As we enter a new year, it’s important to pause and reflect. A year’s worth of data and activity – an entire business cycle – however you define it, a “year” provides us with a meaningful timeframe to compare our upcoming performance with the past. What happened in 2015? In what ways can we improve our contribution to our teams and businesses?
As I conducted my own “pause and reflect” session last week, I identified gaps that could be hurting my team’s performance – and ultimately, my business’s bottom line. My inbox was filled with suggestions on a wide range of topics, from email marketing to content curation to website management techniques. But, what I needed was something deeper – not specific marketing tactics, but rather the motivations behind them.
I realized that a slight change in our team’s activities – meetings, training sessions and project management – could have profound implications. My resolutions this year are to improve what we are already doing through a personal focus on five areas of leadership by better explaining the business Vision to my team, by providing greater Transparency in business objectives and needs, by requiring Accountability in my team members and myself, by Recognizing achievement, and by making a strong commitment to team Development. It took a few days, but I created (hopefully) a better mousetrap for our team next year.
I encourage you to look at these five values, ask yourself some hard questions, and fine-tune your leadership – and your performance.
As the team leader, it’s your job to present the Vision to your team. You need to make sure your team knows what that Vision looks like. To use a metaphor – you need to tell your team where you’re going, and occasionally take a look at the roadmap with them.
Questions to ask: Does your team understand the overall business vision? Does your team actively evaluate and prioritize ongoing projects to meet that Vision? Do you have a list of criteria to help you measure your team’s success against the company Vision?
The old saying is: Honesty is the Best Policy. In today’s world, it’s the only policy. Information has never been more available. If the news is bad, share it openly. You can more easily solve problems when you use all of your resources. If the news is good, share it so that you can celebrate.
Questions to ask: Does everyone on your team have the information they need to do their job? Are there times when internal stakeholders miss deadlines? Does that impact other team members’ performance?
This term is misunderstood. It implies punishment for failure. It is really about accomplishment. Teams are constructed to achieve goals. However, not every runner wins the race. Failure sometimes happens. The rule is to fail forward – learn from mistakes, fix them and move forward. If we set goals and hold ourselves accountable, our teams develop expertise, valuable problem-solving skills – and pride.
Questions to ask: Do you measure your team’s results? Do your metrics have owners? Does that owner know what is expected? Are there benefits to meeting goals and repercussions about not meeting them?
Sometimes a team will work on a project, complete it and begin a new one without skipping a beat. Another team might take on a project so large and complex that it will take years to complete. Both situations are poisonous for performance and morale without appropriate acknowledgement. As noted above, teams need goals and feedback. If your team is constantly spinning through projects, you should set success metrics, review them at each project’s completion, celebrate the wins and learn from the failures. Likewise, if your team has a long-range big goal, try slicing it down into shorter milestones. Each successfully completed milestone will breed more success.
Questions to ask: What do you celebrate? Sales success? Project completion? Problem resolution? Customer satisfaction? Do you recognize high performers in these areas? Do you have a consistent recognition format?
The best way to build a team is to hire the right people for the right jobs. The best way to grow a team is to help them acquire new skills – both for technical proficiency and professional development. Each managerial level requires a different set of skills. Ensure that your team can acquire the training needed to meet and solve business challenges.
Questions to ask: Is your team operating at optimal efficiency? Are there new skills to acquire? Are there basic skills to review? Do you have a training plan for professional development?
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