, how we make decisions.
When a company reaches out to me about coaching or training their leaders, they often present an action problem — needing to give managers tools to hold their teams accountable or create consistent management behavior across the organization.
And what I ask them first is about their mission and values.
- Do they exist?
- Is there a consistent intellectual understanding of them? (Employees know what they are and can accurately recite them.)
- Is there a consistent behavioral understanding of them? (They are used throughout the organization to make decisions, evaluate performance, select team members + design internal + external programs.)
- Are the leaders of the organization consistent role models of values-driven behavior and do they hold their teams to that standard?
A consistent management mindset comes before consistent management practices. Every time.
If every leader within an organization is bought into upholding the values of results-focus and candor, let’s say, the need for specific policy + procedure to ensure consistency across leaders is pretty minimal. If leaders aren’t clear or bought in, every step has to be enumerated, which strips leaders of creativity and autonomy. And you can bet that not only those leaders, but everyone at the organization will feel the effects.
A list of steps to follow is lovely. But our willingness to take action, learn, and grow along the way even without a how-to manual? That is everything. Schedule a consultation call to see what can happen when mindset rises to the top of your priority list.