Don’t Plan Action. Take Action.

Making decisions can be difficult. It is much better to decide to do the wrong thing than decide to do nothing. However, as a highly effective leader, I know you will decide to do the right thing.

When I took my first leadership role in 2009 as a project manager, I wasn’t studying leadership or reading leadership books straight away. It took me about 10 months before I took the time to start studying leadership principles.

I wasn’t much of a reader, and I was still doing my masters in engineering. The attitude I had then was to try and do as little work as possible in my free time, just do what I needed to get through university.

1. What Is Leadership?

Back then, before I started studying leadership, I thought to be a leader you had to have authority and be respected by everyone. How wrong I was. It wasn’t until I started reading and studying leadership that I realised that it was me “the leader” who must serve and respect the team.

A lot of the leaders I worked with were good but they were not students of leadership. People followed them, but mostly because they had to.

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I’ve now been a student of leadership and personal growth for 11 years. I have read lots, and lots of leadership books, took online courses, took physical courses, workshops, spoke on the subject, and I have written my own E-book on Leadership and Influence, and personal growth.

Over this time I have led teams and mentored individuals, and I believe I am the right person to help you become a highly effective leader.

By writing this and my other articles and telling you stories that happened while on my leadership journey (which I am still on), my motivation and purpose is to inspire you. I want to motivate you to view leadership and personal growth differently than you did before.

My goal for you after you have read this article, is to take leadership and personal growth a lot more seriously, and work on these areas in your life every day.

2. Giving And Gaining Respect As A Leader

How much do you respect your team? How much do they respect you in return? Do you believe that you should respect your team? Or, do you believe that it is you who should be respected only?

Previously we discussed character, and that you must lead by example through character-based leadership. It is how much character you have that determines how much influence you have.

It is how much influence you have that will determine results. Competency plays a part in results, but only very little. That is why we need to work on our character every single day, because character doubles our competency.

With character and influence comes respect. Respect for the people you lead is the beginning of how you influence the people you lead. The more respect you have for your people, the more you can influence them. However, respect starts with your character.

The following example is a story of how I worked on my character, and by doing that how I overcame quite a big obstacle. In this story, I needed to control myself a lot more.

3. Working On your character As A Leader

If you can control yourself in any situation then that is the right thing to do. If you are doing the right thing, then you are doing the best thing.

In 2019 when I was a senior engineering consultant, I took on a project to deliver an overhaul of two London Underground fleets. This would include leading a team of nine engineers, and a budget of £870k.

The duration of this project would be for two years, and I would be working alongside leaders from the London Underground company.

When the project started, I met with the London Underground leaders and discussed how this project would go. There were a lot of options on the table, mainly on where we would be based, what days we would visit the engineering depots, and who would be doing what task and when.

These were only options at the time, and nothing was confirmed. So, we agreed to keep these options confidential until we had a confirmation.

The week later, I met with the nine engineers I would be leading. Four of them were contractors and the other five were permanent employees and worked for the same company I did.

It was good to have a mix of contractors and permanent because I wanted to the contractors to share their experiences as they had worked in a lot more places than the rest of the team (including me).

I arranged one to one’s with the team first so I could start to build relationships from the very start. My first one to one was with a contractor called John.

4. Asking The Right Questions

My first question was, “How are you feeling about working with us and London Underground on this great project?”

His reply to me was, “If you think I am going to be sitting behind a desk all day looking at spreadsheets, you’ve got another thing coming. I don’t think you’ve ever managed a project like this before, have you?”

I couldn’t believe it. This was my first encounter with this guy. I was trying to break the ice and he was so angry right from the beginning of the conversation.

I knew I had to respond to him in the right way. I couldn’t reply to him in an angry way too and ask him who he thinks he’s talking to. That would have made it a lot worse.

So, I just remained calm and controlled, and I asked, “Where is all this anger coming from, and why do you think you will be sitting behind a desk all day looking at spreadsheets?”

That initial response to him didn’t make him any calmer, in fact he became a bit angrier. But I knew that if I became angry then there would be no way of building a relationship, and increasing my influence with John.

To be a highly effective leader, then self-control is paramount when it comes to confrontations like this. Especially if the other person cannot control themselves.

Anyway, the conversation continued and I asked him some probing questions to try and find out why he was so angry, and why he thought he would be looking at spreadsheets all day.

The conclusion was that he had spoken to one of the London Underground people, and they had heard a rumour from my initial conversation them that my team will be office based, and there wouldn’t be a need for us to do any real engineering.

So, when we said to each other that we will keep our options confidential, someone (and it wasn’t me) didn’t keep to their word, or he didn’t listen very well.

I told John that the reason we wanted him in my team is because he had the most experience of working as a contractor with London Underground, and that his engineering ability was excellent. I assured him that we needed him most.

I promised him that the rumour he had heard was untrue. I actually said to him that if London Underground is a place for rumours then I would want to leave and work with someone else. There was no respect for the people if one of their leaders was spreading a rumour.

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While carrying on this conversation, John became a lot calmer and we began hitting it off.

The next day, John’s attitude was great and he helped me start the planning process for the project.

During my career and lifetime, I was not always the best at controlling myself in situations like this. If someone was angry towards me then my reaction would be to get angry back at them and get nowhere.

However, by studying leadership and personal growth, I learned self-control through building my character every single day, and having respect for everyone I came into contact with. It is a highly effective leader’s character is how they resolve situations and overcome obstacles.

There are lots, and lots, and lots of excuses why a person cannot do what they want to do. However, to do the thing they want to do, they only need one reason.

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

Check out my other articles by Clicking HERE

All the best,

Tom (LeadGrowInfluence)

22 thoughts on “Don’t Plan Action. Take Action.

  1. Your starting off wrong and eventually turning things into the right direction revived a memory from long ago. I was a teacher back then. I had a lot of girls as students, the boys being a minority. Most boys had had a different preliminary school than the girls and I couldn’t get used to their behavior at first.
    At some point I got into a hefty discussion (again) with one of the boys. He lookedd at me and said dryly: “Miss, you’d better turn green”. At first I just looked at him, puzzled, and then realized I had a red face and he was referring to the traffic lights.
    That made me laugh so hard the whole class was looking up to see what was the matter.
    From that day on the discussions were over and we got along quite well.
    Thanks for bringing that memory back to me, Tom. 🙂

    1. Hi Hannie,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you found the article valuable.

      I really appreciate you sharing your experiences as a teacher, a lot of people will be able to relate to you (including me). I got into a lot of hefty discussions and it took me a while to be able to laugh 🙂

      It is my pleasure to help bring back memories for you.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

    1. Hi Albert,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so happy that you agree with my article.

      It is my pleasure to share my experiences with you, and you are absolutely right that as a leader we must serve, not the other way around.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  2. Hi Tom,

    Some fantastic insights here and you’ve given me some real food for thought.

    This is a part of my leadership (and probably me in general as a person) that I have worked hardest on, and still continue to work on.

    Unfortunately, I am one of these people who wears their heart on their sleeve and my facial expressions typically give the game away.

    Not a bad thing I guess, but not a great attribute to have as a leader.

    I have been in much the same situation as you’ve described with John, and although the words coming out my mouth were saying one thing, my face was definitely saying another.

    I have come to realise that communication is so much more than simply the words that we utter, and often I allow my emotions to control my body language.

    Any suggestions you have for trying to deal with this would be greatly appreciated.

    Once again a wonderful read Tom.

    Thanks
    Partha

    1. Hi Partha,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found the article valuable and it’s great to read your kind words.

      I appreciate you sharing your experiences of being in the same situation as John, we have all been in that situation in our lives and it can be confusing. When it comes to communicating, we have to be very, very, very specific on what we are communicating, and we have to be aware of our actions and how they will make the other person/people feel. Put yourself in their shoes when you are communicating.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  3. I loved your account of working with John. You are so right. Getting angry yourself would not have helped a thing. I liked how you managed to turn the whole thing around with patience! Being a leader is about many things and many “leaders” miss the boat when it comes to working with people.

    1. Hi Brianna,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased you can relate to the article.

      I really appreciate your insights, and I completely agree. Patience is what is required when it comes to figuring out and resolving tough situations.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  4. Thank you for sharing your vast expereince and a great article on leadership. Respect, to serve and competence is important factors to succeed as a leader. But what you have highlighted from your work experience is the ability to listen and to keep calm. And those two personal abilities is crucial.

    I have learned my self to keep calm, and I try to put myself in my colleagues or the receivers of my information, shoes in order to convey my message in the best possible manner.

    -Roy-

    1. Hi Roy,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found the article valuable.

      I appreciate you sharing your experiences of learning to keep clam with your colleagues and putting yourself in their shoes. That is exactly what a highly effective leader does. A lot of people will be able to relate to you.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  5. Reacting in this way is not just for leadership, but it is beneficial in everyday communications. My ego has gotten me in so much trouble… even recently at work when dealing with a drugee. I am getting better in dealing with people and the more I stay on top of it by reading articles like this or listening to a podcast, the easier life flows.

    I must improve on letting angered words roll off like water water flowing off a duck. In America, everything is heated right now my first reaction (in thought) is to let the “other side” have it. People here want to accuse others of things that aren’t even true. There is no sense in arguing. I just need to do the next right thing and choose my words carefully. Lead by example. Thanks for sharing

    1. Hi Brian,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you can relate to this article.

      I very much appreciate your honesty with us, and talking about your ego getting you into trouble. I have had issues like that in the past with work colleagues (earlier on in my career I am happy to admit). I love how you have shared what you would like to work on as lots of people will be able to relate to you and hopefully discover what they need to work on and develop too. Thank you so much.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  6. Hi Tom,

    A lot of management start off on the wrong foot. Some managers actually turn into leaders either through education, or they have a natural talent for leading people. Others turn into just bosses, always delegating and telling people what to do while they sit on their butts doing nothing.

    When I first became a GM of the largest liquor retail store in Alaska, I had a natural ability to lead apparently. I never took classes, I simply knew that I didn’t want to be one of the terrible managers that I’ve had in the past. I never asked my team to do something that I wasn’t willing to do. Any large project that needed to be done, I was right there sweating to get things done with them.

    I had a lot of employees that told me that wherever I go, they’ll follow me because they respected my leadership and how I ran my store.

    Sometimes, it just takes remembering a bad boss to not be the bad boss. 🙂

    Great information! Thanks for sharing!

    Katrina

    1. Hi Katrina,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found some great information from this article.

      I appreciate you sharing your insights and thoughts as a lot of people will be able to relate (including me). Remembering a bad boss and using them as an example to not be a bad boss is how I have done it in the past too.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  7. If there is one important character trait that I need to work on myself, it’s definitely controlling my temper. While I’m usually great at keeping my emotions in check, whenever I do become very angry I tend to lash out and act rashly. I thank you for reminding me that self-control is a very important trait for aspiring leaders to have.

    1. Hi Alejandro,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found the article valuable.

      You certainly do need to control your temper, as does everybody. Lashing out is not acceptable, especially in a workplace.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  8. One of the greatest qualities that determine a leader is the ability to take action. A lot of people like to write it down, talk about it, meditate upon a day when they’re going to do it, etc. But only a true leader jumps in and takes action. Not every action is going to be successful, but the more action he or she takes, the better results will follow and people will notice. People don’t want to follow someone who hasn’t been where he’s sending you, right? They need a person who has been there and has the experience to share with your if you need a hand along the way. Real leaders lead with the example and sympathy. Thanks for sharing this post, Tom. As always, great read!

    1. Hi Ivan,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased you found the article valuable.

      I completely agree with you, a true leader is one who takes action as it is necessary. Planning is a good thing, but planning without taking action is not. Taking action is the most important part of the plan, so we must do it.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  9. This article has shown the insight to the qualities of a true leader. I learnt so much from it and that what qualities I have to be an effective leader. Looks like I need to toughen up a bit, lol. I get emotional very easily. That means I need to visit your website to learn about all the qualities an effective leader does.

    Many Thanks for this highly useful post.

    1. Hi Rani,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found the article useful.

      I appreciate you sharing what you think you need to work on. It’s not about toughening up, it’s just about taking that step in taking action and building the courage. I have a few articles on courage if that will help you?

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  10. This was a great read. As leaders, we need to focus on first developing ourselves as individuals. I’m a strong believer in personal development, which will not only make you a great leader, but also the version of you possible.

    If you’re not happy with yourself or with where you are in life, I don’t think you’d be very qualified to lead others and help them better themselves.

    Practice what you preach. You’re clearly doing things right.

    1. Hi Aria,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really happy that you found this article a great read.

      I couldn’t agree with you more, we do need to work on ourselves every day as leaders and as individuals to make ourselves more valuable for our people. We need to be the best version of ourselves as you say. This is not easy, in fact it is very difficult because we will have off days etc.

      But that is the challenge, are you up for it?

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

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