I played the board game Sequence for the first time over the holidays. I know it’s been around for a while but our family usually plays Bid Whist so it was new to me. If you’ve played the game, you know it can be kind of slow…unless you have trash talking Bid Whist players at the table! If you haven’t played, the object of the game is to place 5 poker chips on a board in sequence based on the cards in your hand.
It was a great demonstration of how people make decisions. Some spent (what seemed to me) an interminable amount of time pouring over the board, looking at their hand, back at the board…I kept suggesting we incorporate a timer!
Others seemed to go with their gut… or maybe they had a predetermined plan. But most players took their time to make the best decision.
Why people make the decisions they make was also on full display. Those motivated by a sense of competition were of course significantly more vocal than those who just like to perform well.
I’m a pretty quick decision maker so once I picked up the basics, I was off to the races … when I finally got a turn. But I missed at least one opportunity to win the game for my team because I was so focused on MY plan to Sequence, I didn’t see it
Isn’t that how it is with leadership? You see an opportunity, formulate a great plan but fail to get a win for your organization because things have changed by the time you’re ready to execute. I was reminded of three keys to executing a plan of action that I learned in the Air Force.
Make sure your execution plan is flexible enough to react to new realities.
At one point in the game, I was so busy fending off efforts to block the sequence I was trying to create in one corner that I missed a chance to complete a sequence on another part of the board!
A plan is a great way to help you focus your vision but don’t let your plan turn into blinders that prevent you from seeing what else is going on. Circumstances change; make sure your plan is a springboard not a concrete block!
Communication is key to executing your plan.
In Sequence, team members CAN’T talk to each other; in business, they often choose not to. But the beauty of a team is the diversity of perspectives. So first, make sure your team is as diverse as you can make it to include gender, race, age, strengths, experience, etc.; second, make sure you are creating space for all member to point out the pitfalls of your plan as well as protect it to mission accomplishment.
Sometimes to see the perspective of the other person, you have to sit where they are sitting, be where they are or trust them to make the decision.
I realized that I was missing possible sequences primarily in one corner of the board. That’s because from where I was sitting, they didn’t look like sequences. I had to rotate the board and look at it from all angles to see ALL the possibilities.
Your reality is really your perspective; your team members may have different perspectives. Simply communicating conflicting realities may not result in understanding; sometimes intense interrogation and even immersion in information that is unfamiliar is required. But getting all the information available to determine the best possible action is worth the discomfort.
Good leaders are able to articulate a vision and plan of execution that attracts those who see themselves contributing to the vision. Great leaders invite their team members to expand the vision and create the best action plan.
Renita Alexander, Leadership Unlocked
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