In my years as a business leader, I have seen great teams and not-so-great teams function. But I’ve just about never seen a team (or leader) who didn’t want to be productive and excellent in what they do. Oftentimes the gap between a team and their best potential could be bridged simply by good leadership that knows how to equip them best for success. Here are seven strategies from my own experience as a manager that can help you improve the efficiency and results of your team.
- Embrace the Big Picture Vision
To keep first things first, we need to start with the vision. The big picture of what a company aspires to be and do is central to forming the right kind of culture in all of its ranks. We as managers have the great responsibility, then, of carrying the banner of that vision and exemplifying it to our teams. Even if you’re not the vision caster in your organization, you can still seek to understand and get on board with what that vision is for the sake of your team, your clients, and your company.
Being a banner carrier of your company’s vision, culture, and mission will help to inspire your team to do their best work. For just about anyone, consistently being reminded of the “why” behind the daily grind can work wonders for longevity and job satisfaction. People need purpose, and you can help your people immensely by helping them understand theirs.
- Define Your Goals
But vision alone doesn’t get a person or a group anywhere. It gives you direction and the “why”, but not necessarily the “how” or the “what” needed to take steps in that direction. Defining measurable goals at the right intervals is therefore absolutely key to making headway as a team.
“Measurable” here is very important. If the goals aren’t measurable, it’ll be near impossible to really evaluate your team’s progress. Use dollars, numbers, days, months, and other concrete ways to measure so that you can sit down with your team members down the road and know for certain where the wins are and where improvements are needed most.
- Clarify Roles and Responsibilities
Hand-in-hand with clear and measurable goals is the importance of clarifying team members’ roles and responsibilities. People need to know what their role is in both the big picture and in any given project. Getting this clear on a regular basis will help prevent confusion and tension on your team. This includes the fact that if you delegate leadership of a project, it needs to be clear who that leader is.
I’ve found that there’s simply no better time to officially address big-picture roles and responsibilities than when you first hire an employee. The contract terms and job description need to be clear. Try to avoid vague wording or lack of detail, and make sure your people know what they’re being hired to do. While this may seem obvious, many companies tend to neglect keeping their job descriptions and hiring documents organized and consistent. It can save you a lot of headaches down the road if you just take stock of this now and get a good handle on how your team is put together.
- Communicate Clearly
We all know the importance of clear communication, but never is it more vital than when you’re managing people. And clear communication doesn’t just mean regular communication (though that’s part of it); it also means not shying away from offering constructive criticism, and it means knowing your team members well enough to talk to them in ways that are winsome and helpful.
Part of good communication on the management level is keeping meetings meaningful and efficient. In my experience, just about every meeting deserves to have an agenda. That agenda may not need to be printed out and acknowledged, but you as the leader need to know why you’re meeting and what needs to be said. In general, the more succinct the meeting, the better. It shows that you value your employees’ time, and it demonstrates good time management.
Another way to embrace good communication is to utilize the online and mobile tools that keep everyone on the same page. For example, if it’s possible and helpful to set up an online document that’s accessible by everyone, then do it.
- Demonstrate Follow-Through
Follow-through can be one of the most difficult things to get right. All of us run into situations where we simply don’t have the time to meet everyone’s demands, but we need to make sure the pattern of our work is one that meets deadlines and honors the expectations of other people.
Follow-through is vital to building trust with your team. They need to see you as a reliable person who can deliver. After all, you can’t expect them to meet your expectations if you don’t meet theirs.
- Delegate to Your Team
Speaking of trust, another great way to grow it in the workplace is good delegation. I think every good manager should have a mindset of empowering and resourcing his or her team, and delegation is one way of embracing that mindset. Find opportunities for others to grow in their own abilities, especially in leadership. The best managers work as if to replace themselves.
And when you delegate, be sure to get as much out of the way as possible for others to do what they need to do well. Step in if you need to, but give them the chance you would want to have to prove yourself.
- Celebrate the Wins
Finally, it is so important to celebrate your team’s wins. Look for opportunities to encourage them both individually and collectively. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and while weaknesses should be addressed at times, it’s more vital that we as managers stay keenly aware of our employees’ strengths so we can honor them whenever possible. By recognizing when someone does well, you can demonstrate both the humility and the intentionality that make great leaders.
Good Team Leaders Value People
In the end, the way we treat people is at the center of our ultimate success (or lack thereof) as leaders. If you can push products through and meet deadlines but find that you’re leaving a wake of frustrated team members behind you, then something needs to change. Part of your responsibility as a manager is to empower those you are leading. Take advantage of the influence you have to make a positive difference and impact on your team.
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