Corporate Path Leadership has seen a pattern over the last five years of leaders providing a challenge/initiative for team members to solve, and even creating a target date for the team to come back and present a detailed plan to address this issue with the leader. The real challenge: The request comes with little or no direction.

The Reason for Vague Direction

The rationale from leaders is that this approach of providing little upfront direction gives autonomy to their team members and allows those team members to show “their chops” in terms of business acumen. It also keeps the leader’s viewpoint and biases on the side, allowing the leader to learn about how to address the challenge from a different perspective (i.e. see it from the eyes of their team members).

What Really Happens

Time and time again the leader is disappointed with the team members’ first presentation, and feels like everyone needs to go back to the drawing board. At the same time, the team members are frustrated that they have spent significant time creating a presentation, only to learn about unknown key insights from the leader finally shared during their first presentation – insights that would have significantly changed the direction of their ideas.

These frustrations are magnified when the challenge or initiative is particularly time sensitive.

  • We’ve seen leaders take back the initiative and come up with their own solution to speed up progress (and leave out the team, or limit their interaction).
  • Other leaders have forced multiple additional presentations with team members over the course of several days that really just stressed everyone out until a final solution was reached.

The Good News: There Is a Better Way

Improving this process doesn’t require that much more work from the leader to better guarantee quality output from their team members. Our advice is for leaders follow these three steps:

STEP ONE: Set Up and Lead a Learning Session About the Challenge/Initiative

This is the opportunity for a leader to shine. Your success is based on coming to this learning session prepared to fully and proactively address the following questions related to the challenge/initiative:

  • Background information
    • How did this idea surface?
    • Who cares about this (and why)?
    • What is the timing needed for completion (and why)?
    • How does this fit with other team/company goals?
    • Where does this land in terms of team priorities (and why)?
    • Who needs to be involved in this project/challenge (and why)?
  • Expected outcomes
    • What is needed for the team to call this complete?
    • Who needs to see/approve the outcomes?
    • What is the timing expectation for the outcomes?
  • Specific insights
    • What are considerations that the team might not be aware of?
    • What are the critical success factors that will make this work?
    • What are potential pitfalls/barriers that we need to watch out for?
    • Without leading the end result, the leader could even share a couple of examples for how the team might approach the challenge – but encourage them to explore their own ideas.


  • In addition to these questions, you should allow time to discuss the challenge/initiative with your team.
  • Include time for them to ask you more detailed questions before providing them with any assignment to start working on or due date.
  • Finally, make sure that you have clear direction on who needs to work on various steps, and when those steps are due.
STEP TWO: Include a Directional Check-In Meeting

Before too much time elapses, we advise that you set up a follow-up meeting with the team members involved in the initiative (especially those that have future action items), and ask them to share their initial thoughts/ideas at a high-level before any detailed presentation is created.

NOTE: It is important to be specific about the level of detail that you expect here. You might say, “Come to this meeting with your top 2-3 ideas to address this challenge and the rationale behind those ideas.” Then designate that each idea should be on an individual slide.

This check-in meeting should still allow the team members to show their initial “chops” but in an environment where they know you will listen and provide detailed feedback to ensure they continue down worthy paths and stop working on any paths that do not fit with your vision for a solution.


  • At the end of this meeting, the team members should have a clear view of where to spend time on their final presentation.
  • And you as the leader will know the general direction of their final presentation.
STEP THREE: Set Up a Formal Presentation Meeting

While this step may seem similar to the presentations outlined in the introduction section of this article, the difference is that the team members are guaranteed to be well organized and ready for the presentation, and you as the leader are not going to be surprised with their overall approach. This formal presentation meeting allows both sides to spend valuable time refining the final approach and preparing it for any wider audience distribution.

We advise all of you to try this approach as you scan the upcoming business initiatives and challenges you are trying to address in the next 90-120 days. We promise that a few easy preparation steps will help not only avoid stress, but ultimately speed up your ability to come to a final and successful outcome!

Contact Us Today

We make it easy to jump start success. Simply contact us and share your current team challenge or need, and we’ll respond with program ideas to innovate your team performance.

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