In the film industry, when an actor’s performance is not up to par, it is often blamed on the director. It isn’t that the actor doesn’t have responsibility for his own work, but rather the director is responsible for providing insightful direction, motivation, and resources to the full team of performers so they can all excel. This situation easily translates to leaders in the business world.
Leaders often complain about their employees’ lack of work ethic and commitment without recognizing that they themselves have the power to change things. After years of being both an operating executive and advising businesses both big and small, I have developed a five-step pathway to create a more engaged and productive team.
1. A new level of interaction
Managers, supervisors, CEOs or anyone else in an upper-level position must remain in close contact with their team. Take the time to speak with employees that you would not normally have interactions with otherwise and ask a few basic questions.
“What’s working and what’s not?”
“What resources do you need to do your job more effectively?”
“What are you hearing from our customers: complaints, suggestions and other useful comments?
“What other ideas do you have to make the company better?”
You will be amazed at the quality and quantity of information they will provide you. While not every comment will be on point, you will find a large number of these ideas that you can implement. Of course, the added benefit is that the folks you have spoken with realize you really do want their input.
2. Narrowing the focus
In today’s world of constant communication, it is easy to lose scope of what’s important. Employees are being stretched thin with requests, reports, new projects, and so much more.
It is important for leaders to narrow the focus of their work and understand what is essential. You can do this most effectively by establishing what your business’s ‘hot buttons’ are — the two or three most critical metrics that that drives your business.
You can develop these hot buttons with your leadership team, then constantly communicate them at every opportunity to whomever you speak within the company.
3. Increased clarity
There is no reward in keeping employees in the dark. Every member of your team should understand what is happening in the business, where it is going, and what their roles are in creating the desired outcomes.
There are two ways to increase clarity.
First, you need to be really transparent and share as much information with as many people as possible. The more they know, the better equipped they are for performing their jobs.
Second, eliminate silos. Every organization has built cultures where each department takes on its own identity: marketing, customer service, sales, finance, etc. Unfortunately, that is not the way customers think of you. The world expects you to act as an integrated organization, where interdepartmental issues do not affect results. Become a silo buster.
4. New perspective
Sometimes it helps to take a step back and reevaluate your team from a different perspective. As I said, this can be done by consulting a wide variety of employees that may not be in the leader’s meeting room, or even hiring a corporate advisor. No matter how you decide to adopt this new perspective, it can help you ask some hard questions.
“Even though we’ve done it this way for years, how can we do this differently?”
“Why does it take so long to get this done?”
“How can we improve our team’s performance?”
These questions are not easy to answer– and they are even harder if you don’t take a step back and look at your business with fresh eyes. Taking a new perspective always produces new ideas, and these are the life blood of a healthy, vibrant and growing business.
5. Stop waiting
The amount of time many companies waste in meetings is astronomical. I’ve created a new meetings model that is designed to dramatically reduce the amount of time spent in meetings.
It involves providing structure and process so that there is thought with respect to defining the purpose of a meeting, who should attend, creating an agenda, summarizing follow-ups, etc. The model also dramatically shrinks the time of the meeting (mostly 30 minutes) and requires that materials are distributed in advance so that everyone can familiarize themselves with the issues. Finally, a Meeting Czar is appointed to run this process on a rotating basis. Having someone in charge really drives the process.
You will be amazed at how much more productive your team becomes.
Implementing this five-point program injects new vitality, energy, and results to our organization.