There’s one significant characteristic of a leader that I have not mentioned:
Be a model for those behaviors and traits that you are asking others to develop.
If this is done at the start of the project, it becomes part of the project “culture”. If your team sees collaboration and good listening habits, they usually will behave in a similar manner. It’s amazing how many leaders don’t know (or do) this one concept.
Back to those poor hikers:
To reach their short-term goal to get out of the fog they walk through the low hanging clouds, step by step. They moved slowly, took a status of where they were as they moved forward, used their eyes, ears and any other tools they may have. A compass provided a general direction, but the real progress – step by step – was made by the hikers themselves.
The hikers knew that eventually that if they followed the compass or their instincts (and looked for signs on the trail) that would get back to the trail head. It took persistence and a belief that they will get to their goal.
Although this story has similarities to changing objectives on a project, there are differences when the changes are significant or the project is complex. There are more people involved, parallel efforts in play and a budget (and maybe a schedule). There’s documentation that is required- revised budgets, new / revised scope of works, revised schedules, revised reports.
Increases in coordination and communication are needed to keep the moving parts connected to each other while the changes are being defined and agreed. Connections between people and tasks may be broken to establish new connections with other people and tasks.
What does a leader do during this time? Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Be persistent and consistent. Provide the continuing vision once this phase will be completed. Get through each document, presentation, decision…prioritizing and planning the move to the next step. Track the effort. Get feedback from the team and ensure transparency to everyone involved.
Here’s something else to keep the team moving ahead. To coin an old phrase “Success breeds success.” Celebrate the successes, however small. Acknowledge that they still happen and that they will continue.
Lastly for the leader: take care of yourself both physically and emotionally. Vent your frustrations and concerns to someone who you can confide in. It helps you and your team will appreciate it.