The best leaders invest time
The best leaders that I have studied create implicit understanding with their new subordinates.
Relying on implicit understanding can damage your organization. Leaders need to take the time to invest in their new subordinates.
It’s as if they can read each other’s minds, anticipate their responses, and be on the same page in the most fluid situations. Implicit understanding powers your organization through volatility and uncertainty.
What happens when people who share implicit understanding split up and new people arrive?
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is one of the best to have ever played the position. I started being a Packers fan when he got the starting job, and I have loved watching him perform and elevate the team’s performance as a leader. For the past few years, Rodgers and Pro Bowl receiver Davante Adams had a unique chemistry that comes from an intuitive understanding of how each other thinks and reacts to situations.
There’s an excellent chance that you have a similar relationship with some of your subordinates, which creates a sense of flow whenever you are together. You know that you can rely on these subordinates to be at the critical points, respond appropriately to challenges, seize opportunities, and bounce forward from setbacks.
Rodgers lost Davante Adams and a few other receivers before the 2022-23 season and gained a crop of talented replacements. As usual, Rodgers did not attend much training camp before the season began. He knows the offense cold.
The result of not investing time
Missing training camp deprived Rodgers and his new receiving corps of the opportunity to build trust and chemistry before the season began. The offense was out of sync as the Packers lost eight of their first twelve games before winning four straight and heading into the final game with a playoff berth on the line.
Rodgers and the offense were off all game, and the Packers lost. Setbacks happen in professional sports, business, and life. While it’s easy to spend time dissecting the reasons for the poor performance in the final game, I go back to the pre-season’s lost opportunity. Had Rodgers invested time as a leader in his new receivers, the Packers would have won a few more of their first twelve games and been a lock for the playoffs.
Why it matters
Intuitively believing that your new subordinates “get it” and get you as well as their predecessors is a standard error for even the most experienced leaders. Confederate general Robert E. Lee made the same mistake with a new corps commander, which cost him at Gettysburg. I remember being frustrated with a new subordinate until I looked in the mirror and recognized that I had not invested as much time building the new relationship as I had with his predecessor.
Performance usually drops when a dynamic leader-subordinate duo splits up because the leader presumes the implicit understanding transfers seamlessly. Disappointment always follows.
You cannot transfer, teach, or scale intuitive relationships and processes. As a leader, you must make expectations as explicit as possible by using commonly understood visuals, terms, and behaviors. By doing so requires you to invest time in developing your relationships and being prepared to shift your behavior to bring out the best in your new subordinates.
Explicit communication is the foundation for implicit understanding.