“Successful mission command demands that subordinate leaders at all echelons exercise disciplined initiative and act aggressively and independently to accomplish the mission.”
Martin Dempsey, U.S. Army

Many managers make the mistake of being a hovering manager, who solves others’ problems and neutralizes their ability to come up with creative solutions and figure things out. Snow plow managers convene their emerging leaders by developing them via thinking for themselves, and on behalf of the organization. They’re invited (treated like adults) to snow plow their own obstacles and challenges, with a four-fold set of expectations that they convey, to help the manager. Clarifying these four points for the manager helps them give and receive help, to win.

The Performance:
There are four performance traits to define here. “The Performance” looks at all four, and integrates creative ways to leverage these in the performance environments of their work. They are to define each in terms of where and how they can increase their performance capability, and make this visible through reporting and demonstration. The quest “The Performance” (developing leader) should take is: Here’s how I can bring alertness to improve performance, here’s how I can bring curiosity, and here’s how I can bring responsiveness and resourcefulness.

The Results:
What outcomes am I to create? What would success look like to my manager if this is done superior? The performer is to consistently demonstrate ways to get results efficiently: doing right things, and effectively: doing things right. The idea is to be outcome-focused instead of reward focused. Delivering results is about creating by action, learning from results, and re-applying newly modified action plans to build capacity. The thinking here is to design and deliver ways in the role processes that bring results bigger, better, faster, and cheaper.

The Hero:
How can I be a hero to my boss? To my customers? To my team? What is the one thing that I am unique and valuable at doing that makes me a hero to them? And this area is to be one the performance is given license to zero in on! The expectation here is that the performers understanding of this area of self-efficacy is what the manager/boss sees most as the one thing they do that delivers heroic impact to them.

The Thing that Drives the Others Crazy:
What 2-3 things drive the boss/the customer/the others crazy that must be avoided or eliminated at all costs, to avoid making a manager an ax murderer boss? This should be clearly understand and avoided.

To summarize, here are the key quests for the employee/performer/developing leader to operate by:

  • Expectation 1: What performance is expected of me? How will the four traits be applied and delivered to raise my game?
  • Expectation 2: How can I bring results I’m creating higher with better, cheaper, faster, and bigger ways to approach getting there? What is the best case scenario, and what could be possible if done in this way?
  • Expectation 3: How can I be a hero to my manager? My team mates? My customer? What three habits are my best, that make me a hero to someone else I deliver value into?
  • Expectation 4: What 2-3 things drive my manager crazy that I must avoid?

Exercise: As a manager, give these to you team, as the performers to define these expectations and then make a presentation on them. Align your expectations with theirs. What this does is ensure that both you and the performer are on same page. This equips them with the snow-plow to take ownership of problems, challenges, and opportunities, by staying the lanes of this four-fold vision of their work product.

Traits of a Snow-Plow Manager:

  • They do not play the game and win for their direct reports
  • They hand back the problem to the performer to solve with their own ideas and risk-taking
  • They remain curious about what other ways performers can solve key problems or tackle goals
  • They balance the dip where pulling a person off a difficult project too soon is balanced with staying too long
  • They have the mindset that the performer must learn how to lead in scrambles, shape-shifting conditions where clarity is yield by complexity and confusion
  • They don’t take power away, they give it, by setting the conditions for learning by creating something that matters to the performer
  • They build shared collective visions with consent by confronting the performers’ freedom to choose, instead of follow a script and comply
  • They set a clear direction of what they want, but give flexibility to the approach
  • They encourage suspension of certainty and foster curiosity and courage
  • They deliver learning conversations that embody partnering instead of parenting as the dominant narrative