During your leadership career, you’re going to face some daunting challenges. You’ll need to know how to make progress, even in the face of scary goals.
You might be trying to dramatically change the way your team works, implement a new computer system, or trying to achieve significant personal development goals. Whatever it is, sometimes we can be paralysed with fear when facing a daunting goal.
I’ve worked on some complex projects and led a variety of teams. At the beginning, I almost always find myself thinking “How the heck are we going to do this?” It works out in the end if you know how to make progress. And in this post, I’ll tell you how I do it.
1. Break down the problem
The first step in knowing how to make progress is to simply break down the goal into smaller parts. On its own, significant goals seem impossible. Once you break them down, you’ll start to understand what you need to do first, and who you need to help you achieve your goal.
To break down your problem or goal, do the following:
- Write down all the things you can think of that need to happen to accomplish the goal, at the highest level
- Keep breaking each of the items down, until each of the items is a task or deliverable that somebody can work on.
An example: Paint a picture
“Paint a picture” is too big and scary. So let’s break it down.
To paint a picture, we need to:
- Decide what you want to paint
- Work out how big the canvas needs to be
- Understand what paints and equipment you need
- Purchase all the supplies you need
- Organise a place to do your painting
- and so on…
Once you get to the end, you, or somebody else, will be able to take action on each of these items. What was a significant undertaking now seems just that little bit easier.
2. Always know what you need to do next
One area where people struggle is knowing exactly what they need to do. But once you’ve broken a problem down, this becomes a lot easier. Understanding how to make progress means always knowing what you need to do next.
The reason is simple. If you know what you need to do next, you can start organising it. When your team asks for direction, you’ll know what to say.
The worst situation you can be in is having absolutely no idea what your next step is. You don’t need to know all the steps right away. Just always make sure you know the next one.
3. Organise sessions to set the pace
When faced with a daunting goal, you’ll often need people to help you.
To ensure that you make progress, you need to set the pace. To do this, organise regular meetings, workshops or other working sessions with the people you need.
This creates momentum. When people get in a room together to work on a problem, they want to make progress. Regular working sessions help you to set the pace and force people to action.
Without regular sessions to discuss or work on your goal, you may go for long periods without making progress. This is exactly what you need to avoid. Knowing how to make progress is about setting the pace.
This reminds me of the quote “80 percent of success is just showing up”.
When you organise sessions to work on your goal, you and everyone else will show up and you’ll start to make progress.
4. Use the skills of people around you
If you’ve set up regular sessions to work on your problem, you need to have the right skills. When you have the right people helping you, with the right skills, you’ll make progress.
Why? Because when skilled people work on your problem, they’ll know what to do, even if you don’t. They will also often have pride in their work, and they’ll start to set the pace too.
This also means that you don’t need to be the only person who is motivated to achieve your goal. Sometimes, you might just not feel like doing much work on a given day. But when you have the right people around you, their motivation can make up for your lack of drive.
Knowing how to make progress is simple. If you break down your problem or goal, understand what to do next, set the pace and use the skills of the people around you, you will find that even the most complex problems seem achievable.
Don’t worry that your goal feels scary. Most worthwhile goals do. If you follow this four step process, you’ll know how to make progress, every time. You’ll look back at the end and see that it was possible.