4 Questions Every Effective Leader is Asking Right Now

Lead indicators

It isn’t unusual to slosh around in a fair bit of data at the beginning of a design process. I remember one such moment with a client’s leadership team: each one of them had walked through their own deck of key measures, plus we’d also discussed data gathered for external stakeholders, and there was a set of metrics from a scorecard used previously. To cut a path through this, our executive sponsor acknowledged the work and thought given. She then asked two questions about the services her organization was providing: “Are they effective, and how do we know?”
In the depths of the Covid economy, it may seem that worrying about effectiveness – how to make things efficient and sustainable – is a luxury. On our proverbial Maslow’s hierarchy of needs we’re hoping to keep fed and sheltered, and make some kind of sense of what’s happening. Yes, this is a time to be a bit forgiving but it is also a time to conserve energy by ensuring the effort put in really counts. We need to find new ways of working that can be sustained. That means amping up our effectiveness quotient.
In past blogs, I’ve outlined my thoughts on an effectiveness framework for leaders, including effective leadership in times of crisis as well as strategies for those leading virtual teams.
Now I want to build on those points and cap off this discussion with my favourite topic: Evidence of Effectiveness. The four lead indicators discussed below will show if you, and your team, are on track. If I had to have a very short list of things that tell me whether an organization (and therefore its culture) is moving forward with good health, these are those things:

1. Capacity

The first lead indicator is Capacity. If you’ve spent time around “agile” methodologies, you’ll know what I mean by capacity.
Capacity is, literally, how much people can do. This is time+ability+clarity-distractions. At any time, effectiveness in an organization is closely aligned with knowing capacity limits – who has some, and what is it? Also, what are the capabilities inside that? Who doesn’t have any because they’re over capacity, or they’re learning to do something new? Where can capacity come from if the team is already overloaded?
As we’ve already identified, people’s capacity during the pandemic tends to be lower. The pandemic has made things more complex: School and child-care decisions. Aging parents and elders who need extra care. Isolation. Crowding. The problems we had before don’t go away because of a crisis; they may be amplified by uncertainty and rounds of moving back and forth between locations and plans. Complexity makes a challenging environment for capacity management. Effective leaders have sensitivity to the things that are taking up mindshare.
Ask: Do I have a clear view of who has capacity and how it’s being used?

2. Coordination

Connection is important. Collaboration is important. However, there is also a time when collaboration can be too much. There’s an interesting body of research about the detrimental effects of collaboration overload. This is where everybody is in on everything, and it gets to be way too much. Everybody doesn’t need to be in on everything.
We want collaboration for sure, but can we make it a coordinated effort? In the last blog, we talked about leadership as a “framework” people could work within. You are creating a virtual workspace whether you are working virtually, or in a hybrid workplace, or re-integrated workplace. Ideally, the leader holds the space open and guides others to find the means that work best for them. At Pollinate, we’re currently doing a Design Lab on our own operation to re-image how we’ll work around here (more on that to follow).
Do you see evidence when you are working with your team that they actually got together and did something and it worked out well? Coordination is critical evidence of effectiveness for your organization.
Ask your team: what would have to happen for us to feel like we’re working together well over the long term?

3. Completion

A true measure of effectiveness is getting things done. Can we bring things to completion, even when we have some trauma going on? If we are not bringing things to completion, why is that? What is in the way? Is it that we’re not communicating? Pivoting too fast, leading to starting and stopping? Is it that we just need to right-size the tasks to smaller things so we can see more discrete things getting done?
If we’re never getting a checkmark, then we aren’t truly effective. And when we’re not not getting things done, we lose the meaning of the work.
Ask: How can I visually track important to-dos getting done?

4. Celebration

Finally, do you have meaningful events to celebrate? I say “meaningful,” as in something has been accomplished that is significant to the team and other beneficiaries of the effort. Also note that recognition is not always the same thing as celebration. Both are important. Both can create positive momentum. Brady Wilson from Juice Inc. (one of our network partners) reminds us that when we are stressed, the hormone cortisol is running through our veins and our brains. The science tells us that gratitude and appreciation actually doses our brain with dopamine.
Celebration is a deliberate pause to recognize effort and to mark a collective moment of learning and accomplishment. It is evidence that we’ve arrived somewhere important on something important. In his book, Cracking the Leadership Code, Alain Hunkins writes that “‘We don’t have time’ really is code for ‘We don’t understand small wins are the ideal opportunity to create future motivation and achievement.’” Celebration moments don’t always have to be big. They just need to be meaningful.
Ask: Are you celebrating the completion of something important?

Here’s a recap of our Evidence of Effectiveness lead indicators, plus more questions to ask:

Looking for more organizational effectiveness best practices?

Mentorship programs are a proven effectiveness practice of successful organizations, building the capacity and culture necessary to stay competitive. Pollinate Mentorship Programs strategically match people to achieve specific goals – from leadership development to diversity and culture initiatives – delivering exceptional engagement and results that you can track, measure and report. See our blog post, How Mentoring Increases Organizational Effectiveness.


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