Tell your team’s journey story, and plot it in advance

Managers and leaders spend their days in a state of mild to medium dissatisfaction. The status quo is rarely acceptable, there’s always a hill to climb, there’s always a distant horizon and a finger pointing “there.” Societal trends, shifts in priorities, leadership and staff changes, the imperative to evolve and grow the team – all rule out the option to stand still.

Some restlessness is healthy and necessary. But radiating dissatisfaction can wear your team down over the long term, if they feel their best is never good enough.

Sometimes you have to pause and appreciate what has been achieved. Recognizing and naming progress provides that sense of forward momentum that fuels the energy to keep going. Setbacks and reversals are like downturns in the stock market: Zoom out far enough, and they appear as minor blips in a larger story of growth.

I sometimes get to appreciate this larger story when I give a conference presentation. Sharing the story of our team’s journey with others is a source of energy-giving gratitude for me.

But journey stories don’t take their shape only in retrospect: They can be built into planning. Operations projects that are carefully scoped and defined as discrete packages of work with end dates are set up to be celebrated, simply because it’s possible to recognize when they’re done. (Even if a Phase Two waits in the wings.) Projects that are not scoped, or poorly scoped, will pursue various directions and never reach any kind of satisfying end that you can plant a flag on.

Looking back cantilevers your ambitious looking-forward. Celebrate it, and plan for it.

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