I recently completed a pilot for a new initiative at work. It was the culmination of months and months of planning, maneuvering, stakeholdering and hard work. There were a number of touch obstacles to overcome and endless coordination between a number of parties. To see the press release hit the wire and to hear positive feedback from journalists was very satisfying.
While I sat in the driver’s seat, more than a dozen people played a role in bringing this mere idea to reality. They believed in the idea, aligned their efforts with reaching a common goal and they followed through.
Along the way, they solved issues, provided a heads up on obstacles that lie ahead and leveraged their creativity to find new and flexible ways to get things done. It was clear to me that I would not have been able to accomplish this feat alone.
Despite the bureaucracies (and other challenge) indicative of any organization, the resources available when a group comes together are exponentially more impactful than a solo act. My initiative not only involved a half dozen internal departments, but also included engagement from a group of great partners who all contributed to support my strategy.
Most of us have heard the famous African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child.” The same can be said about a project at work.
The “child” is your idea and the “village” is the group of people who bring it to fruition (in tech industry terms is the ecosystem).
If you have a project/idea that you have been nurturing that could benefit from the engagement of a group, the following are concepts to keep in mind and tips to help you in leveraging your ecosystems to accomplish your goal:
- It usually takes longer than you want or think it will take: Patience is key. While involving multiple parties can help speed up processes, it also creates inherent delay as different people have to give input and must sign off on a decision. Plan contingencies, and while you should push for self-identified deadlines, anticipate it will take more time (and therefore plan accordingly).
- Build the ecosystem: Those who are successful build a foundation of people to participate and support an idea before moving forward. While you should continue to build your village throughout a project, having a strong foundation of support is a key first step.
- Spread the wealth: Show your appreciation and give credit to everyone else for the hard work they put in. You will know you have full ecosystem engagement if they begin to lead you to accomplish your goal and if they are even more focused than you are. Saying Thank You is a simple, yet necessary recurring step.
- Take a deep breath, there’s always more work to do: While it’s important to celebrate milestones along the way, realize that even after reaching a goal, the show must go on and the work continues. Remember to recognize accomplishment, but keep the team focused on pushing forward. This is also important if you have different people rotating in and out of the project (particularly relevant to projects that take months or even years to complete).
- It’s about leading thru others: When engaging your “village” ecosystem, remember that they are a tool to help you get things done. They are not a punching bag to take out your frustration or a source that you can merely direct what to do. People need to be inspired and motivated. When you effectively motivate them (by getting their buy-in and helping them see the benefit they receive by accomplishing a task), it translates into their empowerment, increasing their focuses, engagement and follow-through.
Besides the goal that the group accomplished, there are often silver linings. It ended up that the project leads from one of our partners got promoted to vice president in part because of his efforts in the initiative. While this was clearly a career boost for him, it also gave me a great deal of satisfaction that the hard work focused on my idea benefit others.
So the next time you have a “child” (idea) that you want to nurture and help grow, find a strong “village” (ecosystem) to help support you and lend a hand in making your mere plan a reality. You will reach your goal faster than if you decide to give it a go on your own.
Aaron McDaniel, is a corporate manager, entrepreneur, author, public speaker and community leader. Aaron has held numerous management roles at a Fortune 500 company, being one of the youngest ever appointed appointed Regional Vice President at the age of 27, and is the founder of multiple entrepreneurial ventures. Aaron instructed a highly rated student-led course on leadership at UC Berkeley’s Haas Undergraduate School of Business and has a book, The Young Professional’s Guide to the Working World: Savvy Strategies to Get In, Get Ahead, and Rise to the Top, due to be out later this year. Aaron offers advice that helps young professionals build the foundation for a successful career. Visit his blog to learn more.