Optimizing Organisational Health
No organisation thrives without well-functioning teams. It can look like it’s functioning, but in the long-run, you will notice work and communication break-downs forming and eventually, wasted time and effort on demotivating and unproductive behaviour and actions. There are a few things you can do to ensure your team is working at an optimal level. Here is my cheat-sheet.
Mind-set is especially valuable for new managers. You may have come from an environment that promotes people for their ability to get things done, fight fires or even accomplish the impossible. With this type of organisation comes a mind-set of the ‘individual contributor’ who often works to personal priorities. The two main problems with this type of mind-set is that 1) managers may not delegate enough and try to do everything themselves, and 2) everyone focuses on their individual actions and there can be little cohesion between groups or people.
To combat this, create a shared platform of understanding within your team. Use stories, metaphors and role modelling to express your priority as a manager. Delegate programs of work, not just tasks so that team members are empowered and accountable for results. Align the team, and your work, by asking the following questions, in this sequence …
- Is this [program / action / decision / focus / etc.] good for the company?
- Is it good for the team?
- Is it my priority or should I engage someone else on the team?
Remember, most people love to know the why’s behind the work. By focusing your team on consistent and congruent priorities, aligned objectives, and the bigger picture of accountability across teams, you will create many leaders within your group who understand your vision, and how they make a difference every day within the organisation. You will also, by default, increase productivity and satisfaction with the job.
The main intend in most conversations is to create a safe space to create and exchange ideas. One of the most important tools a manager has at their disposal to do this is questions. But asking good questions requires you to be able to listen to the answers and check your perspective at the door, at least for a few minutes.
Listening is not just sitting silently while someone talks … or drones on. Neither is listening asking hordes of questions in rapid succession – this is called an interrogation. Listening is an elegant fusing of asking questions, understanding the answer from the speaker’s perspective and synthesizing the information into meaningful bites – sometimes leading to more questions. Listening is also being open to new ideas, concepts and yes, from time to time, answers.
To be a good listener, prepare yourself for the experience. Consider the person you are about to talk to and become curious about them … and their ideas. Plan ‘open questions’ that lead to discussion. Avoid ‘closed questions’ that lead to ‘yes / no’ dead-ends. Open yourself up to hearing what the person has to say and considering deeply how that idea or concept might change the way you think, work or do business. Be prepared to reciprocate. Share your feelings and ideas freely as well.
Think Quality – Fast!
Nothing sets a department apart like their ability to produce top quality work quickly and efficiently. To do this, you must have processes and tools in place that enables the team. There are innumerable processes that your people use every day that have similar inputs and / or outputs. Standardize your reports, data collection, and other management tools to accelerate your processes. By working with your team to create templates and standard structures, you take about 30% of the effort out of almost everything they touch. The time saved can be spent on checking facts, improving analysis, etc. In other words, anything you standardize can be used to improve the quality of your team’s work and reduce small errors that impact your people’s credibility.
Make every Interaction Count
It goes without saying that if your team respects and enjoys working together they will be happier and more productive. Here are a few things you can do to embed positive behaviours for everyone. Set up meetings that are guided / managed by your direct report. Don’t give them the answer; let them problem-solve to come up with three possible solutions. Praise individuals and your team in public but provide constructive feedback or let them vent in private. Consider non-work issues that may be impacting performance and be sympathetic. Be aware of what each person’s ‘communication drivers’ are and try to accommodate their needs.
Many managers hold their power close to the chest; guarding their decision-making ability and contacts closely. The problem with this type of behaviour is it limits your growth too. A manager that doesn’t have three staff waiting to take their place in the next level of the organisation is weak and constrained. Grooming is easy; allow your individual team members a chance to prove themselves and then reward them with more responsibility; talk to your team about your goals for your department or area and ask for their participation in problem-solving and planning, and give your team the chance to take risks and support them if they do not always succeed, and give them a chance to ‘show their face’ through presentations to more senior managers with you. Your team will:
- Respect you & your dedication to their growth
- Take more responsibility and shine
- Talk about you to other staff
- Be able to stand in when you are away
- Have individuals that are ready and able to fill the gap when you are promoted
and you will …
- Have a great reputation for developing people within the organisation
- Be able to recruit more top talent
- Rest easy when you are away, knowing your team can function without you
Have 1 to 3 people who can take over for you immediately if a promotion comes up
By grooming your top talent for your job, you accomplish a variety of goals and are always ready to move up in your organisation.