Don’t Be Afraid to Get Out and Push

Vintage Car

Leaders spend a lot of time in the driving seat.

Even when you’re in great shape — with maps studied, routes chosen and provisions packed — the demands of just making progress throw up an endless stream of forks in the road and decisions to take.

The best place to be? Behind the wheel, correcting the course and carrying on.

And what works for you works for project teams too.

Each project comes with its very own driving seat, and anyone big enough to sit there deserves your support. Most of the time that means keeping out of their way.

Get Out and Push

But what do you do if a key project comes to a juddering halt?

A bit of coaching can go a long way, but when a good team digs itself axle-deep in stuckness, you might have to get out and push!

That’s not a euphemism for taking over.

Putting your full weight behind a project doesn’t have to mean jumping in with size twelve boots. Far better to volunteer your strength, put your back into the job, and give them the boost of motivation that comes from attention.

When I say volunteer, I mean exactly that. Tell the team how important they are to the project and how important the project is to you, then simply offer your services as an additional resource to get things moving again, “What can I do to help?”

If they ask you to get on a plane. Pack your bag. If they need funding. Find some. Political shenanigans? Pour oil.

The Universal Adjuster is Baby Steps

The trick is to show your commitment and get the cogs turning without taking over, undermining anyone or knocking good people out of the way. Nobody wins if you do everything yourself.

The universal adjuster for stuck teams isn’t a hammer, nor is it deep analysis and grand schemes. The answer is baby steps. Little actions that make small but discernible progress. Almost anything you do will rock the wheels, and if you string a few actions together, things will start rolling.

Neatly filed under Innovating,Leading on November 25, 2010
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3 cracking comments

Guy Stephens on November 25, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Often it’s important to somehow find a way to communicate clearly about your intentions. Sometimes the offer of help can be misinterpreted or questioned for the wrong reasons. Often when help is offered we think there must be an ulterior motive, such as – they’re trying to show me up ; what will they gain out of it…

Adrian Swinscoe on November 26, 2010 at 10:56 am

Hi Nick,
I think the idea of pushing, especially linked to your car image, is a good but as Guy points out we need to be mindful about how it is interpreted. Often, just asking ‘Can I help?’ rather than getting stuck in can be the best way to get things going. But, also, as leaders we need to be mindful that great team development can come from the opportunity to get stuck and to figure out how and what needs to get done to get things moving again.


Malcolm Evans on November 28, 2010 at 8:51 pm

There are far too many “leaders” who shelter behind corporate plans, consultants, special meetings, and any manner of evasions. I cannot imagine who one can actually claim to be a “leader” without some degree of active execution activity.

What do you think? ...