How to lead the team, if the objective is “Mission Impossible”? 如何帶領團隊實現｢不可能的任務｣?
If we ask ten different managers what leadership is about, we might find ten different answers. However, we might also find a similar one, and that is “to achieve certain objectives”. This is, in fact, very logical. If achieving any objectives are not needed, then there is no need to talk about leadership. Thus, we need to set our objectives by using the SMART principle.
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time specific. As a leader, setting an objective wouldn’t be as difficult if you have all of these elements, but to be frank,
having it to be Achievable is sometimes unlikely to happen for certain objectives.
SMART代表特定(Specific)、可度量(Measurable)、可實現(Achievable)、相關(Relevant) 和具體時間(Time specific)。作為領導者，只要考慮這些 要素，設定目標就不會那麼困難，但坦率地說，某些目標有時不太可能實現。
The key challenge of a leader is how to lead a team to meet some unachievable, or seemingly unachievable, objectives. If the team views that the objective is unachievable, they might lose their drive and morale. People always remark that such unachievable objective is “Mission
There are several groups of leadership theories, such as Trait, Behavioral, Contingency / Situational, and Charismatic / Transformational leadership. Based on my practical experience,
complement those leadership theories, we could “borrow” the concept of Kotter’s Eight Steps
Change model to manage that leadership challenge. In other words, we can conclude that achieving an objective is to change individual/team’s views, beliefs, and behaviors to make things happen.
As discussed earlier, the biggest challenge of today’s leaders is to lead the team to meet “Mission Impossible”. Kotter’s first step is to “create urgency”. A good leader will interpret
the backgrounds and understand the “real” meaning of those “impossible” objectives, then explain to the team why those objectives are important, critical and urgent, especially the
benefits and impacts to the team.
The second step is “to form a powerful coalition”. A leader should understand the strengths and weaknesses of each team member, then build a team that best suits the requirements of
each objective. According to Belbin Team Roles, there are nine different team roles that the leader needs to match the team members’ characteristics. This is a crucial process for the
leader as he/she would need to delegate the tasks to the team members. During this process, mutual trust should be established between the leader and team members. As the team roles are assigned based on the capabilities of team members, the leader will have better confidence on team achievement, while team members will be more motivated because they have better chances to demonstrate their abilities.
Steps 3 and 4 are to “create and communicate vision”. A leader needs to “define clearly” on the objective. Even for “Mission Impossible”; it could be broken down into “Base” and “Stretch” portions. “Base” is the portion of objective where the team would have high confidence to
achieve. “Stretch” is the incremental part where the team would not have confidence. For example, if the team needs to achieve $120 sales target, but has confidence to achieve $100
(based on past experiences), then $100 is the “base”, and $120 is the “stretch” target. Thus, the leader could formulate two strategies on how to guarantee the team to achieve the “base”, and the “stretch” respectively. That’s a very important step because this will help the team to realize that “Mission Impossible” is not that “impossible”, so as to keep the team’s momentum.
During the execution of strategy, obstacles will be faced normally, especially when the team is working towards the “stretch” after having achieved the “base”. As stated in Step 5, the leader needs to help the team to proactively remove the obstacles during the execution. With this
support, team members will feel that they are not alone, and the leader is on the same boat with them. Thus, this will not only help to achieve the objective, but also help to build trust
between the leader and the team.
在執行策略的過程中，通常會遇到障礙，尤其是當團隊在達到「基礎」後，朝著「延伸」目標努力時。 這就如第五步所述，在團隊執行任務的過程中，領導者需要主動地幫忙消除障礙。 在這種支持下，團隊成員會感到自己並不孤單，明白領導者與他們同在一條船上。故此，這不僅有助於實現目標，更有助於在領導者與團隊之間建立信任。
The next important steps are to “create short term wins” and “build on the change”. A leader should give recognition continuously to the team on their journey to achieve the objective,
even though they have not yet achieved the “base” or “stretch”. This will help the team to keep their momentum by giving them positive reinforcement on their efforts. It will also help create a team spirit of “We can do it!”
The last one is “Make it Stick”. No matter the “Mission Impossible” objective is achieved or not, a leader needs to make the “We can do it!” team spirit stick into the team culture. After all, leading a team is not a one-time job. A good team culture must be established and carried on in order to make the team become more invulnerable to the challenges in the future.
To summarize, a successful leader is the one who can build trust with the team, so that all team members are willing to perform their best to achieving the objective, no matter it is “Mission Impossible” or not!
Author’s Profile 作者簡介
Mr. Sam Chan
Sam holds a Master of Business Administration from CUHK, specialized in Finance, Marketing and International Business. Sam worked as a senior management in large MNC, with more than 20 years’ sales and marketing experience. He also has extensive people management experience in leading teams through different changes.