How do you go about putting the best team together? You know the one that is excited to work together and produces amazing results while having fun doing it! As a manager, doesn’t that sound great? When I am thinking about my teams, that is the end goal of all of my work as their team leader.
Here are the steps I like to take:
- Set expectations that set the tone. When I first come into a team, I always put forth my simple guidelines of what I want us to do. There are 3 key points. First, we will be trained and cross trained to issue that we can complete our assignments. Second, we will make and keep commitments. Lastly, we will have fun. Not hard to remember. Usually no one has problems with those, but if they do, it is time to start looking elsewhere.
- I ask my current team to think about which co-worker that they have worked with that they would really like to work with again. We all have those folks in our past, that we would love to work with again. Building a strong team from the teams perspective is very key to getting their team development quickly. When we have an opening, it is a quick reference (and my current team helps recruit strong candidates).
- I use the team to help describe, “what characteristics are for the ideal teammate.” It gets them to think about what is truly important to the team. It helps set the stage for what we are looking for. The added bonus is that each member of the team has a better understanding of what is important as well. I have seen team members change their behavior based on just that activity.
- All potential candidates are interviewed by an interview subset of the work team. That subset are usually 3 folks that have additional interview training. We set up what each person wants to interview on and how we will grade the responses. When completed, we do a face to face debrief on the overall interview and fill in our grading. The interview team pretty much has decided which candidate is their best choice, but they understand that the final decision is usually mine to make.
- We always have a “buddy” or mentor for every new team member. It is to help with assimilation into the team. It is an important role, that every team member will play at one time or another. Everyone wins. The buddy keeps focus on the important things. The new person comes up to speed quicker. Lastly, I get to see each person in action around some of the basic team skills (like communication, relationship building and problem solving).
Those are mine, what are yours?
The only important piece of all of this is, make sure that you are including your team in helping build your team! We all like to think we can do everything, but we just can’t.
I was with some friends the other day and one of them asked, “what was the toughest situation you faced as a manager in your 20+ years of leading your work teams?” Talk about putting you on the spot, without any notice to prepare for answering that question. After taking a few moments to think back, the toughest moment came to me quickly and really clear. There are situations that you remember both quickly and clearly because they left an impression, either good or bad.
I need to set the stage a bit. In any work environment, you have cycles of good, great and bad times. This particular situation happened during the companies down cycles. Basically, the company was redeploying employees. Redeployment means that one group is having to downsize the total number of employees and hopefully another group can use that skill set and employee for their needs. In theory, it sounds like a good idea. There have been some employees that have done well in redeployment. Most of the time, the employees just don’t find another group that can use their skill set. Having to leave the company! With the statistics the way they are most employees would rather chose to separate from the company, rather than try their luck at redeployment. In my career, as a manager, I have administered (and have happened to me) three cycles of identification of employees for redeployment. Three times having to downsize (or eliminate) my team.
I will be honest with you, every one of these situations had tough moments in them. You are dealing with people! I have always tried my best to be an outstanding manager and leader for my teams. Relationships were built with each employee. I felt that my teams have always performed well in their given area. Those teams have stepped up and delivered some amazing results. Getting back to the question… The toughest situation was the second time that I went through the redeployment process.
Why the second time was tougher than the first (or third)?
- In most organizations, there is always a level of “fat” built-in after the company has been in a growth (and great financial results). Downsizing was required and we all knew that it was best for the organization. Standing up and presenting to the team, was tough because we were going to lose some team member(s). The who was the white elephant in the room. Processes were followed to identify those that did not have the skill sets that were necessary to move forward. When the redeployment hit the second time, well, now we knew we were going to have to make big changes, both in workload and what we had to do to accomplish our work.
- The first time, was all new to everyone. When I presented out the process of redeployment, many folks thought this was a good thing, as it would give potential opportunity to folks that wanted to do something different. In theory, the process look and sounded good. When the second time (one year later) hit, we all witnessed the actually reality of the redeployment process. Less than 50% of the folks that attempted to find work in a different group were successful. The theory was replaced with real data…
- The third time through the process and I hate to even say it, I had become numb to the complete process. Numb! While I was going through the process with my teams, I was having it happen to me as well. I got to “feel” and experience it 2x.
- The second time was the toughest!
- I was actually having to tell some pretty awesome employees that they were being selected for redeployment. I lost sleep the nights before each discussion. I was being asked to make a radical change to the team and how we were going to accomplish our work moving forward. I had to put on a positive exterior when inside I was hurting.
- I had built a very strong team. They all stepped up after the first redeployment and made the team even better. We were actually doing more with less. We were an example to all of the teams. We were going to stop doing some work, shift our focus and basically going to tell our internal customers that we will not be doing much of what they needed. Customer service was not a focus. It was all about cost and nothing else. If the company wanted to downsize, then everyone needed to feel the pain. You can not expect customer service focused individuals to not care about customer service. My job was going to get really tough. I was going to be put in the middle and the challenges were going to be huge.
What do you do? As their leader, you have to make sure that you are being providing your team with the right level of balance. Make sure to communicate everything. Make sure that when you are speaking you are being yourself. Tell them everything! For me, I was always upfront with what is happening. I made sure to tell them that the only thing they can control now, is the work on their desk. I know times are scary, but we still have our jobs to do. I put on the company hat as needed. We all will take time to react to what is being communicated to us, just make that time moments and keep the focus on what we control. It was the toughest situation I faced in all of my 20+ years. As a leader, it is about your people and having them do some amazing results… We all knew that people and the work at this particular point in time, was not the focus. So, I tried to make sure that my focus was with the people and their amazing results. It was the only thing, that we could feel good about!
, New To Management
, Leading Teams
I have written many times on trust. Two post give more details - Working Trusting Relationships and New Leadership Position – You’re Up! As employees we all want a trusting working environment. As managers it is one of our responsibilities to insure that we develop a trusting environment. Then why is it that 82% of people don’t trust their boss? When I was working with an organization recently, it became very apparent that one area that needed focus was developing a better, more trusting work environment. If you spent some reflection time on the working environment you work at – is it a trusting environment? Are people worried about what others are saying? Decisions taking forever to get made? Back stabbing happening? There is no shortage of examples of what we don’t want…
What does it take for you to do to make your work environment be more trusting?
- Assume best intent (until proven otherwise). You want to build that culture of trust, then no one, especially the manager, should not assume the worst in a person or situation. Remember that jumping to conclusion kills trust.
- Remove barriers. One of my favorite items that help to bring trust back is to spend time working on removing barriers, like removing bureaucracy. Jumping through hoops to get work done, erodes trust very quickly. Make work easy, remove the red tape and watch things change quickly.
- Act as an example of trust. If you want to improve the culture of trust, you have to trust your team to do their work and make decisions. That means even if that decision that was made did not go well. You still have to trust the decision and tell your employees so. After a decision has gone wrong, I usually sit down and we revisit the situation and possible decisions – and then let the employee learn from it… This should make the next decision point better.
- There is no “I” in team. Other words like “we” and “they” should never describe the teams. Listen to how the team talks. If you hear those words or the “us against them,” time to step in and course correct. For the English majors, take out those pronouns and insist that names are used.
Building a trusting culture is difficult. As the manager, you are the key to much of the success of building that environment. People inherently don’t trust the boss… If you can demonstrate and live up to being a trusting manager, you can get your team to follow along. It starts with you!
Image courtesy of:Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos
Over the past year with working with different organizations and industries, I used those contacts to run a survey of the employee base. It was one to help me with understanding what employees did not like that their managers were doing. This is not a scientific survey, just me asking people questions about their experiences with the direct manager. It is always easier to look at the bad in a situation to help learn. Here are top five items (with some quick fixes) from my experiences.
- Surprises. This should come as no surprise, but this was highlighted in almost 95% of the folks surveyed. Highlighted in the comments were simply, “I like to know what is happening and not guess what daily change or mood swing is coming.” Very telling! What can you do: Make sure that you have a daily dialogue with your team. Insure that you are being transparent with them. Don’t make surprises the norm.
- Unfair. 94% responded about managers playing favorites or treating someone different that the rest. With many companies still using a performance appraisal system, this time of year is very telling with unfairness. What can you do: The simplest of items is probably the most difficult for managers, be a role model for your team. Be consistent in how you follow the rules and delivering consequences for not following the rules.
- Missing Leader. There are two particular items that stood out with this one. The first one was, folks felt like the manager was not around or sat in their office. Coming out when they felt like they had too. The other one was the leader that was out of touch with their team. Either way, the manager is not there. What you can do: My favorite term here is management by walking around. As the manager, you get to see, hear and discuss with the team what is happening. Being a part of the team will make you more successful in the long run.
- Empty talk or action. Personally, I would have thought this one would have been higher (I guess managers are getting much better at this one). The comments here were all around leaders that don’t do what they say they are going to do. Nothing frustrates them more than having critical matters sit undecided because of the manager hasn’t gotten to it yet. What can you do: Be accountable! If you say you are going to do something, then you better do it. Step up and lead your team. I know that sounds harsh, but that is the easiest thing you can do.
- Unclear goals. There are two ways to look at unclear goals – there are none or they are so grand. Either way, it is hard for the team to understand what is expected of them. What you can do: I have written a lot about goal setting. The simplest way to make sure that the goals are clear and the team knows what is expected is to involve them. This will help them understand the goal and how best to contribute in achieving them.
Learning from mistakes is easier than learning from your success. Using a critical filter can always help. Managing your team is difficult. The best piece of advice I received was to spend time with your team. Get to know them. Work along side of them. Listen and watch – you will learn lots.
, New To Management
, Leading Teams
, performance appraisal
A close friend as me about stepping into “new” leadership positions. Over the years, I have been blessed with getting to lead many teams. During that time, I have been able to really develop my approach to new situations, teams, people and competencies. Some of these situations were just me being added to an exsisting team (so, I did not have position power). Leadership situations are all around, you don’t really have to have the title or job. Those opportunities are all around us.
With my experience, I have learned a couple of ways that I deal with starting off. Starting with myself. This is the area that we have complete control. At least, we should. If you don’t believe that – then reading this is not for you. When you can lead yourself, then you can project that to others. I like to make sure that I am really doing the following:
- Believe in myself and others. Some may think this as over- confidence. You have to believe in your abilities and continue to learn and grow in order to be successful.
- Trust my gut (instincts). You are going to be tested and decisions must be made. Sometimes those decisions have no data to back up your position. You must be able to trust yourself.
- Acknowledge others. There is no I or Me in the discussion. When you are working within a team – it is everyone. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “I did xxx” or “Without me this would not have gotten done.” Almost always, there were many others that were involved.
- Celebrate progress. When your team is moving forward in the direction necessary, have some fun. Highlight the successes…
- Be happy. Staying positive is something that I stress with myself and others. Nothing brings a team down more than a “negative Nelly.” Being positive will help you in reacting to situations in a better light.
- Be compassionate. The item that stands out of me is being a good listener. When people are talking, listen without speaking. Sometimes that goes a very low way.
- Inspire yourself and others. Being positive and imagining all the great possibilities will help to continue you moving forward. If you can inspire yourself to keep making a difference, others will witness it and be drawn in.
Next up is something that I discuss with a new leadership situation when I actually have the title or job of leading the team. It is only three key statements that I make clear with the team:
- We will be completely trained to do what we are tasked to do. For me, that is a commitment to insure that I will make sure that training is a priority. Plans and funding will be in order. For the team, they just have to insure that they continue to learn and grow.
- Make and keep commitments. When you say you will do something by X, you better get it done. You word is your bond!
- Have FUN. Work can be fun and should be fun. You spend a great deal of your day at work. For me, I will make sure that I make work fun. I expect the team to have fun with me…
Setting the stage in any new situation is key to a successful outcome. You must look at yourself first. Set that stage in the proper position frame and everything is possible. When leading the team, give the team some basics to kick off the new situation positivity. First impression are normally lasting impressions!
, New To Management
, Leading Teams
, team dynamics