June 5, 2009 Chris Fuller

Changing business climates and lack of support…

In any leadership position, newly acquired or not, there are going to be rough spots. Days when it seems like your driving a sled meant for snow over rocks and dirt. For the team, It can be like trying to run full speed over dirt and rocks in your bare feet. For the sled, it’s like being in quicksand. The protective coatings placed over the runners can get ripped to shreds and if you take a spill, it’s going to hurt.

Having those clear, insightful discussions about the terrain and how it has been affected by the recent “Business Climate” changes is urgently important. The earlier you know about the upcoming conditions, the more options you have, the more prepared you can be, and the more time you have to reduce the risk of flipping the sled.

Gathering information from multiple sources helps in these sections. For business in this area I like to involve both art and science.

Science is going to give us the raw and interpreted data. I say, “Interpreted” because for the most part when you are presented with the numbers, the person presenting them is going to give you their ‘Lens’ on those numbers. Having multiple people share their ‘Lenses’ will help round out your thinking and your options. This helps to ensure you don’t take a wrong course of action and either flip the sled or wander off course. What are the numbers? What do we believe they tell us? Why do we believe they tell us that? What make up the causes for the numbers? Is this an isolated climate change or a global crisis? Asking the questions will reveal telling answers AND can reveal more Frozen Rivers (see yesterday’s post)

Art is the ‘Gut’ side of the business for the ‘Manly’. This is where you or your team may have ‘Intuition’, insight, or you can ‘sense’ that there are changes in the trail ahead. Sensory perception, intuition, or gut feelings can be useful. Mushers who run their entire businesses on it can subject their teams to a lot of change and ‘rabbit chases’ – so use this with caution but don’t dismiss it totally.

I’ve been under leaders that could sense problems before my numbers ever showed the reality of it. In this case the numbers lagged the sensing. At other times the statistical analysis led the way. (if you want more on this click the button at the bottom and I’ll do a future blog on it)

For the 150 or so miles leading up to the Yukon river and then along the Icy coast there is very little support. Checkpoints and supply lines are further apart and the Mushers and their teams really fight the mind games that go along with isolation and dwindling support.

As a leader that is either new in position or new to leadership overall, make sure you know where your support ends and what trails you’ll need to go with little or no support at all. Try to minimize these sections of terrain until you have enough time in to develop support for those areas. Remember: your meant to lead the team from the sled – not run out front, grab a harness and pull the sled and all 16 team members! Firm up your support, get others on the same page and ready to pull – then you’ll reduce those ‘Barren’ areas. Don’t fight battles that don’t need to be fought yet – and don’t make everything a ‘Life or Death’, ‘Do or Die’ choice. There is a great quote that says, “If you make every situation a ‘Life or Death’ deal – You’ll be dead a lot!” I don’t know who said it – but it is very true.

If you find yourself in a barren stretch of terrain, keep the lines of communication open. Increase your communication to a mentor, coach, or peer. If you need to take a momentary trail break and rally the team – do it! The first goal is to finish the race – you can’t win, if you don’t finish!

Remember the learning points from the week:

1.) Take time to get to know your team

2.) Learn the terrain.

3.) Don’t be too rigid or make changes too fast.

4.) Let your team get to know you.

See you at the next ‘Leadership Checkpoint’ on Monday.

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