Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lead your team right to years end

With the fast approaching the end of the year, Christmas for many of us and a new calendar and reporting year coming to a close. I'm often asked "How can I impact my team the most in the short time left?" This is a question that confuses a lot of people, if I only have few week left how can I impact the right people in my team to finish the year with a bang.

Lets say your team is seven members strong. look through their goals set earlier in the year and rank each member on how they have gone against the criteria you set together. Odds on one is a standout in the positive sense and another is a standout in the negative sense, while the rest fall somewhere in between.

You know full well that you will support each member but realistically you can probably only squeeze enough time to help one person  get a few more runs before the year close.

Many leaders take the view to invest their time in the weakest performer in the belief that that may pull them up to the mark and get over the line. However the person who can make the most impact with your help is in fact the best performer.  This will seem couter-tuitive to many.  Let's look at in from a simple sales perspective.

Each team member  has target of 100k sales per month.  Your poor performer is pulling 80k while your top performer is pulling in 120k - both 20k variance from the goal. with some help from you one of these guys can do an extra 10%.  This would leave us with 88k  versus 132k. Your help is worth more when given to your top performer as opposed to your bottom performer.

As a team leader with limited time for extra coaching you can gain the most value for your team. So line up your team, identify  who has kicked the most goals and spend some time finishing the year on a high note.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

6 Steps to Leading your team through Change

Change is inevitable for our teams, yet many leaders handle this poorly. In this article let's look at the basic steps that you can put in place to make sure your team is in  the best possible place to cope and embrace the change it will experience. We need to lead change and not allow change to lead us!

 Firstly, as the team leaders we need to expect differing members to embrace change in their own way. Fighting this will only make your job so much harder. Be prepared for the those that resist change openly, those reflective people who need time to think it through and of course those that want to charge off at a million miles an hour.

Change is very much a journey and we need to have a plan on how we will travel down this path. basically  if you can put the following steps into practice you'll find the change happening to your team will be achieved in a positive and successful way:

  • Brief the team on the change to come,
  • Demonstrate management buy-in,
  • Walk through new processes,
  • Explain and demonstrate each persons new way of working,
  • Adjust along the way, and
  • Celebrate your success
Brief the team on the change to come,

Get your team together and explain the requirement for the change, be sure to explain the big picture of why the change is important. Talk about the journey ahead and the time frame that the change will be implemented in.

Demonstrate management buy-in,

In the early stages of change it is important to have the management team around and its very important that they talk about how much they want to see change and how it will be good for everyone and the company.

Walk through new processes,

Get some workshops together and design and walk the team through the new processes. It is important for the team to be part of the design of this process as they will feel some ownership and be more prepared to put them into practice, than if they are simply told "this is the new way you work".

Explain and demonstrate each persons new way of working,

Have a program in place where each person who is affected by this change is taught and coached about how they need to do their part. Allow plenty of time for trial and error and be careful to be supportive and positive and the people adjust to the new way.

Adjust along the way,

At intervals review the progress and address each thing as it turns up. It is very important that do this in a supporting manner, as many people struggle with their morale when they are going through change.

Celebrate your success

Once you're there and the change has been complete. Take time out and celebrate, explain how much better the situation is and how each person made a great contribution to achieving this important team goal.

We live in a world of constant change, so it is important for us to have a strategy to engage and help drive our teams through this important stage.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Team creativity a path to success

One of the perpetual challenges for high performance teams is to generate creativity into how they create products and serve customers. But how do we become creative. Lots of teams work on the strategy of hiring someone from outside their expertise area and throw them into your team and watch them create new ways of dealing with the challenges. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't. Is there a better way without the hit and miss of hiring someone in.

Believe it or not you probably have more than enough creativity within your team, and as the leader it comes down to you to draw it out.

One of the tried and trusted methods to do this is to run a  brainstorming session, many people will use a structure such a De'bonos' thinking hats or the like to work through the process of coming up with ideas, fleshing them out, analysing the good and bad points etc and then finally settle on the idea with the best level of success. I've seen this work in plenty of teams and I've seen it fail.  Often this way of working really suits seems with lots of alpha type people as they are quick to voice their opinion.  In teams where a majority of the people are methodical or analytical  this approach often appears to fail.

The teams that struggle with this methodology are built of people who are reflective and need to run things through in their head before they will voice the idea to the team. Even when you tell these people that you want all ideas regardless of how bizarre they may initially sound, these people often won't come forward.

For these types of team the idea is to run your brainstorming session in short bursts with three or four days between each session. This way those who need some thinking time will have it.  At the start of each short session do a recap of previous ideas and take some time to ask for any new ideas. You will be surprised how many new strong ideas get presented.

As the leaders we need to take time to understand the personalities and their traits so we can implore the right methods to extract the creativity we need to drive or team to greater success. By being a little flexible and not rushing to the obvious conclusion you'll find plenty of creative ideas right with the team. Implementing them that's another story!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Credit the team on their success

Everyone wants to feel they have contributed to the success of a project, when it is finally successfully  launched, but do you ensure the credit goes to your team? One of our basic needs for all of us is to feel like we belong. When we do feel strongly tied to a successful team we are more committed to maintaining the performance.

How many times have you seen the team leader get up and make a presentation about the projects successful launch and all the hard work that that he put in to get it over the line. I bet the answer is you have seen this too many times, and you know that feeling as all the team members collectively sigh. i think we have all seen this leader at work and don't aspire to be like them.

While it is very important to keep the whole business apraised of what your team does, the better way to deliver good news is to involve the team. A great way to do this is to have your team make the presentation and talk about how as a team they came together and worked through all the issues and launched the project. The immediate feedback the team members get from management at this time of presentation is golden. They will have a first hand view of how the business sees this project and they will gain a sense of pride from the positive feedback.

This subtle difference in deliverying the message vuia the team will give your team a morale boost that you could never easily achive.

On the flip side of this, if the news is poor then it is up to you as the team leader to deliver the message and take the brunt of the feedback. Shield the team from the emotion, and deliver your own negative feedback while searching for what went wrong.

By making sure the credit for great jobs is given directly to the team, will better empower them to drive the team to more succeses.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Team Maintenance by applying motivation

We often hear about people complaining about their job and the threat to quit and go somewhere else. While some people are just prone to complaining, a percentage of people will leave your team and go and try something else, and over time some of these members will come back. Often the complaint is about money, yet time and time again when employees are surveyed money rarely comes in the top ten things that keep people where they are. The challenge for us as leaders is to use this to our advantage and apply what we can to keep our team motivate and hence  maintain our team focus.

So if money is not the major satisfaction factor within our team what is? When we look, into this we find that most people want to be a valued member of their team. Possibly this answer is a little undefined for many where an x percentage pay increase is easy to quantify - though often hard to justify.

What should we look to put into place so that each of our team members feels like they are valued for their contribution. Most often this is through a combination of simple team maintenance activities.
Do you know everyone by name? Do you know what's important to them? Do you take time to talk to them in a one-on-one sense and as the collective?

Do you have a mechanism for celebrations? Are birthdays, company goals holidays all celebrated?
Set some budget aside for a family picnic, send flowers to homes when significant events occur. Consider setting up a social club and offer to subsidize events. Sponsor a sport team.  While these may seem a little intangible, if you can incorporate this into your team, many of your members will realise that they belong and their value is recognised.

If you can find a way to incorporate these simple things into your team schedule, you'll find the team will be more motivated and coherent, giving you the best possible environment to achieve success with your team.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The three Critical D steps to improve your leadership

We often hear a lot about leadership and how to learn or improve on how we lead our teams to top performance. While much of this is way to technical for most of us, I like to simplify this to the three critical D steps to improve and maintain your leadership skills.

 What are my three critical D steps?

Determination, and

To know where we want to go we must have the Destination in mind. It's important for us to visualise what the end goal looks like, is it one of efficiency, is it a task that's complete, is it a certain level of customer satisfaction. What the destination is will help shape how we will achieve it. But before we solve the challenge of getting there we must have a very clear picture of what our team's destination is.

Like most serious goals we set our teams, the challenge will be tough and its our Determination to keep at it, to find a better way, to look for better outcomes that shapes how we get to our destination. Without determination we will faulty along the way and team will fall behind. We must maintain our determination and keep our team focused so we can achieve our goals.

The final D is for Diligence and an area many of us struggle with. The temptation when a task is 90% done is for us to begin to celebrate and move on. Good leaders of great teams know that they must be diligent and take care that the last 10% of the task is finished to ensure the completeness of the task.  However our diligence also applies to looking at how we completed our tasks and searching for ways to improve so that next time we repeat this task its done faster or to a higher level of quality.

So basically that's my three D's to help us stay focused and improve our team performance. The application of understanding our destination, the determination to work through any issues and complete the task and then finally our diligence to search for the small details and make sure they are done to the best our team can.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lead your team in the tough times

Part of leading your team is to know how you team is going with their tasks. Are they on track or could they be falling behind. Do you need to step in to help, or provide some other support so the task can be done on time.

One of the important aspects of assigning work to your team is to ensure that the team members understand they must report their progress. The frequency of the reports needs to be set by you and must be a short enough period of time so that should a task be falling behind you have sufficient time to take some corrective action to get the task back on track so you team isn't impacted.

During your team member's report it is important that you ask qualifying questions to ensure that you can accurately determine if all assigned work is on-track for a successful completion. Where to start?, ask for a progress status, maybe view the work that's been done to date?  The proof will depend on your industry and the assigned work. Often it helps to ask how long they expect it will take to complete the rest of the job.

Listen carefully to the response. If you are in doubt take care to ask plenty of questions so you can make a determination of the state of the work. Ask what assistance your worker needs to get over the line. If there is any doubt then it's time for you to step in and help the job done.

Once the job is back on track and eventually finished, it is important to do a review and work out why it got to such a critical stage. As the leaders of our teams there is always something to learn about our team and getting the best result for our team we can.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Leaders make the tough choices

Too often we see leaders who seem to be bumbling along and look to be doing a good job while everything is rosy. Are you like that? I hope not! As the leaders of our teams its important for us to be ready to step in at any stage and make the tough decisions to keep our team focused on the end goal.

Often if you ask why did poor leaders fail to make these tough decisions the answer is likely to be one of the following: I'm afraid I'll loose this worker, I might upset the team, I know it will come good on its own accord.  These are nonsense excuses, if your output is below expectations or customer service and quality is being affected then you MUST step in a make the tough call to get things back on track.

How can you prepare for this? Firstly you need to keep your ear to the ground and know what's going on. Is output on track? Is customer service the absolute best? Is the product quality flawless. Continual monitoring of your outputs will tell you the moment something is turning sour.

Do you know your people? I don't mean are they your friends, I mean do you know what makes them tick, what are their strong and weak points, is there any big thing happening in their lives.

If you know the info then you're ready to make these tough calls. Your imperative here is to keep the team strong and with it your team's productivity. If that means you lose someone along the way because they are not performing properly then so be it. If you have been cross-training your team members with all the different tasks your team complete, then you may take a short-term hit on productivity while you find a replacement.

If you're prepared to step in and make the tough decisions early, your team will have great performance and your team members will know exactly what you stand for, and that you are prepared to act for the good of the team. Great leaders look to the team and its combined work together as the ultimate in performance.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lead your team by demonstrating your top results

With much of the early work for the year behind us, it's time for the leaders to ensure their team works through and gets the top results you know they can deliver. In our last post we looked a putting a plan together to review and keep on top of the major goals throughout the team.

The next step in this plan is to ensure that our team results are visible to our bosses and their bosses.

How to do this is relatively straight forward if we follow these basic steps.

 First discuss you team goals with your boss, as leaders of our teams it's important for us to keep our goals and their progress in the face of our bosses. Be sure to show how the work will progress across the year and the interim gaols along the way.

Next build your self a short traffic light report, highlighting each of these goals and a flag to quickly show their state, ahead of plan, on plan, behind plan, in need of assistance to get back on track.

As each month draws to a close update your traffic light report to demonstrate how well the team is  travelling towards achieving these goals.

Often as leaders we are so focussed on doing a great job we fail to demonstrate to the rest of the business what a great team we have. We can address this through some positive PR.

Send you report each month to your boss and "CC"  all those that your team interact with.

By sending this report each month your team's performance will be seen across the organisation. As your team achieves each of its goals, then you can add a note in what a great job they have done. The visibility of your team achieving and exceeding their goals across the wider team will keep your team in the spotlight. Their excellent work will keep your team morale high and performing well as others comment on how well they tackle and achieve their goals.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Steps to help team members achieve their goals

The year is well and truly on the way and the economy is looking a little brighter. As leaders who want our teams to succeed, now is the time to take action and put a plan in place to help your team members get their goals.
Set aside some time to look at your ten most important goals, these will have been spread across your team earlier in the year when you set each members individual goals.

Identify who is taking the lead on each of these ten goals. Send them a quick mail and offer them a 30 minute meeting in two weeks time to assess their plan and action points to meet these goals. Mark each of these meetings in your calendar and add a task for your self the day before to spend 30 minutes of your own time thinking through the goal, its steps and what the outcome should be each three months.

Next assign a time in your schedule in June and September to review each of these goals with your team member.

Do your homework when you come to this scheduled time in your calendar, create your own outline of how you see this goal progressing and try to assess how you can make an impact to help at various stages. Note down the subsequent meetings.

At the appointed meeting time, have your team member take you through their action plan and their interim check progress goals along the way. Take care not to take over, however offer advice where you think their plan is weakest. Be sure to ask them what assistance you can offer. By the end of this meeting your team member will know you are watching the progress of their work and more importantly you are willing to buy in and offer help.

By engaging with your members and offering to assisting them with their goals, your team will see their leaders are committed to their success and will drive themselves to do the best they can.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lead change across your team

The new year is well and truly off and running. Many hope that this year will see the US get back to moderate growth. We can play our part here by ensuring our team is aligned to make the most of the year in front of us.

Before your team settle down with the to same old goals each member has had for the last few years, why not take these steps to gain better alignment and produce some powerful group goals to sharpen the performance of your team.

 Step one get your team together for a brainstorming session. Have each member communicate their worst problem they see. In 30 minutes you should have 6-7 real problems your team faces. Spend 15 minutes or so on each problem defining what it is. Take care not to go into solution mode, what you want is a very detailed description of what the issue is.

Step two take each of these problems and have the team vote them, most impact through to least impact, should they be solved. The best way to do this is to give each person three votes with weighting of one, two and three. What you should find is that when you total all the votes there will be a clear division of those the team as a whole feel are important rather then those that just one or two feel are important.

Step three, Divide your team into smaller teams and have each of the small teams take one of the high priority problems as one of their goals for the year. Research has shown that if these groups come from different functions within your team there is a strong probability of a solution being found. While your are at this session it is important for them to turn these problems into SMART goals.

Step four, have each member commit to the action plan for their team goal and make it the second priority goal behind their most pressing personal goal.

Step five, we must ensure the goals become a reality in each persons yearly goals setting. We also need to take notes on where we see we will be needed to support these goals.

The benefits of setting the team goals this way is that all members of your team are aware of the broader goals, this will by default give them some empathy and help should any of the sub-teams press anyone for assistance.

Our role as leaders is to steer the conversation, problem and goal setting so the team will make the most impact for the overall team. Importantly we must monitor these gaols and assist to move any roadblocks. Just think if at the end of the year your team could solve you most pressing top four problems , what a better position your team will be in.