Are you having trouble getting your team to meet company goals? Is your team lacking energy, creativity and motivation? Are you stressed, overwhelmed and feeling the need to work long hours just to hold your department together? It doesn’t need to be that way you can take control of the situation. You can get your team working effectively towards a common goal and you can gain back your personal time. Work is important and you want to exceed company expectations but having control of your time to pursue personal interests is just as important. You want to be there to see the kids grow up and have time for that significant other (Yes honey I meant you and not golfing)… but you also want to have time to shave a few strokes off that handicap as well. Whatever your interests are you need to find balance. Work on implementing these 10 steps and you will improve your teams performance and gain back your personal time.
1) Improve the Atmosphere
As a leader you alone have an enormous impact on the morale of the team. You set the example for your team. Not just by what you say and do but also by what you allow. Make it clear to all team members that at the work place everyone needs to be treated with dignity and respect with no exceptions. You need to be aware of how team members communicate with one another. Often their tone and body language say more than the words spoken. It is common to have 3 or 4 team members creating a negative atmosphere for the entire group. They also tend to be the same team members involved in the majority of conflicts. Don’t allow it to happen. Often these team members are unaware of their impact and a quick discussion will resolve the issue. If not it becomes a performance issue.
Join your team in the lunch room whenever possible. It opens the lines of communication when the team members get to know you better and see your personal side. Your title as manager alone is enough to scare some of your team. Spending time with them will help to put them at ease and to feel more comfortable bringing work related problems to you.
Give praise and positive feedback often. Make it a part of every day to recognize the things that your team is doing right and be specific with your praise. As a management person it is easy to get caught up in what needs fixing but if we only talk about problems it is not a very energizing environment.
Morale issues and team member conflicts are unproductive and can waste a lot of your time. As a leader you have direct control of the morale. Take responsibility and make it a priority.
2) Open Communication
Improving communication with your team is key to getting your time back. Always have an open door policy. Ensure that your team knows that they can come and talk to you when they have concerns. Act on those concerns quickly and get back to the team member with the action you have taken. When you do this you will create an atmosphere where the team members feel valued and as it ripples through your team you will find that you are more likely to be aware of the small problems and can take action before they become big problems. You will also see you team start to bring to your attention suggestions and ideas on how they can improve the work place.
Despite your efforts to create an atmosphere where anyone can come and talk to you there will always be some team members who just don’t feel comfortable talking to the boss. These team members can still be a great source of ideas or may bring up concerns that you are unaware of. Set up a system to solicit information from your team in an anonymous way. A simple way to do this is through an exercise called a 5-15. Give the team 15 minutes to write the 5 things they like about the company or job and 5 things that they feel need improvement. They do not need to put their names on the lists. This can be done in a group but do not let them discuss their individual responses so that you are getting everyone’s input and not just the few that may be more vocal. In just 15 minutes you can get great suggestions to improve the workplace and again find out about those small problems in time to fix them before they are big ones. Summarize your list of needs improvement areas and develop a plan to get them corrected. Hold a meeting with you team to let them know what actions you will be taking as a result of the 5-15 exercise.
If team members feel they cannot bring concerns to management because they won’t be dealt with you will have morale issues. When a team member can’t bring concerns to management they will discuss it among other members of the team. This creates a negative atmosphere and turnover. If you want to save yourself some time improve the communication.
3) Who Works for Whom?
Often management is frustrated because they see their team as not listening or following direction. Team members appear as if they are not putting much effort into their job and they keep doing tasks incorrectly. Frustrated managers say “this group just doesn’t listen or seem to care.” Chances are there is a reason your team is not performing at a high level. Your team cannot work for you until you work for them. How do I work for them I thought they were supposed to work for me? As a manager you need to stress the importance of proper training. You need to build that solid foundation for new hires or they will never meet your expectations. As a leader it is your job to give them every chance to succeed.
Put systems in place to ensure training is completed properly and in a timely manner. Often we get caught up in putting out the days fires but you need to follow up on new hires progress. Consider having a “Buddy system” and pair a new hire up with a team member who has a positive attitude and performs at a high level.
Set out clear expectations early. It is a lot easier to train properly from the start than it is to turn around poor performance. Whether you are directly responsible for the training or not make sure you check in regularly.
When you bring a new team member into a positive atmosphere, give them clear expectations and train them correctly you will reduce turnover and improve productivity. The added time put in to get the team member off to a good start will save you time in the long run. More time means more golf and that’s a good thing.
4) Attitude is Everything!
We all know as a manager we need to lead by example and come to work with a positive attitude everyday. What we fail to do is expect that same positive attitude from everyone on our team. Whether it is a management person or an hourly team member the expectation is the same. This is part of creating a great working environment. We’ve all experienced that team member who complains about everything and will never be happy. They are a drain on the morale and usually a source of conflict. You might think that “He does a good job otherwise. That’s just who he is.” But that’s not fair to the rest of your team. They deserve to be in a positive environment. You need to let any negative team members know how they are impacting the team and what your expectation is. You may also need to deal with this as a performance issue. It is easy to look at the results of their work and say they are a great employee but if they can’t interact with your team in a positive manner you will be continually resolving conflicts.
When interviewing one of your main goals should be to try to identify whether this person has a positive attitude as well as the skills required. This can be hard as most applicants get prepared for an interview and are on their best behaviour but don’t accept general answers when interviewing. Probe as much as possible and get the applicant to be specific.
Because applicants rehearse interview situations you may want to add a few interview questions to your phone screening. The applicants are not as prepared to answer your questions and you may get a more truthful response. Always check work references for applicants. The past often predicts the future.
Remember having a positive attitude is a requirement for all members of your team. You will have a fun and energized team and a lot more time for yourself.
5) Who Knows More?
Often as managers we think we need to be the source of all the ideas. The truth is we just need to get the best ideas implemented and if you are not listening to your team member’s suggestions and ideas you not using the best. You probably have people that work in a specific area of the business everyday. They are the experts of that part of the business. This goes back to the open communication. You need to encourage your team to continually think about how they can improve their part of the business and to share that with the management team. When you start to act on just a few of their suggestions you will see the momentum build.
Sometimes we let our egos get in the way but if you can create a culture where the best idea wins and not just those of management your team will be more engaged. If you keep telling them what to do and don’t ask for their ideas you will lose out on your greatest resources and that’s the thoughts and ideas of everyone at the workplace.
Always make sure you give credit to whoever came up with the best idea. Don’t try to pretend to your boss or anyone else that it was your idea. Acknowledge these people in meetings and encourage the entire group to start thinking about how to be more profitable, provide better service, be more efficient or improve the working atmosphere. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.
6) You Need Successors
If you want to save yourself time, help build your business for the future and impress the executives you need to have successors. What is a successor? They are the people that you and your management team identify as having potential to advance in the organization but to be successful it goes a lot further than just identifying them. As a manager one of your most important responsibilities is to be able to grow your people. You will stand out from the other managers when you are able to provide qualified people for available positions within the organization.
To be truly successful at it you must be able to give your star performers away with no adverse affects on your department. Many managers hate to give their top performers away but if you have been proactive and have someone ready to step in and fill their shoes it can be one of the most rewarding aspects of the job. The only good way to lose a team member is to a promotion and when you play even a small part in helping that person reach their goal it should bring a smile to your face.
How do I get these successors ready for the next step? If your organization hasn’t already done so you need to develop a list of core skills that are required for each position such as confronting direct reports, planning, organizational skills, team building etc.
Once you have a list of core skills you need to talk with the potential successor and find out their career goals and through discussion identify the core skills that this individual needs to develop. Then you can create a development plan which shows what success looks like (ie the skill is fully developed), give them actions or different responsibilities to help them get there and have a way to clearly measure the progress. The manager then has to follow up and have regular check in times to keep them on track with their development but if they are a real successor most of their development plan will be self driven.
If you are working within a growing organization having successors is invaluable. You help the company to grow and your department doesn’t miss a beat. You never get caught having to fill in for other positions because you are proactive and that saves you time. Growing successors is rewarding, great for morale, helps to build the business for the future and will get you recognized by your boss. It’s a must.
When you delegate effectively it frees up your time to focus on the big picture aspects of the job and be more effective. It may even allow you enough time to get an extra round of golf in each week. Many managers hang onto to many tasks because they are easy and they feel comfortable doing them, or they think they can get it done faster than someone else. You need to look at what you do on a daily basis and ask yourself is this task something I personally need to do? Does this task add value or could I benefit the organization better by focusing my attention elsewhere?
It is easy to get caught up in the day to day routine but your job as a manager is to be focused on the big picture and make your business more profitable. Sometimes delegating might take additional time in the beginning if you have to train someone but once you’re through the training you may never have to complete that task again. Think of the time you’ll save. Usually the person you are delegating to welcomes learning a new responsibility. Pick some of your successors to delegate to. It will also help with their development. When people stop learning and growing they look for other employment where they can grow. Delegating new responsibilities to the right people will keep them learning and free up your time.
Even though you have freed yourself up of some of the time consuming daily responsibilities by delegating you still find yourself running from one fire to the next to keep your department going. Now that you have some extra time you can even resolve many of these daily distractions that take you away from the big picture. You need to drill down and find the root cause of these fires that keep popping up. You’ll find most of them can be avoided if you dig deep enough and develop long term solutions rather than just throwing a bit of water on it today.
When you are able to stop working on today’s problems you can start working on the future. When you are looking into the future you can lead the business instead of the business pulling you in every direction. To be an effective manager you need to be aware of your future business trends, budgets, sales goals and be putting plans in place now to be prepared to meet those organizational goals. Most businesses have seasonal trends and times of the year that are far more profitable. Put plans in place to maximize these peaks in business. This is where most of your opportunity is.
When you give yourself the time to plan effectively and be working in the future you will save your self time, have less stress and maximize your business opportunities.
9) Hold Them Accountable
Holding team members accountable can be the hardest part of the job but it is absolutely necessary. Many managers allow poor performers to continue because they are uncomfortable confronting people but if you allow poor performance to go unchecked you may soon end up with an entire team of poor performers. Other members recognize when people aren’t pulling their weight and maybe not all but some will say “if he doesn’t have to do anything why should I?”
The key is to stay on top of individual performance issues and address them immediately. First determine that it really is a performance issue that is the team member’s responsibility and not failure to train properly or lack of direction. Once you have determined that the performance issue is the team member’s responsibility you need to address it. Always remember to discuss the specific performance issue and never attack the person’s character. It is recommended to have another management person witness when corrective action is being given and to always take notes.
It is important to be fair and consistent with your expectations of all team members but at the same time you may need to vary your approach with corrective action to match the individual. Everyone has different personalities. Some people get very emotional at the thought of doing something wrong and others may be argumentative. Use your knowledge of your team to anticipate the various challenges you may face due to these individual personalities prior to giving the corrective action. You want to plan your conversation with the end result in mind being they understand the issue and are willing to correct it. Then develop the best approach based on that individual’s personality. This is not favouritism. It is knowing your people and taking the right approach to get the desired results. All the time you still have the same expectation of performance but a varied approach may be necessary to reach that goal.
Often just a few team members will drag down the performance of the entire team and waste a lot of your time. Address performance issues immediately to save yourself time in the long run.
10) Have Fun
You want people to enjoy their work by providing a challenging job in a great atmosphere but most people spend more of their awake hours at the office than they do at home so you also need to encourage your team to have some fun. Try scheduling 1 hour a month for a fun activity for the entire team if possible. Have the management team join in. It is a great way for the team to get to know you in a more relaxed atmosphere. This doesn’t have to be extra work for you. You can have a fun committee plan each event and even use a successor to plan and organize it to help in their development.
Everyone wins when you have a fun atmosphere at work. As a manager you need to be a supporter of that fun. You’ll see improved productivity, reduced turnover and better morale. Usually that means less work for you in the end.
If you can implement these 10 steps into your workplace you will have less stress, better results and more personal time. You deserve to have time for your own hobbies, to watch the kids grow up or spend time with that significant other (Sorry honey this time I did mean golfing).
I have always been a results-driven person; at the same time, many of my friends and colleagues have commented how “lazy” I am. Being both results-driven and somewhat lazy, I always look for the best and easiest method to reach my goals. This is why I wrote The Lazy Manager. It is a book to help you work smarter and not harder and will help you improve the communication and morale within your team.
Bruce Bell has over 15 years of management experience improving the atmosphere, culture and communication in the workplace as a way to increase morale, customer service and profit. He has consistently taken on problem stores and turned them into top performers. As a trainer and mentor of new and experienced managers Bruce has given them the tools and confidence to be effective leaders in an often very demanding field.