I see it all the time in my leadership consulting practice: A new leader is tapped by their senior leadership team to manage an important change effort, only to stall because they hesitate to take control.
Typically, this happens because a new leader wants to be inclusive and not viewed as a complete and total control freak. However, being directive is essential, particularly in the early phases of a change effort. Here are four straightforward ways to do it:
1. Define the goals of the effort yourself.
Not everyone operates with the best intentions. Some people just aren't going to help you get it done. There are many reasons for this, including jealousy over not being the chosen one, fear of what the results may mean to them personally and the joy that some get just from being disagreeable.
So, don't hesitate to establish your authority as the leader of the band. Call the group together and defining the goals that your team must achieve and providing the steps necessary to reach the desired outcomes. Dole out assignments and provide due dates. Be certain that everyone assigned to work on the effort understands the goals, plan and their responsibilities.
2. Constantly monitor.
They will test you. Those that are interested in being disruptive will test your authority by not following the plan, missing deadlines and being generally disingenuous.
To quiet their desire to test you become omnipresent. If you're constantly following-up and monitoring progress as your team executes, any missteps can be quickly identified and corrected, before they impede your progress.
An approach that I like to recommend to help a leader enhance their presence includes daily stand-ups. As the name implies, a daily stand-up is held once a day (in person, or virtually). It can be scheduled at any time throughout the day, but, are best when planned at the beginning or at the end of each work day.
All team members have a speaking role at the stand-up that includes a summary of today's progress and tomorrow's targets. Use this technique of you're being tested and the team will get in-line quickly -- there's simply no place to hide with this kind of daily check-in.
3. You decide.
They will question your approach. Even the well-intentioned may question your tack to achieving the objectives of the change effort.
While it's always good to listen and adopt good ideas whenever offered, there comes a time when you just have to get on with it. When that time comes, and you'll know you're there because progress will have been replaced by debate, it's up to you to illuminate the way forward by declaring the specific way that you want the work to be performed and holding the team accountable to follow that approach.
4. Establish an understanding.
If you're not he boss, they will go behind your back. Some will try to appropriate your authority by approaching your boss or bad mouthing you to colleagues to see if they can have it their way.
When someone is usurping your authority by going behind your back, being particular is imperative. Be sure to nip it this kind of bad behavior in the bud by establishing an understanding with your sponsor (if you're not the boss) that you're the only one he or she needs to talk with about the initiative. If you are the one that is ultimately in charge, call the perpetrator on it, and establish an understanding with that person that such behavior is unacceptable and can lead to dismissal.
Ask them to support you by directing anyone who approaches them on the subject to discuss the matter with you. If someone has an inclination to go around you, they will quickly realize it only leads to a dead end.
To close, people always want to know who's in charge. If you're responsible for driving a change effort at your company, assert yourself. You'll be glad you did.