Connecting the Dots

Did you ever take on a dot-to-dot puzzle when you were a kid? Depending on its complexity, that initial view of dots and numbers — going in every direction with no apparent logic — could be a bit overwhelming. Once you started to connect the dots, however, a clear picture started to emerge. That’s really not so different from what many people face in their jobs each day. Projects and activities may seem random and disconnected to those carrying out the work. You, as the leader, probably have a clear understanding of the final picture you are working towards, but do your people?

When people know the desired outcome, it is much easier to engage them, excite them, build momentum and bring about creative solutions. When they know what the picture is supposed to look like, your people can better identifiy a misstep early on, when it is easier to course correct, or offer a suggestion to improve the final result. That sounds logical enough, and yet so often we just assume that since we know where we are going, our people do to. Not true.

How do you connect the dots for your people?

1. Provide a one sentence description of the end goal.

Not a paragraph with three charts and six pages of further explanation. No one will remember that. People can remember a single sentence. Also, distilling your complex goal down to a single sentence forces you to become clearer on exactly where you are going — not a general direction that is open to misinterpretation by multiple people —the exact measure of what will be considered a successful completion of the goal.

2. Repeat the end goal . . . a lot.

Your end goal may be your number one priority, but the only way it will become that for your people is if you remind them. Repetition builds retention. Become a broken record. Only when you hear your people sharing the end goal with others – in your exact words – will you know that they hold in their minds the same picture of success that you do.

3. Describe how each project supports the end goal.

Just because you know how this particular project supports the overall project, that doesn’t mean that others do. It only takes a few minutes for you to connect the dots for them, and you can see it in their eyes when all the pieces click into place. Never assume that people see the picture the same way you do. Added bonus . . . your people may come up with an even better way to meet the end goal . . . but you’ll only know that if you take the time to connect.

When you and your team are going in multiple directions, working on what some might see as disconnected projects, it is critical that everyone has a clear picture of the end goal. The best way to do that? Connect the dots.

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