Starting Where Here Is

A profound concept is one that’s worth learning well. It’s also one that when revisited still has deeper meaning than when the lessons were first learned. I’ve learned a lot of my lessons in life painfully. I had good mentors in the military who were able to apply a good deal of leadership influence to reinforce the good behavior they needed from me as part of their team. Often times this reinforcement took the form of push ups.

As my muscles got stronger so did my resolve to be better and do better. Over time I found myself in positions of responsibility rendering similar corrective training to those who worked for me.

Every leader wants to take their team somewhere. In some cases that somewhere is a literal location In other places that somewhere is passing the next audit or a good performance evaluation. The team has the job of charting the course to get there with most of that responsibility falling on the team’s leader. Immature leaders often get frustrated by having a clear vision of the goal, but not being able to get there. Frustrated they ask the question. How do we get there?

We get there, by starting here.

Where’s here?

Where is here? Where are you? Where is your team? Where are you starting from? These are good questions that should encourage anyone to do some self assessment of themselves and their team. As each day moves on your team writes another page in its story. Answering where you can be as simple and quick as an establishing shot on a sitcom, or it can be as detailed as a Tolkien novel. Trying to write a story without understanding where you’re at in the story builds confusion from both the reader (your boss) and your characters (your team).

There are lots of different frameworks for teams. One of the most popular is Tuckerman’s framework (Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing). While this theory has severe limitations, its popularity is due in large part to its generalized accuracy and simplicity. To use it effectively you’ll need to take a step back and be honest with yourself. As much as the destination has been on your mind you’re not going to get there without taking a minute to realize where you are. You get there by starting here.