In larger organizations it is easy for each team to work alone in their own silo. Most teams may not have much in common, or any real reason to work together. However, that kind of behavior inhibits innovation and growth for all teams and for the organization as a whole.
Managers should encourage team leaders to work with one another, and should create an environment where team leaders are rewarded for working together. At first, managers will have to be the facilitators of these interactions and push team leaders to collaborate.
How can managers be facilitators? When meeting with team leaders, managers should listen carefully, and identify areas for collaboration between teams. Managers should then ask one of the team leaders to schedule the meeting with the teams and managers should be present at the meeting. Managers should follow up with the team leaders and ensure that next steps are being followed.
Once this process becomes natural to team leaders, where they look out for opportunities and collaborate. Managers should reward the collaborations by making the successes and failures public to the rest of the organization. Managers should also take a personal interest in the successful collaborations and help direct funds to those projects.
When managers are in the daily grind, working alongside their team, it can be difficult to come up with new fresh perspectives. It is important to view things from all perspectives and to always try to see things in different lights as that is when innovation happens. Here are two ways for managers to help themselves, and their team members, keep their viewpoints fresh:
Managers are humans too, and thus are not great at everything. We have all heard the expression "it takes an army to get it done", and in most cases it really does. Managers require assistance, and lean on their team members to get the job done. Therefore it's very important for managers to be honest with themselves and know what areas they are lacking in. Once a manager knows exactly the skills that they are lacking, they can surrounded themselves with the talent needed to get the job done. Some managers try to do it themselves, and teach themselves skills so that they can get the job done. However, as much as it is important to learn new skills, managers must pick and chose what they will teach themselves. As, time spent learning new skills is time not spent doing what the manager is great at. Here are some pointers for managers:
Managers and team leaders always have to work closely together to accomplish the organization’s goals. One of the main jobs of managers is to manage and grow the team. And one of the main jobs of team leaders is to implement the growth plan. Managers are judged by their performance, thus managers are always looking to make changes to the team that will increase growth. Managers are big picture leaders with an eye on the details, but they lack the intimate knowledge team leaders have with the end customers. It is therefore very important for managers to consult with team leaders before implementing any major changes to a program or service, as the effects can have a negative impact.
Let’s look a pricing to illustrate the point. Managers may want to change the pricing for a product or service, as doing so will increase revenue. However, without the intimate knowledge of knowing the end customer base, they may mistakenly disregard that increasing pricing may have a negative effect and alienate current and new customers. But, by consulting with team leaders managers ensure that the risk they take is measured and should the new policy backfire, managers will be prepared with a backup plan.
Remember, team leaders are the closest to the end user and thus know them best.
Team members sometimes become disengaged from their work. In can happen for different reasons, but it is important for managers to address it immediately. Here are a couple of tips managers can use:
Managers have the tendency, when helping and guiding team members, to give them the answer. However, the key to helping and guiding team members is to give them enough information to enable them to come up with the answer on their own. Here are a couple of tips to help staff members come up with solutions on their own with guidance but not answers from the manager:
OKRs (objectives and key results) serve as both a framework and a starting point for an effective team. Managers must analyze each key result, and together with team members, come to an understanding and strategy of how to achieve each key result. Managers should breakdown each key result into steps and follow up with team members to discuss how the steps are going. As time progresses, and the quarter moves along, managers and team members should redraw the steps to ensure that the key results are fully met.
Breaking down each key result into steps allows team members to learn the process that needs to be followed. Additionally, it helps team members think in a certain way, which is required when they have to deliver on key results. Lastly, having steps to accomplish the key results makes the process of accomplishing them more than just that, it make the process into a learning experience and a journey for the entire team. In addition to the day-to-day tasks and goals, managers should train and educate staff members to be more focused and to think analytically. Managers should remember that managing is always more than just managing, it is also about mentoring and guiding the team members.
When managers need to create a dream team, because they desire to grow their output, should they first hire the dream team and then figure out how to grow? Or should they first create a strategic plan with a step-by-step of how to grow, and then hire the dream team to implement the plan?
The rule of thumb is: hire the team for future needs, not for current needs.
Managers should first create a three year strategic plan detailing their goals. The plan will obviously go through multiple iterations from the time it is created to the end of the third year. However, a plan is a starting point to help managers decide who they need on their team to get things done.
Once managers have their strategic plan they should be create a list of OKRs (objectives and key results) to match the plan. Managers should then review the list and decide who they’ll need to hire in order to get the work done. As managers go through the list, they will find themselves wondering whether they can get more work done with less team members. Managers will obviously be able to do that, however, they should not. Recall the rule of thumb: hire for tomorrow's needs. Thus, managers should hire more staff members than the list of OKRs requires. As, finding the right team members and having them all work in unison is a lot of work. Managers should hire more than they currently require, so that as soon as the team is ready to scale and do more work, the capacity (the team) is already in place to do so, and can hit the ground running.
Every manager occasionally has to tell a team member that they are not a good fit for the team. This is a task that needs to be done properly, here are some things to keep in mind:
1) The fact that the team member is not a good fit does not make that person a bad team member. They are just the wrong fit for a particular team.
2) When speaking to the team member, it is important to explain to him or her, the specific reason for why they are not a good fit for the team.
3) Managers should provide the team member with specific suggestions on ways that the team member can improve and become a better team member.
4) Managers can never know when they will meet the team member again, so being professional is important. Additionally, the team member will remember and mentally review the meeting, and managers want to ensure that they did their best at the meeting.
Managers should remember that having to tell a team member that they are not a good fit is a learning opportunity for both the manager and the team member. Acting as a mentor, despite the fact that the team member will no longer be part of the team, goes a long a way. It ensures that the team member will, down the line, do the same whether they are in a manager or colleague position with a different team. Remember to pay it forward.
The use of OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) and the benefits of staff members evaluating themselves
Many tech companies use OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) to manage teams. The idea is that teams have objectives (what) they want/need to accomplish and key results (how) to make the objectives happen. Each key result is scored and a final number for the objective is given. However, the scoring is done by the teams, not by the managers. The question is: why would teams score themselves, and not have the manager decide this score? How can teams score themselves and be unbiased? Which team would want to underscore themselves, and thereby look bad, for not achieving their objective?
One of the key ingredients in OKRs is team transparency. Teams present their scores in front of other teams and explain, if they came up short, why they weren't successful. Other teams are encouraged to make suggestions and help that team come up with ways to move forward. The focus with OKRs is not just about the end goal, although that is very important, rather its about learning, failing, and finally overcoming challenges and reaching objectives. Thus, when teams score themselves they are not trying to prove to the other teams that they are the best. They are scoring themselves with the purpose of hearing suggestions and advice on how to improve. When improvement is the focus, teams do not over score themselves. They are honest and true to what they have accomplished.
One of the main skill sets managers must have is the ability to listen. At times, managers may feel compelled to give suggestions to staff members without listening to what staff members have to say. Even if the suggestions are good, if the manager does not take time to first listen to staff members, the staff member will feel ignored and the suggestions may not be heeded. Additionally, managers may have good suggestions, but the suggestions may need some tweaking in order for it to be implemented.
Here are so tips:
By following this method, managers ensure that staff members are heard and consulted with, and thus empowered. Once the plan is created and implemented, staff members feel like they were part of the solution.
When new staff members are hired, the best person to train them is the last person that just got hired. Managers may wonder, and even question if someone who just got hired is the right person to do the training. However, the answer is absolutely yes and here are a couple of reasons why this is so:
1) The best way to learn something and be comfortable with it, is by being in a position to teach it to someone else. As, in order to teach something to someone, the person teaching must fully grasp the idea. Thus, having the new person teach ensures that they will fully grasp the work so that they can teach it.
2) The best questions are always the most innocent and unbiased ones. When a new staff member is teaching the new hire, being that they are both newer to the team, the questions being asked from the new hire will be innocent and the answers coming from the teacher will be unbiased as they are too new to have biased opinions.
3) By having new staff members learn from one another, they test the processes and procedures that are in place, provide suggestions for improvements and ensure that the team grows and becomes stronger.
Leveraging the newest staff member to teach, is a game changer for managers.
Why giving staff members a Stretch Goal (a goal that may be completely out-of-reach, but still attainable) is a good idea
When managers meet with staff members at the beginning of the year, or quarter, to decide on goals, they should give staff members stretch goals. Even if the manager knows that the stretch goals will most likely not be met. The obvious question is why? Why would managers want to make staff members feel that they failed? How is this a good strategy?
The answer lies in how managers should view the purpose of goals:
One of the purposes of goals is to provide staff members with direction and give them something to achieve. However, if staff members reach their goals without too much effort, it may mean that their goals were too easy for them. The other purpose of goals is to give staff members a direction and something to dream about, that can eventually be achieved with the right amount of time and effort. Giving staff members stretch goals that they cannot achieve on the first shot, will not make staff members feel like they failed. On the contrary, it will encourage them to work harder and think outside of the box to try and achieve these goals. If or when they do not achieve the goals in the first try, managers should support staff members and encourage them to try again until they succeeded. Stretch goals, with the right amount of support from managers, can help staff members be more creative and help them build more character and endurance. As, the harder one works on goals, the better they will be the next time they work toward something that requires effort.
When giving a project to a staff member, how can a manager assure that it gets done in the best way possible? Some managers have a tendency to over-help and risk getting in the way of the staff member's job, while others have a tendency to under-help and risk allowing the staff member to get overwhelmed. Obviously a balance of the two styles mentioned above is required. But how can we achieve this balance?
Step 1: Allow staff members to fully flesh out the project on their own, give them the space to explain to the manager what needs to be accomplished and what the timeframe will be.
Step 2: Help staff members breakdown the project into specific tasks that can be easily delegated and accomplished.
Step 3: Be available to staff members for any questions, if and when they get stuck, as they probably will. However, when staff members come to managers with a challenge they are facing, managers should talk it out with staff members until staff members come up with the solution. Managers should not try to hand the solution to the staff member, as staff members should learn how to work through challenges.
Step 4: Have staff members present their final project to managers before it gets launched, as managers will probably have final suggestions for staff members.
The key to helping staff members with a project is: giving staff members enough guidance so that they can work on their own, and then stepping back while remaining available to them for help. When approached for help, managers should refrain from giving answers, but rather through brainstorming and talking things out together, allow the staff member to come up with the solution. The end goal is not just to help staff members with a project, but rather to teach them how to work through and accomplish the project. Managers are as much mentors as they are managers.
In order to retain happy and involved team members, managers must ensure that all team members are engaged in the organization. There are many reasons why it is important to have engaged team members, but the main one is that it affects the bottom line. So how do managers make sure that team members are engaged?
1) Managers must encourage team leaders and team members to share updates about their team with the entire organization.
2) Managers must facilitate the sharing of ideas across different teams, and motivate team leaders and members to work with one another in new ways to develop ideas.
3) Managers must create transparency across the organization and promote a sense of responsibility for one anther i.e. team leaders and team members should feel responsible for each others’ success.
4) Managers must instill in team leaders and members the desire to help recruit great talent for the organization, as great talent very often comes from word-of-mouth.
5) Managers must create a sense of pride amongst the team leaders and members, as a proud and passionate workforce can accomplish wonders.
Remember: reaching team member engagement is not a destination but an ongoing journey.
Tonight's discussion is about the role of team members in an organization: and it is a lot more than just doing their job. The culture of an organization is dependent on its team members. In many organizations, team members are carefully vetted to ensure that they fit the culture before being brought on. Many organizations even only hire staff members after a 90 trial, as during that time team members are assessed for a good fit within the organization's culture. Clearly, the organization's culture is dependent on team members so how do managers manage that aspect when many team members work virtually?
The answer is the engagement of team members in the organization’s culture and activities.
Tune in tomorrow to read about team members engagement.
Managers may feel reluctant to embrace the idea of a virtual workforce, as they think that overseeing and managing team members is too ambiguous on a virtual workforce. There is a bigger question at hand, and that is how to measure the work of team members. Work productivity cannot simply be measured by hours in the office, as that does not represent work done. The question then becomes: how should managers best measure team members to ensure that they are getting their work done? There are some managers who think that just measuring the output, or the work done is enough, as at the end of the day, what managers should care about is what has gotten done. That philosophy can be starting point but can it be and is it sufficient to just measure team members by output, work done. What is the role of team members in organizations? Are team members just there to get work done, or is there more that is required of them besides the work they get done?
To be continued...
KPIs are clear goals and metrics that allow managers to easily assess if team members are delivering on their commitment. If KPIs are so telling why only encourage managers to use them, why not encourage staff members to use them as well, and on a regular basis?
How can team members benefit from KPIs?
1) KPIs should be updated on a regular basis, as what was true yesterday is not necessarily true today. Thus encouraging team members to review their KPIs, will ensure that the KPIs will be up-to-date, as team members will continuously update them.
2) Encouraging team members to use their KPIs will ensure that they are always growing. Since by continuously monitoring their KPIs they will know what is expected of them, and they will (hopefully) attempt to surpass the expectations on a daily basis.
3) Encouraging team members to review their KPIs will keep the team members self aware, as they will aways know where they stand as it relates to what they are being asked to deliver.
Remember, KPIs are a great tool to keep ourselves honest.
Managers are evaluated by their ability to get their team members to perform at their highest capacity. In order to to do this, managers use KPIs to evaluate their team members work. Typically, each team member has a couple of KPIs that they are asked to achieve by a specific time. For example, the sales manager will have KPIs for each salesperson so that they can ensure that the salespeople are hitting their goals. Most managers will meet with their team and then with each team member to give each team member their KPIs. Team members will go on with their work, and the KPIs will be pulled off the shelf and brought back to life only for the annual performance meeting. However, KPIs should be used on a regular basis and by team member as well. When team members use their KPIs it enables them to know with clarity if they are doing their job to the best of their ability. Many tools that managers use to manage team members are beneficial to team members as well but KPIs are especially true.
To be continued...
Even the most talented staff members can be demanding, and at times difficult to manage. Every organization has these staff members and managing them correctly can make all the difference. Here are some pointers on how improve your relationship with your most talented staff.
1) Over communicate. In general it is a good idea to over communicate but especially with these staff members is it extra important.
2) Compliment them whenever possible, as positive reinforcement can be very beneficial.
3) Be firm with them but do in the most respectful way.
4) Be empathetic to them whenever possible by listening to what they have to say.
5) Allow and enable them to grow and blossom in their work and role.
6) Give them the opportunity to present new ideas, and support them through the process.
Although my post is titled “How to manage talented staff members” these pointers are appropriate and applicable to all staff members.
Share your thoughts and ideas on how to manage talented staff members.
Many managers think that numbers are for the accountants or CFOs. They think managers should focus on management and leave the data analysis to others. There are many reasons why a manager can lack an interest in data: It can be fear, or a lack of understanding of what the numbers are supposed to represent or how the data should be read. It may also come from a lack of willingness to analyze the numbers, as the data may tell a different story than what the manager might think. Regardless of the reasons, managers must embrace their organization's data and must get into the habit of using it to make decisions. All of us have heard the saying "numbers don't lie" and they don't. Using numbers to make decisions will not only help managers make better decisions, but will help them understand why their decisions did, or did not, work out. Data may also guide the manager to make different decisions if the results and data suggest doing so. Using data helps managers track ongoing progress, so that they and their team can keep moving forward. Once managers get into the habit of understanding and using numbers to make decisions, they will begin to enjoy it. They will also be empowered to stand behind their decisions with more vigor, as they will have the numbers to back them up.
Often times we forget all the roles a manager plays. In addition to ensuring that staff members are doing their job, a great manager is also a great mentor.
So, what makes a great mentor? Mentors have a unique way of uncovering hidden talents that staff members did not even know that they had. Mentors encourage staff members to develop these hidden talents by providing the necessary tools and support. Mentors help staff members stand up straight when they fall. Mentors remind staff members that growing and becoming better is a journey, not a destination. Mentors are the ones who have a first row seat when their staff members perform, and are the first to clap for them.
So remember, next time you meet with your staff members ask yourself: what hidden talents have I uncovered in my staff members, and what have I done to help them grow this talent? Having this attitude will not only help your staff members become better staff, but will also enable them to perform their best work for you.
There are many opinions about who to hire and how to recruit a great staff. Some managers rely on candidate assessments and analytics. Others rely on their gut feelings. Yet others rely on good presentation: resumes and cover letters. There is no scientific solution to finding the perfect staff, and thus a combination of all the above are required. However, even a good balance on all three solutions still does not guarantee any results.
Thus, an additional factor is required and should be considered: personality. When faced with three candidates who more or less resemble one another but: one is very passionate, one is a superstar and one is very skillful what should the choice be? There are countless articles and books written on this subject matter but here is some food for thought.
A very skillful person will at some point need to learn new skills. A superstar will be amazing in their field but how well do they work with others? A passionate person who is willing and able to learn and who shows good promise will be able to: learn, grow and work well with others because they know that they are only a piece of the bigger puzzle.
Management Lesson Of The Day:
Your greatest asset is your staff members. If you enable them to succeed, they will help bring your organization to the promised land.
As a manager you want a focused staff member not just a busy staff member.
Many managers believe that in order to have an efficient staff member they need to give them lots of work, even more than what they can feasibly accomplish. The manager figures: the staff member will not have any free time time to waste, and thus will be an efficient worker.
However, innovation at an organization comes from the staff members who work on the front lines every day! A busy staff member, will not only not have time to innovate but, will also become overwhelmed. A busy staff member who has too much on their plate won’t be focused and will thus start dropping balls and lose the time and clarity to innovate.
Management Lesson Of The Day:
When is it time to innovate?
Remember: listening to your *current* customers will only give you one point of view. It's important to speak to your potential customers as well as others in the industry. Having an open mind and seeing your industry from other perspectives will enable you to seize new opportunities.