How to make your team unstoppable?
There are number of things you can do to make your team effective by aligning them towards a common goal and unleashing their collective intelligence.
Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash
Here are some proven ideas for managing your team:
1. Constant elimination of tasks #
To keep your team focused on things that matter, review the work your team shouldn’t be doing alongside what they are doing on regular basis. You can bring this up as part of the weekly one-to-ones with your direct reports or during regular check-ins with entire team every couple of weeks.
You will probably find a number of things they don’t need to do anymore, including the ones assigned by you.
Your team might be generating reports that no one is reading. A person might be duplicating the work as they aren’t aware someone else has done it already or doing it soon. There are tasks being done in an old-fashioned time consuming way as the person is falling back to their old habits or unaware of the new process.
Good management is about constant elimination and re-prioritisation while staying focused on your key objectives.
2. Push the envelope instead of ticking the box #
Imagine a scenario — Customer Success (CS) team is doing a great job at resolving all the issues coming their way and customers are giving stellar feedback. They have been doing it for years. Is it pushing the envelope or ticking the box? Probably the latter, despite the stellar feedback.
The CS team could work with Product, Design and Development teams to fix the issues for good. They could investigate new tools, new ways of working, and proactively engage with the customers beyond resolving their issues. If your business is growing a few percentage points every year, the success of CS team should result in massive time and cost savings.
It’s a hypothetical over-simplified example but you get the idea.
The easiest thing for people is to stay busy and keep doing their job like they have always done it.
Plenty of job satisfaction surveys conclude a good percentage of people find their jobs monotonous and meaningless, with some people suggesting their jobs shouldn’t even exist in first place. It’s partly because they have been doing their job like they have always done it. What was shiny and interesting once is meaningless now.
It’s hard for teams to rise above their day-2-day activities on their own and change the nature of their jobs. Some people are able to realise the feelings of boredom and discontent sooner, which makes them jump ship and switch jobs.
As a leader, you should regularly inspect and challenge your teams to explore new avenues even for things that seem to be working well.
This will not only yield better results but will make their jobs interesting too. A true win-win.
3. Focus on results and delivering value #
Managers claim their teams are doing an amazing job, get all sorts of recognition and rewards yet make zero impact to the bottom line of business or deliver substantial value to the customer. Some shower dishonest praise to build their own likability amongst their teams.
Question yourself hard and ask if the work you are doing is really moving the needle for the business or the customer. There will always be behind the scenes functions like IT Support where the work can’t be directly tied to business performance and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). In those cases, they can still have KPIs for their customers i.e. employees.
Great teams intensely focus on results and generating value.
Great leaders take immediate action towards the people not able to deliver results by training, realigning or replacing them, if necessary.
4. Hire when it really hurts #
In large organisations, you will often find newly minted managers (sometimes experienced ones) push for hiring more and more people whether they need them or not. The reasons vary from boosting their own ego to building power or competing with other managers. If you find a manager boasting about the size of their team and how many people they manage or want to manage, that’s a red flag they are driven by such reasons.
As a team leader, you should think like “I’m generating X amount of revenue or adding Y value with a small team of Z people”. In other words, focus on generating most amount of value with a smallest team possible.
If a small team of 11 people at Instagram can create a billion dollar startup, you can surely do better with your current team.
Make it your mantra to only hire when it really hurts. You would be a far effective leader as you would have absolute clarity on how each team member is adding value. Hiring is the last resort when you struggling to function or grow a product, service or business, and able to justify how adding a new hire will contribute and take the business forward.
Temporary increase in workload, testing the new ideas, covering for absence or fulfilling a gap for the festive season can be handled by temporary staff, contractors or freelancers.
Senior management is responsible for controlling the influx of new hires and setting a strict criteria before approving a role. After all, you have to care for, nurture and provide fulfilling work to every new hire to make it worth their while.
5. Have an enormous sense of urgency #
If you are trying to do something groundbreaking or something that really matters, timing is going to play a critical role in its success. This doesn’t mean employees have to kill themselves or run through fire to get things done as soon as possible. It’s rather about focus and doing the right things to get the product or service to your customers faster. Refer point 1 about constant elimination of tasks.
As a leader, you should be able to answer why does someone need to work on something and why now?
Urgency helps you drive action and not just talk about ideas in the air. It’s a hard act to master as you don’t want to come across as a bully or threatening while still holding people responsible who are getting complacent or wasting time.
Summary / Key Takeaways ✍️ : #
- Eliminate your team’s unnecessary tasks on regular basis (weekly/monthly).
- Make Kaizen part of your culture even for things that are going well.
- Take pride in delivering a lot of value with a small team.
- Utilise freelancers and hire only when it hurts badly.
- Build a sense of urgency without bullying or threatening tactics.