The ultimate test of leadership is a crisis. And that is what we have in one small corner of the city of Dallas right now, where people continue to deal with a very serious situation involving the deadly Ebola virus.
What can we as leaders learn from the way this was handled? Well, let’s start with one of the most recent press accounts of how this disease arrived here and has been dealt with.
In the latest news article, it was noted that by observing the progression of the Ebola virus in West Africa, experts developed what they believed were comprehensive plans to protect Americans in the event the virus came to the U.S. They crafted screening questions and health procedures sure to succeed – but only if these protocols were followed.
By now, anyone paying attention to this story knows those procedures broke down during a single late-night shift in a Dallas hospital emergency room.
From a leadership perspective, there was a plan in place and well laid out. But lack of compliance created a crisis. Don’t we see this far too often in our own organizations? Our crises may not be as serious as a potential life-threatening epidemic, but they do result in lost revenue, lost time, and lost efficiency.
The question we have to ask ourselves as leaders is how we can increase compliance with the plan and with the strategy that we take so much care to put into place. Here are three things to consider:
- How you cast your vision. Your vision needs to encompass the mission, what your organization does – and how and why – and where the vision is designed to take the organization. In laying out the mission, or in shifting direction, you must focus on the why, and communicate that as well as the what. It is the why that connects with people, that gives a greater purpose to the plan, and that generates greater adoption.
- How you lay out your priorities. Keep them simple, succinct, and clear. Three priorities is ideal. That may sometimes be challenging, but as leaders we need to keep things simple. With a smaller number of clear priorities, you connect better with those you lead. They find it easier to understand and comply.
- Communicate over and over. Repetition reinforces the message. And as the priorities inevitably evolve over time, you will need to refocus your team. Through constant communication, you drive home what you are doing and changing and why and how the associated priorities are integral to the vision.
A client told me recently that she believed the secret of her success with her team, in an environment where she was seeking to drive change, is that she “saturates” the organization in her mission, vision, and priorities.
She’s right. Because if you want to drive change, and if you want to drive compliance in your team, saturate it with your communication. Convey your vision, your mission, and your top priorities, and you too will be successful. Your plans will be much less likely to fall apart and create a crisis.