*Originally Published 2013 Boxscore Magazine column; Leader’s Guide
Your Leadership Preventative Maintenance Plan
In most of the manufacturing plants I have visited there has been one machine that is the heartbeat. You can tell which machine by watching what people do when it stops. Meetings are interrupted, resources reassigned, and blood pressures are checked until that heartbeat is reestablished.
We react this way because we know that this machine is a key part of our ability to produce. To keep the process healthy we create a Preventative Maintenance Schedule to perform daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly cleaning, lubrication, adjustments, and parts replacement. Some invite experts in on an annual basis to audit the machine. Some even go beyond the attitude that they are avoiding costly unscheduled downtime to develop process improvement plans that ensure the machine will continually improve on its original capabilities.
In the corner office there are equally important processes going on. It is very likely that the leader who inhabits that office has high expectations and many measures of personal performance. Standards for their own performance usually exceed those that others would impose. Performance is not the issue. Consistently maintaining the ability to perform at peak levels is the issue.
Performance capability will become the issue for most of us if we do not practice personal preventative maintenance. So as not to further belabor the machine analogy, suffice it to say that avoiding unscheduled leadership downtime is the minimum requirement. Your standards likely demand continual improvement to your leadership performance. This will require a plan.
To build your leadership PM plan you will need a trusted colleague to help keep goals achievable, measurable, and rewarding. You are probably more complex than the heartbeat machine in the plant so set goals accordingly based on who you desire to become physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Note: if you believe yourself to be less complex than this follow these instructions: 1. Ask your trusted colleague to hit you in the nose. 2. When you awake describe the physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual aspects of the experience, which will depend on how hard you were hit.
You have a significant impact on the people around you. Professionals with far less impact have certification requirements that dictate a minimum number of Continuing Education hours per year. Consider a personal, or even a management team, CE requirement to maintain the edge.
Building your Leadership Preventative Maintenance Plan
1. Define Peak Performance. What will success look like when you accomplish the desired result in each key leadership area? You are likely your own worst critic and while you certainly must perform to a minimum requirement in each area it is important to focus your goals on optimizing your strengths. A good rule of thumb is to focus on developing two areas of strength for each weak area.
2. Guidelines and Guardrails. Describe any limits to stay aware of. Avoid the thoroughness that would make this sound like the ridiculous list of disclaimers you hear on a medication ad. Stick to failure paths and distractions you have faced when tackling tough goals in the past. This would be a good time to give your colleague permission to challenge you when you start down a familiar failure path.
3. Resources. What additional tools, training, or coaching will you need to accomplish these goals? What allotment of time will be required? Which tasks can you delegate or even move to your “To Don’t “ list in order to free up the necessary time? If you would schedule downtime to improve a machine then it will be difficult to justify why you would fail to invest the same percentage of time in your leadership capability.
4. Accountability. How will progress be measured? Who will measure and how often? The same motivations that make it easier to be consistent about physical training when you have a work out buddy apply here. Consistency trumps perfection, your progress will be measured in small successes, less frequent derailment, and faster recovery time. In times when you need a reminder to get back on track it will be helpful if you have scripted things for your colleague, ala, “Remember when you told me….”
5. Rewards and Consequences. With successful completion of the goal what benefit will you enjoy? What will the impact be on the company or the leadership team? Most often the positive or negative consequences are built in. They may be as public as prosperity or private as a New Years resolution. One of the reasons be explicit about this is that the promises we make to ourselves are often the most impactful , and the easiest to break. In some cases it may add motivation to keep these important promises if you impose a dire consequences upon yourself. A light-hearted example was the CEO that promised, “If I do not lose the weight by March 1 I will stand on the shipping scale for all to see at the companywide meeting.” We are talking dire consequences.
What is the work you were born to do? What talents, skills, and experience most often combine to produce your peak performance? Which of your strengths, if you were focus for an improvement of even 10%, would have the greatest impact for you and those your lead? You can improve your effectiveness with a personal leadership PM plan.
If you would like to share your plan, along with it’s successes and setbacks, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a part of the P2 team, Dr. Scott Ellis is a Certified Professional Coach to leaders and teams who discover, plan, and enjoy the work they were born to do. His understanding of how people and organizations grow and change is informed by a depth of experience as a business leader, and as a psychotherapist. These factors make him an empathetic thinking partner to help leadership teams find direction, set a course for growth, and adopt healthier communication and decision making along the way.