There is just one way to lead a team to success: by believing in the positive energy of each individual. But doing so is not always easy.
When you believe in the positive energy of others, you must sometimes let them act against your better judgment. That situation has happened to me many times. I give a person or a team a mandate and encourage them to go for the win. They come back and present the plan but I realize it is not quite what I had in mind.
What to do?
Unless it is a strategic question, I let the team make the decision. Most of the time they come back and have achieved something amazing. They were right and I was wrong!
On the other hand, if the chosen path was not right, the failure presents a great opportunity to discuss the learnings, to review what worked and what did not. If the wrong decision had been stopped when it was being made, this learning would not have happened and the team might not feel empowered.
An important moment is the next project. A confident team which knows that experimentation is allowed and failures are not punished will be amazingly innovative.
Positive thinking always wins in the long run. But in the day-to-day business it is not easy to live up to.
It’s easy to say that you believe in the positive energy of people of your colleagues but it’s actually difficult to do it. For instance, when do you stop a team from doing things you don’t believe in and when do you just let them continue working on what they are doing? Those are difficult questions.
It has been said that Dave Packard was CEO of the Hewlett-Packard and they went through significant strategic shift in the company, he was actually opposed to most of them in the beginning. The leader he was, he believed in the positive energy of his team and he let them develop the ideas and the plans. Then at one point, he realized that they were wonderful plans and they executed on them but initially, he was actually secretly against them.
I’ve had similar situations myself at work where I give a team a task and they come back with a plan and I look at the plan and I think, “Hmm, this is not what I thought. This is not according to the plan. It’s not according with our goals. It looks weird. It’s probably not the right thing to do.” At those points, unless it’s a very strategic thing, you just have to bite our lip and accept it as it is and let the team take it and run with it.
Most of the time, when they come back, you realize that you were wrong and they had an amazing vision and they did something absolutely fantastic that you didn’t even know to ask. Or if they didn’t, if they actually did fail and it didn’t serve the company, then you have a great learning moment where you can discuss it and see what went wrong and how it should have been done. But if at that point, the leader had stopped the initiative too early, then the learning wouldn’t have happened.
If you say that you believe in the positive energy of people, then you must also not just talk the talk but also walk the walk and let them do things that you initially are opposed to and you keep your opposition for yourself, let them do what they are doing. They’ll learn so much and most of the time, they’ll actually come back with something that’s far better than what you had envisioned.