Successful Intervention in 5 Steps
Weak leaders smugly think, “I knew that would happen.” Cowardly leaders saying “I told you so.”
Not if but how:
Strong leaders tip toward courageous intervention. They don’t sit on the sidelines like cowards gloating over failures they saw coming. They turn potential failures to successes.
On the other hand, interventionist leaders aren’t meddling parents who step in too soon too often. People resent quick interventionist and respect leaders who give them space. Successful interventionists:
- Celebrate progress even if it’s minimal. Celebrate more! Your passion to make things better causes you to minimize progress. Minimizing progress demoralizes by undervaluing small successes, past efforts, and sincere dedication. Celebrating progress, on the other hand, honors and encourages.The best form of intervention is celebration.
- Fix with not for, unless risks or costs are high. Deadlines may require fixing for.
- Make fewer statements.
- Ask open ended questions.
- Provide outside resources and connections. You may not have the time or knowledge to intervene but you know someone who can. (my second favorite)
Think of yourself as coach and teacher rather than authoritative leader. You don’t play the game. You enhance the play of others.
Withhold short-term intervention for long-term benefits. In this case, the consequences of delay may be painful but temporary. Cheering from the sidelines while others struggle forward – and you could help – strengthens the team as long as:
- Time allows.
- The people involved have potential.
- Incremental progress continues.
- Costs and penalties are low.
- Frustration is manageable.
- Learning and development continues.
- Learning applies to current projects, untapped opportunities or future vision.
- People max out.
- Progress stalls.
- Costs are high.
- Frustration distracts.
- Learning stops or becomes irrelevant.
When and how do you intervene?
This resource helps me successful intervene: “Coaching for Engagement” by Bob Hancox, Russell Hunter, Kristann Boudreau.
Dan, great summary of the topic. I’d add one thing: express confidence. Most people can do more than they think they can; if they think you think they can, they’re more likely try.
Greg, great add. “I believe in you” helps others believe in themselves. Best, Dan
I agree 100%, Dan. I like to say (and I think I cribbed it from Tom Peters) that, as a leader, your main job is “to make others better”. (you can peek at a post I wrote last year called “Up with people!” – http://stratecutionstories.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/up-with-people/)
Thanks for stopping in and extending the conversation.
I tend to only intervene when progress stops and the process starts to become detrimental to the project or the staff member. I usually intervene by asking how the project is going or is there anything I can help you with. Very often the problem is not one that requires me to take over. Sometimes by simply going through the issue with someone else the path forward becomes clearer. Sometimes by asking a few questions, I can guide a person to finding the right answer to move forward. And sometimes by answering a few questions I give someone the tools needed to finish the project. Leaders who do too much too soon can crush the confidence of staff members who knew they were having problems with the project.
Really appreciate and admire how well you can summarize.
Excellent 5 steps Dan! And celebrate/recognize/publicly appreciate is definitely number one. Being able to appreciate that someone brought up the varied size elephant in the room is an art.
There does seem to be an ingrained level of minimization on most folks part (residual from Puritan work ethic?). How often do we hear, ‘oh, it’s not that big a deal’?
Might slightly modify ‘fix with’ to ‘fix within’ and not from the outside in. To fix from within requires connection on core levels. And your caveats are spot on regarding when fix needs to happen. Again, may be a case to check your sense of urgency at the door and make sure it is accurate and not just internal perception.
The other time to faux intervene may be when it is clear that the path chosen leads to significant waste. That too requires a perception check, however if you see the negative path clearly, there is a brief window to ask many questions to align others rather than fixing.
Doc, your use of the word perception reminds me that there are often perceived limitations to permission – that is, sometimes team members don’t feel authorized to take steps you would expect. Then the questions will resolve that misunderstanding.
So Greg, should leaders champion begging for forgiveness rather than asking for permission!? 😉
Absolutely, for experienced people. I tell my team I’m usually a lot happier with a wrong step than inaction.
Have I missed something?
You don’t seem to be focusing on the idea that many of us ask for help if we feel projects going off the rails.
Is this another leading up situation – ?
Someone who asks for help is going to be the one with the potential
Intervene when responding to a request for help,
Ejoying the dialogue
Great topic. “What to do when projects go off the rails”
Managing up may be part of the solution. I’ll mull this over and see if I can post something soon. I bet LF readers will have lots of suggestions.
Intervene when asked… true dat!
What exactly do you mean by fix with, not for?
Fixing “with” leaves responsibility with others and leverages their strengths while fixing “for” assumes responsibility and minimizes the participation of others. Think of tying a shoe for a child vs. helping them tie their own.
Fixing “with” – sounds good,