Learning to Lead with a Bit More Action

Truth be told, we all approach the work of leadership from a unique starting point – a mixture of our personality, intellect, training, and experience. As we strive to develop as a leader and become better at what we do, we soon learn that there are expectations of our role that are a bit out of our comfort zone. Perhaps, for an example, your area of strength doesn’t exactly fall within a “full steam ahead” approach to getting things done. You may have received feedback suggesting that you be more action-oriented, and you feel the discomfort knowing that focusing in that direction will be a stretch. You also know that with an extra lift in your step, you would get more things done as a leader and would likely spark others around you to do the same. That’s the way it often works. Leaders, by the way in which they approach their work and how they interact with others, set the tone of the climate and the pace of productivity.

So, what’s the hesitation? Why are some leaders less inclined to be action-oriented? In my experience, the hesitancy usually comes from perfectionism, procrastination or risk avoidance. All cause people to delay taking timelier action.

Here are a few nuggets of encouragement and tips to help increase more achievement-oriented behavior:

  • Perfectionist? This is a tough one to let go of because for most people, it began as positive trait. Then as a leader, your personal desire for flawlessness meant holding onto work much too long and you became a bottleneck preventing progress around you. You fail to delegate. Try to reach a more reasonable balance between thinking every detail through and making things happen. Make goal-setting with a built-in timeline a habit. Then, spend less time thinking about your goals and more time taking action to accomplish them.
  • Procrastinating? Waiting to the last minute? Then you already know that you’ll either be up all night or you’ll miss the deadline and performance target. The quality of your output will suffer as well unless you act sooner and allow yourself more time. Take action sooner. Break the task down into smaller chunks and commit to doing a piece a day. Make the first move earlier. Don’t wait for others. Instead, initiate yourself and others into action.
  • Uncomfortable with risk?  Sure, taking action sometime means pushing the envelope, taking chances and trying new initiatives. This doesn’t mean being a rebel without a cause, but it does mean moving the needle and taking steps toward an improved future state. Continuous improvement means change, and both require upping your risk comfort. Instead of doing something the same tired way and getting the same result, experiment a little. Take a small or moderate risk.

Finally, try to adopt a mindset of high-achievers, beginning with the belief that you can influence and improve things, and that you can make a difference. Practice the principle of the extra degree:

At 212 degrees, water boils and produces enough steam to power a locomotive. That one additional degree of energy makes a huge difference in the end result.

Sam Parker
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