Rules of the Road

by Conscient Strategies | April 9, 2021

Last year, we launched an interview series called “Conscient Leaders.” We wanted to have candid conversations with leaders across the country about how they’re navigating their organizations through the pandemic. One of the resounding themes has been encouraging for us: “share your vision with your employees, and then get out of the way.”

Get out of the way. In a time when we are already working apart from one another physically, it would seem these leaders are saying that they are stepping out of the picture logistically as well. In a way, they are. But it’s not quite that simple. What they are more or less describing is the practice of outcome-based leadership, and the pandemic has inadvertently provided fertile ground for this aspect of leadership to flourish.

The concept of outcome-based leadership is simple—communicate an end goal (an outcome) to your team, then allow them a certain amount of autonomy in determining the best path to achieve it. (The opposite would be something akin to “micro-managing,” focusing on tasks, giving assignments and overseeing exactly how they are executed.) 

In theory, outcome-based leadership sounds great, right? Or maybe a little too good to be true? After all, how can you be sure things will get done if you’re not there to check in on them? Could such a laissez faire approach ever work? 

The fact is it’s not a hands-off approach at all. Leadership’s involvement is still critical, it just looks different. When we talk about outcome-based leadership at Conscient Strategies, we like to compare it to establishing “The Rules of the Road.” 

Just like on the road, there are some rules that everyone needs to know and follow. For example, the stop signs—where it’s necessary to stop and ask questions before continuing. Or the solid lines—where it’s necessary to stay in your lane, the boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed. 

But there are also many aspects on the road that are left to the discretion of the individual. Some may choose to go a little faster or slower. Some may take a slightly different route. Their decisions in these cases are based on their own strengths and skillsets. 

In our interview with Arun Mohan, CEO of Radix Health, he gave the example of hiring new employees. Originally intent on being part of the hiring process for each candidate, Arun quickly found that his involvement often caused a bottleneck or simply was not necessary. When he communicated his vision for the company and the people who work there, he found that his team was just as good at vetting candidates without him. “Or maybe even better,” he admitted.

While how they get there may be a little different, the most important part is that every team member understands and shares the same goal—to get from point A to point B. And the more clearly they understand where “Point B” is and why it’s important to get there, the better they can fill in the moves between the stop signs and solid lines. Knowing the destination—the outcome—from the start, is key. If you’ve ever had your nav go on the fritz in the middle of a trip and found yourself suddenly left to your own devices, you know what we mean. Without knowing where you’re headed, you’re lost.

The Rules of the Road don’t dictate every aspect of your team’s work, they provide guidance in the right places to keep everyone headed in the right direction.

Have you ever noticed that you remember how you got somewhere better when you were the one driving? Don’t make your team members passengers. Establish the rules of the road, communicate the destination, and put them behind the wheel. You won’t regret it.

Conscient Strategies was founded with the idea that every organization is capable of thriving through change. With a focus on strategy development, program implementation, workplace dynamics, and leadership development, Conscient Strategies equips leaders with the tools necessary to continuously navigate the constancy of change in ways that not only benefit their team, but, equally as important, their business outcomes as well. From mergers to c-suite changes to sudden or explosive growth, organizations turn to Conscient Strategies when change is threatening their financial health and cultural wellbeing.

Based in Washington, D.C., Conscient Strategies is comprised of a talented group of consultants, executive coaches, strategists, and account executives. The team has worked with organizations of all sizes in the private, federal, and non-profit sectors across the United States and Internationally.

Watch the Conscient Leaders interviews:

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Deal Makers Interview Series: Jack Hendler

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