Leading in Different Times #2: Reinforce Clarity
Leading in Different Times #2: Reinforce Clarity

Leading in Different Times #2: Reinforce Clarity

This is the second in a series of Play notes about leading well during different times such as this one.

“This not that. Here not there. And here’s why…”

With daily distractions, project deadlines, and competing priorities, our teams can get unfocused. Add something like a global health challenge and they’ll likely get really scattered. We can help.

Our job is not to tell them what to do or how to do it (mostly). Our job is to remind them of the near- and long-term goals, why we want to achieve those goals, and how their work contributes to those goals. Then we coach and clear obstacles for them.

Here’s How

  • Clarify Set aside some thinking time to clarify the goals and reasons.. Write down the near- and long-term goals for the team, your clients, and the company. For each goal, write down why this goal is important.
  • Verify Share what you’ve written with key people (part or all of your senior team, board, boss, coach) for their insights and alignment. Edit what you’ve written as appropriate.
  • Translate Work with each of your direct team members to translate these goals into their overall focus, projects, milestones, and tasks. Include professional growth goals here. Drop the responsibility ball so they can pick it up; let them own the planning, execution, and tracking of their work. Set priorities, agree on what is not going to get done, and negotiate due dates.
  • Coach In each 1-1 meeting (ad hoc and scheduled), reinforce the goals: “Here’s how what you’re doing contributes and why it matters.” At least weekly, have a four part meeting covering both the self/relationships and projects/milestones/tasks aspects of their work. (See below for tips to streamline these 1-1 meetings with team meetings.)
    1. Check In (3-5 minutes) What are their wins, questions & concerns, and requests (help they need from you or others); share yours as well.
    2. Review (5-10 minutes) Have them step through their focus, projects, milestones and (where needed) tasks. Celebrate wins, note areas for further discussion. For anything not needing further discussion, note the next milestone (or if needed, task) and due date.
    3. Deep Dive (0-35 minutes) Prioritize then discuss items that you flagged in Check In or Review. Coach and problem-solve then have them document next steps and due dates. Capture in your own system anything you’ve agreed to do. For anything that needs more time or that you can’t get to, decide together whether it really needs further conversation. If it does, book that extra time.
    4. Recap (3-5 minutes) Each of you summarize what you’ve agreed to do next. Ask what they would suggest you start, stop, continue doing to make these meetings even better. Capture their ideas for your consideration. End with appreciation; an honest”thank you” will do wonders.
  • Do Take time and care to plan and do your own work including what you agreed in your meetings with team members.


  • End when you’re done or at 60 minutes. Meetings can be as short as 15 minutes if there are no deep dives.
  • This is not an exercise of inspecting each and every task. Most of the time, you’ll work at the milestone (next chunk of work) level. Do drop into the detailed task level when they are tacking something new or are otherwise stuck.
  • Always ask permission before offering a suggestion. This is their work; they own it. By asking permission, you reinforce their ownership and avoid picking up the responsibility ball.
  • What if they don’t complete something they’ve agreed to? What if you don’t? Stuff happens. Here’s how to ensure everybody stays accountable anyway.

Team Meetings, Too

Regular team- and project-team meetings do not replace the 1-1 meetings. Team meetings do provide essential coordination and reduce the volume of things to cover in 1-1 meetings.

  • Set up, track, and run team- and project-team coordination meetings like the 1-1 meetings. Depending on the work and the team, these can be daily (e.g. as with teams in hospitals these days), weekly, or bi-weekly.
  • Use the same four-part flow: check-in, review, deep dive, and recap.
  • Include individual team members’ items that the rest of the team would care about. Exclude individual team members’ items that are irrelevant to the team or are personal.

Too Much?

Does all this seem too much to do or not right for you? You can experiment, tune, and build up over time. Start with your Clarify and Verify. Then add team meetings or a 1-1 with just one team member. See what works. Grow from there.

Next Leading In Different Times #3: Navigate


In your corner,


Image by 495756 from Pixabay