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Leader’s Intent / Team Execution

In my previous blogs, I outlined the foundations for instituting good leadership in your team through embracing followership skills, disciplined near/long term planning and instigating/delegating responsibility to your teammates. Now, I want to tie it all together and discuss the process of leading your team. It is a simple concept but one that requires humble, approachable and credible teammates (see my brothers blog, Coming in Second is Losing). These attributes must start with the LEADER and be embraced by the entire TEAM. Everyone must feel an intense, passionate accountability to the success of the team. In the military, we referred to this “feeling” as-esprit de corps! Here’s a simple definition of the term, “a sense of unity and of common interests and responsibilities, as developed among a group of persons closely associated in a task, cause or enterprise.” This commonality of cause comes from trust, mutual respect and knowing one another very well. Again, these attributes must originate and emanate from the leader. The work environment I am describing doesn’t happen overnight but is cultivated over time, through experiences and concerted effort. Once the team has established this cohesive work environment, the concept of leader’s intent/team execution can become a powerful, efficient and effective way to run your company.

The leader’s role in this process is to define the goals and overall direction of the company. By succinctly articulating this information, the leader provides his/her intent for the company’s path to success. The leader’s intent must also come with a set of rules and guidelines to allow the team to act on the leader’s intent. In the military, we called these additional instructions-rules of engagement and/or special instructions. For simplicity, the additional instructions provide the team a way to make decisions and act without continually contacting the leader for approval. This allows flexibility and initiative to empower the team and make them more efficient and effective on a daily basis. The leader must put great care and diligence into developing these additional instructions by determining the amount of risk and delegation the leader places on certain operations of the company (for a discussion on company risk and planning see my blog on Near Rocks, Far Rocks).

With clear and concise intent from the leader, the team can now execute the near and far term processes of the company with minimal requirements to “check with the boss” on each and every decision point. Staff meetings now become useful and valuable tools for the team. The agenda should include an update on the near and far term processes, evaluation of milestones and a list of limitations with defined courses of actions to solve the issue. With all of this information presented, the leader can now provide his/her “updated” intent and any course corrections for the path to success. These incremental changes only make the execution processes even more efficient and effective which create a continual improvement cycle.

The best analogy I have for this concept is the interaction of the ship captain and his crew. The captain is charged with picking the destination for the journey and provides the crew with the intended route, navigational charts and rules for the voyage to get to the destination. The crew now has everything it needs to plot the course, schedule the work shifts, utilize the resources, avoid obstacles and execute the captain’s intent to arrive successfully at the destination. Surely, storms, shipping route conflicts, sick crew members or lack of resources can change the course, but these are easily presented to the captain and a new leader’s intent can be updated to change the way the team executes the plan.

It is very easy to see when a team is hitting on all cylinders-the leader provides clear and concise intent with instructions and the team efficiently and effectively executes the plan. Are you providing clear and concise intent to your team?


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