As an executive, much of your workday likely involves assigning projects to your direct reports. Far too often, these projects miss the mark in terms of meeting your expectations. I will show you how to prevent this. Here are three tips that will help you set more effective project directions and improve the likelihood of a successful result.
1. Formulate clear and measurable goals
Without clear and measurable goals, it’s difficult for employees to understand how a project ought to be executed. “If you can't measure it, you can't manage it."
As a leader, the onus is on you to establish clear, well-defined goals for each project you initiate. Be specific about the intended output. If you leave room for interpretation, your employees will be dangerously susceptible to veering off course. At a minimum, explicitly delineate: 1) the intended output(s), 2) the key criteria for evaluating the output, and 3) the time frame for project completion.
2. Clearly align corporate strategic objectives with project directions
Employees do their best work when they are motivated by the big picture. If your employees are unclear as to how a project relates to strategic goals, they’ll quickly become disconnected. A sense of purpose is especially important in engaging millennials.
To be clear, a project's primary purpose shouldn’t be driven by only profitability. Your employees will find themselves more engaged in projects if you’re able to articulate a bigger, bolder, and more emotionally-engaging vision.
3. Engage your employees in a pre-mortem ritual
Though it sounds a bit morbid, a pre-mortem is one of the most effective tactics in optimizing project success. The opposite of a postmortem, a pre-mortem involves collectively imagining that a given project has failed before it has been started and then brainstorming possible reasons for the failure. One of the primary reasons projects fail is due to the fact that employees are hesitant to articulate their concerns and qualms about projects during the planning stages.
By engaging your employees in a pre-mortem, you'll create a safe environment for them to voice any concerns. The activity will increase their awareness of potential risks that may jeopardize the project’s success and, in turn, embolden them with a clearer sense of direction.
In summary, before employees embark on a project, ask them to clearly articulate the purpose and objectives of the project in their own words. Ensure that they understand what the project at hand entails and what is expected of them.
Enlisting the help of an executive coach can move waters in terms of helping you identify your own personal leadership shortcomings and in terms of developing strategies that will increase your employees' levels of satisfaction, engagement, and, ultimately, output.
Nadine Greiner, Ph.D. provides Executive Coaching and Human Resources solutions. Her mission is to make the executive experience exceptionally enjoyable and effective. She believes that the world needs great leaders, and has dedicated her career to helping them.
As an organization psychologist and former corporate CEO, Dr. Nadine understands the pressures and demands executives face. She offers her clients the high expertise that only comes with three decades of consulting success, and a dual Ph.D. in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology. Dr. Nadine is an in-demand speaker, teaches in doctoral programs, and coaches other consultants. She is the author of two books: ‘The Art of Executive Coaching: Secrets to Unlock Leadership Performance’, and of ‘Stress-less Leadership: How to Lead in Business and in Life’. amazon.com/author/nadinegreiner
Contact Information: Feel free to email Dr. Nadine San Francisco Executive Coaching at