Is Your Team Blocking Your Opportunity?


It’s happening all over the place: leaders are hijacking critical projects from their internal teams and implementing a “bypass” play in order to get things done. While you might question the non-conventional leadership style, the wisdom or the potential fall-out inside the organization of such tactics, these leaders are more worried about missed opportunities, missed revenues or loss of ministry impact than trying to protect the organizational pride and inefficiency.

Leadership Development Is Your Team Blocking Your Opportunity? Maurilio Amorim

Lately, much of my consulting has been with key leaders who find themselves in endless meetings, studies, and discussions of projects that have been stalled for months and even  years because of organizational inertia. As leaders they see the opportunity and want to seize the moment, but cannot make forward progress with their teams.

Fear, incompetent, ignorance, philosophical differences, and so many other issues often play into this organizational paralysis that keeps a lot of good businesses and ministries from making a strategic move. However, in my experience organizations have a window of opportunity in which to leverage a new technology, a new venture  or a potential outreach. But then enters the obligatory company buy in. And trust me, I understand the need for the widest acceptance possible, but sometimes that’s the kiss of death. I’ve sat in meetings where I knew the project at hand would never get done: too many people, too many opinions, too much fear. Somewhere along the road, leaders have bought into the idea that they lead a democratic organization and if the majority is not excited about a project, then they will not pursuit it. That’s bad thinking.

If  as a leader, you cannot dismantle the machine and start over, then it’s time for your “bypass” play. Here’s what I’ve seen work:

  • Keep your team as small as you can: two to three people is ideal
  • Make your scope focused and manageable. Think delivery in weeks, not months.
  • Understand the project’s critical mass: What’s the minimum we need to make this work.
  • It’s more important to deliver it fast than to have it fully right. Trust me on this one. Nothing is perfect. People remember the first in a class, not necessarily the best.

Take inventory. What project or initiative you have been trying to get done that has dragged on and on? What about something cutting edge that you just know your people will torpedo it before it even gets born? Maybe it’s your bypass time.

If you could call a bypass play at work, what would you do, or create?

  • jeff Williams

    Maurilio, this comes in good time. I've had a project that has been "stuck" in our system for too long. I have been thinking of creating my own bypass play for a while. This post confirms it.

  • JBH

    I think the sticky part comes in when a leader is uncertain of whether he/she will ultimately be backed in a bypass. A bypass ultimately smacks of secrecy, and in this day of transparency, not sure, for the same reasons people proceed cautiously, that bypasses just won't get the QB canned–especially if the gutsy move goes awry and the ball falls short and the QB is left standing on the sidelines without a team.

    • I agree that secret plays are dangerous and can backfire. I didn't make it clear on my post, but I don't think the bypass should be kept a secret. It's something you do with full disclosure. But you're doing it with a smaller team and often with help from the outside.

  • Gutsy post, Maurilio. I think it strikes at the heart of what it means to be an exceptional leader – and stands in stark contrast to the popular "lead by consensus" mentality that I see paralyzing so many leaders I work with.

    The people on your team care most that their voices are heard and their ideas are seriously considered – research shows they care about that even more than whether you choose their preferred course of action.

    When Abraham Lincoln provided his cabinet with the final draft of his proposed Emancipation Proclamation, he himself started the vote with, "Aye." Each and every cabinet member in turn voted, "Nay." The president then stood up and said, "Gentelmen, the ayes have it," and the rest is history.

    • Love the Lincoln quote. And yes, it's gutsy, but I've seen so many great ideas get killed by a bunch of loser team members because the leader didn't have the whereabouts to make a decision and move on without consensus.


    Wow spot on and so timely for my own life. And gutsy. Conventional wisdom would suggest we not interfere with projects once they've been delegated, but that can lead to perpetuating bad habits and low expectations. Well said!

    • Yes you delegate, but if a critical project goes nowhere, or to a place you didn't intended it to go, you need to rescue it and find a way to give it life again.

  • I like the saying, "don't let perfect get in the way of progress." though I have a difficult time applying that method. Getting something out there is key, I know two people that are very well off today because they put something out fast. Both people make money by selling instructional videos, and both of them made their first ones without a production team, just in a simple room and an average video camera.

  • I love this post and agree, but have a question.

    If you take over the project, get it back on it's feet, and provide the necessary inertia to get it going, then what do you do? If you want to move forward you can't run every project that needs to be run. If the problem is your 'loser' team, don't you have to address that?

    You can't take every single project on that needs to get done yourself. You can't enable a bad team to believe they can just sit on a project and eventually you'll swoop in and save the day.

    I think this is wonderful advice. But, if you want to grow your organization for long term, don't you have to really overcome this problem eventually instead of just doing an end-around?

    • Yes, you can't run an organization on this play for sure. But sometimes this is the jolt people who are comfortable need to readjust their attitudes and get with the program.

      The opposite is true as well, and you might end up transitioning your team. I had a client who lost half of his staff because they were not able to move the organization to the next level. But he needed to make that change in order to grow.

      • Thank you for the clarification. I like the description of this as a jolt.

  • Such an important post.

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