The Actions of Leadership Series, #9: Look Ahead and Remove Obstacles

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 18, Issue No. 11b
March 15, 2020

By Dan Coughlin


You and your team are on a quest.

You are trying to fulfill some meaningful purpose and achieve some important objectives. On this journey there will be obstacles that will try their very best to stop you and prevent you from ever fulfilling that purpose and achieving those outcomes. This article focuses on what you can do regarding three types of obstacles: human dynamics, logistics, and the unforeseen.

Human Dynamics and the Importance of Orchestration

If you announce a new way of doing something or a new product or service that you want your company to sell, it could be embraced by your employees, suppliers, and customers, or it could be undermined by them.

A lot of the challenge is in the way you communicate the new item.

Who are the key individuals you need to get on board before you announce it to everyone else?

What is the order in which you need to talk with these key individuals?

What do you need them to support and champion to other people?

Answering these three questions is what I’m calling, Orchestration, and Orchestration is critically important. Actually take the time to write down your answers to those questions. And then follow your plan. Don’t fall into the temptation of telling everyone about the new thing until you have worked your way through your plan of who to talk with and in what order to talk with them and what the key points are that you want to get them excited about. In addition, I encourage you to read a timeless classic called The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.

Logistics and the Importance of Detailed Planning

Almost nothing ruins the initial excitement of a big idea more than not being prepared to execute the details down the road.

Here’s a simple example on a non-business level. Imagine you are redoing the kitchen in your home. You are excited about the drawings. You take pictures as your old kitchen is taken out and the work is being done to get all the electrical outings prepared and the new floor is put in. And then you end up waiting nine months for the cabinets to arrive.

This same lack of logistical preparation happens in business. You announce an exciting new product or service offering. The employees and customers are hyped for what is about to happen. And then you miss the rollout of the new product or service by nine months beyond the announced date because some key items are missing.

Write out a plan of everything that will be needed to deliver the new item on time. Then spend even more time focused on making sure each of those details is executed well than you spent on making the big announcement of the new item.

The Unforeseen and the Importance of Staying Calm

We cannot predict the future. We don’t know what new crisis is coming our way. We can’t see every unforeseen war, tragedy, and disease before it happens.

However, one thing we can predict with almost 100% certainty is that something bad is going to happen at some point. It’s like people in cold weather areas being surprised by the first snowfall of the year. Folks, it snows every year. You know it’s coming. This is not an unexpected event.

We don’t know exactly what the unforeseen thing is going to be before it happens, but we do know with almost complete certainty that something bad will happen at some point.

When that something bad happens, stay calm and stay focused. Do what you can while you can do it. Acting like the world is coming to an end in the next five minutes is not going to help you or your team. Staying calm and maintaining poise is one of the most important things you can offer.


To remove distant obstacles, think into the future.

Imagine what you need to communicate and what order you need to communicate with individuals and groups.

Write down all the details that need to be executed in order for the new item to be delivered on time and focus on doing all of those details.

Foresee that something unforeseen is going to happen and be prepared emotionally to stay calm through that storm.