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Mar
26
Alex Somos

During my time in Mexico building homes and schools for the needy, I’ve heard many stories from locals about similar construction projects gone wrong.

I even heard of a team that, not long after arriving in Mexico, threw in the towel and left a house half-built.

It’s made me contemplate what has made my own construction team—or any team in the business world—successful, while other well-intentioned groups have failed.

And I’ve come to this conclusion: the key is not only preparation, but self-confidence.

Put another way, if team members feel mentally and physically prepared for the task at hand, their confidence is elevated (in themselves, as well as the project)—and that significantly increases the odds that the impact will be a successful one.

Obviously, leaders play a major role in the ultimate outcome of their teams. Here are three ways leaders can ensure team members are prepared for any project

1.  Good leaders create a compelling picture of a future state for their team.

Before travelling to Mexico, my team always holds pre-meetings to discuss what the project will mean to the community. We also give team members a visual of what they can expect, by sharing videos of our previous work.

It’s all about creating meaning for your team. Give them glimpses of what “success” looks like—for example, by explaining who benefits from your initiative, and what it means to them. Inspiration can go a long way toward energizing your team and raising their level of confidence. Now, they have an end-picture in mind.

2.  Good leaders understand the reality for improvisation and flexibility.

In Mexico, we work long, oftentimes grueling days in the heat.  Many times we have to improvise or wait as the systems and processes there beat to their own drum. It may not sound like a big deal, but it can be extremely frustrating to a group who is trying to get the job done.

Good leaders prepare teams in advance by listing examples of things that may go awry during the project. This helps to:

  • decrease the shock factor;
  • pave the way for your team to develop contingencies on the fly; and
  • retain your team’s confidence in the project—their belief in all their work will not be shaken as hard if they are mentally prepared for the occasional unplanned issue.

3.  Good leaders create ease in the system.

Many people who come with us to Mexico are not handy—in fact, many have never even swung a hammer. To help them prepare, we show them how different pieces of equipment work. We’ll let them use  a table saw, show them how to pry apart a nail from a piece of wood—essentially, show them what simple construction looks like. That way, when they get to Mexico, they will have some sense of confidence to do the job at hand.

In the business world, leaders simply cannot get the best out of their team if members aren’t confident in their own abilities. One way to build confidence is to ensure they have the skills they need—and make the complex (or what appears to be complex) simple.

Invest in preparation

In the hyperactive business world, it is often the preparation and planning that goes out the window when there is pressure to get a job done. It can take time and planning to ensure teams are fully prepared prior to the launch of a project. I have learned by experience that if you want to go fast, you have to be willing to be slow at the beginning and not forgo or underestimate the power of preparing your team to win!

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