Permalink to Why Compelling Direction is Key to a Project Team

Why Compelling Direction is Key to a Project Team

Smart leaders know that a clear, compelling picture of what success looks like is crucial for engaging and motivating their team. And really smart ones have a fully developed story with ‘chapters’ to be used for different audiences.

Nasa’s compelling direction

The Mars Pathfinder, which delivered a huge amount of information about the red planet, was successful for NASA because team leaders had a story to tell and stuck to it. What was it? To show NASA’s commitment to exploring planets through a relatively low-cost project with the slogan of ‘faster, better, cheaper’. It’s all about having a compelling direction which means a project with a story to tell.

Like a story

Consider a book. Books have chapters – a road map for where the book is going. A good book doesn’t stray from its story from one chapter to the next. It’s the same with big projects. A good leader stays on theme and focuses on that compelling direction through the project.

The chapters are the building blocks of the story and each one is important, but all must operate as one entity. Likewise, a smart project leader continues to use the story to engage, focus and refocus, if necessary, the team and all the stakeholders.

All the chapters make up the story as the entity becomes an integrated whole with no individual piece more important than another. The leader may emphasize certain elements or chapters, depending on the audience, and ensure that all stakeholders remain aligned during the journey, but never lose sight of the compelling direction. And neither should the team.

Some of the individual chapters might be:

  • The ‘Why’ of the project – the business case.
  • The Scope of the project which comes after the business case is established. This is when you ask questions like: Based on all our assumptions about cost and execution, is it feasible?
  • Readiness – prepare for execution. This requires constant updating and communication to ensure alignment between all the groups, and may include your purpose as a team, the team’s values, and how it works together, resolves conflict, communicates, and organizes.
  • Who is on the Team. This might involve an organization chart with concentric circles.

It’s one thing to have the chapters of the story, but the story must still be compelling, so the leader should simplify the message, fight or manage complexity, and initiate critical metrics.

Finally, how should this ‘book’ be used? The leader uses the story to clarify and to work on deliverables, roles, schedules, highlighting best practices, resetting expectations, communicating value, coaching team members, and bringing on board new team members and new partner organizations. Ideal times to re-tell the story are at 90-day milestone meetings to check in on team performance, communication with the workforce, and in-team meetings.

Now the book is done. The ‘reader’ is happy and your project is successful.

To learn how to use Compelling Direction in your work, contact us. Stay in touch by subscribing to our monthly newsletter.


Permalink to Getting Everyone to Speak Up is Important

Getting Everyone to Speak Up is Important

Just because someone on your team is silent doesn’t mean they are weak. The person may not be speaking up for a variety of reasons. The key for a manager is to know how to stop the more outgoing team members from overwhelming the others. Why do this? To make sure the team taps into the wisdom of all, and everyone listens to each other. As a result, decisions are stronger and more sustainable.

The wisdom of all team members

When everyone speaks up, you are more likely to hear the basis for potential disagreements, bad news or something you haven’t heard before. The team will have more information on which to base decisions.

All team members should understand the value of hearing everyone’s point of view, and why it matters. Tell them you are going to try several different techniques to make sure that happens.

How to get everyone’s point of view

  1. Ask the stronger team members to allow time in meetings for the others to speak up. One of our favourite rules is that everyone gets to speak once on their point of view. You can’t speak again until everyone has had his/her say.
  2. Speak to the quieter team members, encourage them to speak up, and tell them their contribution matters. And then compliment them after they do so. Thank them and let them know the value of their contribution. Tell them you value their honesty.
  3. For a really critical discussion, do a ‘post-it’ exercise. What’s this? Ask everyone to spend five minutes writing assumptions about the issue on a post-it pad. One assumption per post-it note. Have them write as many as they can in the five minutes, put the post-it notes on the wall clustered in themes, then discuss the themes. Now the more silent team members are not fighting for air time. This technique also works well to get around the ‘ranking’ problem when more junior people won’t speak up in front of senior people.

There are always going to be differences in how people contribute on a team. Some naturally speak up; others tend to be quiet. The key is to make sure that everyone is heard, and the team benefits from the knowledge and wisdom of all.

With our Intentional Teams Framework, one of the values we emphasize is listening. This creates a culture of trust and acceptance. Learn more about Intentional teams, our methodology and see if it is a fit for you.

Sign up for our monthly newsletter which contains actionable tips you can use immediately to get your team on the road to success – however your firm defines success.


Click here to receive report assessment icon2