Leaders must continuously reiterate their organization’s vision, mission, priorities and goals. Providing direction once isn’t enough. Be explicit about how you want to receive information and communicate your expectations over and over and over again. And if something isn’t working the way you think it should, recognize you may be the problem.
Lessons from the field: In 2003, I was serving as Commander of the 3rd Battalion, 504th Infantry, 82d Airborne Division, where I was in charge of about 800 paratroopers, five subordinate company commanders and a staff of about 50 people. After a nine month deployment in Afghanistan, about 20% of the unit and an even higher percentage of the unit’s leadership had rotated out, which is common practice post-deployment. Abruptly after that rotation, deadlines (called ‘suspenses’ in the military) were not being met, the unit’s training was not up to standard, incidents of ill-behavior were up and I was not getting the level of information or feedback from subordinates that I had come to expect.
After wrestling with some frustration due to these challenges, I came to realize that I was a large part of the problem. ***As a leader, I needed to actively communicate and then reinforce my expectations and standards to a group of largely new faces. *** So, I started meeting with my direct reports daily at 6am, before physical training, to align on daily priorities. Once we developed this cadence or as I called it, battle rhythm, my expectations became clear and everyone in the unit — from leadership to direct reports — performed at the level that was expected.