The Leadership Playbook: Leaders Deal With Constraints

There is a reason most organizations don’t produce the results they are capable of producing. This same reason is why companies get stuck, stall, and sometimes even die. And it is the leader’s job to deal with this natural cause in order to move her organization forward, to fuel its growth, and to ensure its survival.

The enemy is constraints.

Most people want to do good work. They want to succeed. But they run up against natural constraints.

Time

There are some results that can only be achieved when they are given more time. It is the leader’s job to protect the time of the people they serve to ensure that they can devote that time to what really needs done. It’s also the leader’s job to move projects and initiatives around to provide more time.

You see this in sales management all of the time. The sales manager serves the sales organization first, attending too many meetings, providing too much reporting, and doing too much forecasting. This is time that is better spent with their sales force, where the real results are produced.

Money

You can likely have any result you want. If you want to double your business in a year, it’s very possible–provided you have the money.

Some initiatives fail not because the idea isn’t good or the people can’t pull it off. They fail because they are under-resourced. For most companies, there isn’t ever enough money for all of the initiatives they could pursue. Money is a very real constraint.

It’s the leader’s job to ensure that the financial resources find their way to the most important initiatives. Most of the time this means the financial constraint gets shifted to something or someone else.

Obstacles

Time and money are really easy constraints to deal with. They are easily discovered and, mostly, they are easy to overcome. But there are other constraints that are more difficult for a leader to deal with.

Sometimes your clients or customers want something that you can’t provide them without radically changing how you do something. The constraint is that your people are acting with the boundaries you’ve set up for them and acting on the client’s needs conflict. They are constrained by your processes and systems. If your people aren’t empowered to change the processes and systems, then it is your job as the leader to work with them to develop new processes and systems to remove their constraints.

Sometimes initiatives get stuck because there isn’t consensus within their own team because someone is dragging their feet. Sometimes this is personality driven, but often it’s that the person slowing progress doesn’t know how to do something or doing it disrupts their ability to deliver some other result. A leader has to bridge these gaps and help drive consensus around the vision, removing the constraints, especially when there are issues between people.

Most of the time, only leaders have the ability to deal with constraints. The bigger and more challenging the constraint, the more important it is for the leader to deal with it herself. She is the one with responsibility for leading, and the decisions to make changes belong to her.

Filed under: Sales 3.0, The Leadership Playbook

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