Leadership Blog – Y is for Yearn

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery, a French writer, poet, and journalist.  This quote has been utilized by several writers when describing leadership.

So how does a leader motivate their organization to yearn for more by taking on challenges with the idea that their efforts will get positive results?  How does a leader keep others engaged when the initiative has many pieces and will take a long time to complete?  To start, it is imperative to assign the right people to the project.  This is not just assessing their skills but also their mindset because some people can just not stay focused and/or motivated on longer projects.

A timeline will need to be created with short term deadlines indicated as well.  This is not just to ensure that the final project will be completed on time but also to take stock of the results so far and determine if changes need to be made.  It is also a good time to evaluate if the same expertise is still needed moving forward or if different people need to be added or substituted.  Lastly there needs to be short term incentives to keep the employees motivated.  People in general want to feel that their efforts so far are working so rewards for certain milestones will keep them on track and eager to continue.

Longer term projects also provide the opportunity for some to learn new skills and stretch their capabilities.  With short-term projects the need for speed and accuracy is critical, but if a small mistake occurs or a need for a minor redirection with a longer project, it will not affect the project overall.  It may also be a good management development opportunity for a more junior person to take the lead on pieces of the project.

A wise leader will want to get their employees to yearn for more out of themselves as well as the organization.  It is necessary sometimes for leaders to cajole their employees but they also need to communicate that any opportunity to provide a learning experience will be beneficial longer term – both personally as well as professionally.

Other “Y” words to ponder – youthful and yes.

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