When people consider leadership roles, their common reaction is to think about the flashier characteristics -- sexy things like vision and strategy. Many people who follow strong leaders find that high-level aspirational talk gets them excited. Whereas others in the know, are aware that kind of talk is hot air. The majority of leaders can talk a good vision or strategy game. Great leaders are the ones who can also get it done. You know the type of leaders I am talking about -- real leaders who not only talk it, they can walk it by crafting a vision, identifying a strategy, and then making it happen. Give me a leader who backs up their talk with some spicy, hot planning and organizing, and I'll following him or her any day!
Not surprisingly, most people don't think planning and organizing is hot. Many assume the ability to plan and organize is only the foundation to leading and managing. If you are going to be in management, of course you should be able to effectively plan and organize your team and resources. Being a visionary and a strategically minded manager in your thinking is traditionally considered much more enticing because those are what people assume to be the most important leadership traits. Indeed, having cult-leader-like visions of what is possible can be inspirational to the cubical minions back at headquarters, and heck, who doesn't like to daydream? So when you compare the cliché critical leadership competencies of vision and strategy to the ho-hum of planning and organizing, it is understandable that planning and organizing gets ignored.
So why is planning and organizing hot? It's your way to demonstrate that you are thoughtful and can think ahead -- that you are not just about the big idea, but also about its execution. This is a powerful dichotomy to possess as a leader -- the ability to not only be a visionary, but also have the drive to achieve the vision. If you think about it, when you are amazing at planning and organizing, you have the opportunity to demonstrate that you can take your pie in the sky ideas (aka being a visionary) and turn them into a reality. Not only that, it is also your opportunity to demonstrate that you can then think ahead (aka being a strategic thinker) and anticipate roadblocks to create contingency plans. So in fact, planning and organizing is your vehicle for getting your great ideas out there in a way that is intentional and deliberate. Not to mention other leaders (especially the senior leaders in your organization) will sleep better at night knowing there is a direction, strategy, and plan in place that can be executed.
Don't let what may feel like the tedious nature of sitting down to plan and organize stop you from achieving greatness as a leader. Let's consider what you can do today to get cozy and snuggle up to Planning and Organizing:
1. Get clear on the strategic objectives -- You need to know why you are performing a task a certain way and how this links to the larger direction for where you are going. Otherwise, why do it at all?
2. Identify clear milestones -- There needs to be clear markers along your project's way that ensure you are making progress in the direction of your end goal. For this we recommend starting from the end and working your way backwards.
3. Identify and prioritize resources -- Based on the work required, determine the resources you need. Be realistic in terms of headcount, budget, and time. Have a back up plan in case your resources fall short. Are you going to move around the deadlines, reduce scope and deliverables, etc.?
4. Get feedback -- While it's faster to work in a vacuum, you could be missing something. Share your plan with others and get another set of eyes to check for your missing details.
5. Revisit the plan regularly -- Ensure you are tracking progress on a regular basis. Your plan may need to be adjusted or you may have to go to your back-up plan.
What's not hot about laying out a strong plan and watching it come to fruition? It is time to rethink what is usually considered the spicy traits of effective leadership and include the sizzle of planning and organizing.