Managing a team is about forming and implementing systems that create a self-sustainable system.
Now you are a manager/leader/owner of a business! You have the position and title and you have a team, or need to recruit one. This is the where the fun begins. The greatest misconception about being a manager or leading a team is that you get to make all the decisions, and tell people what to do. This isn't exactly true.
If your team can’t function without you, there’s a problem. This should be the goal: that you create a team, empowered with the right resources and processes for it to sustain itself. There are a few ways I’ve been able to achieve that in the past.
Be Particular about Who You Hire
The first thing to realize is that you cannot do it all alone. Previously, your job was to be great at your job. Now as a leader/manager, your job or most important skill set is creating and managing a high performing team. This starts from who you recruit.
For some, you will inherit a team, and then the performance measurement becomes even more critical. But for others, you will have to create your team from scratch.
Be very, very particular about who you hire. It makes all the difference in the world. Have a process. Don’t just see someone and because you like them, hire them. Gut feeling occasionally can be off, and it makes sense to check it with a third party.
The related post below shares a high level process that has helped me hire amazing people in my career and I think it will help you too.
Related Post: Hiring A Stellar Team
Have a Strategic Goal/Direction
The art of planning is not so much to define the events that will happen but more to put you in a frame of mind that executes towards a long-term vision. It makes all the difference. Businesses/teams who have strategic goals and those who do not are fundamentally different in how they approach things.
The first is usually ambitious and laser focused on what they intend to achieve, making course corrections along the way. The other is incremental and holistically can appear quite disorganized as they have no overarching theme.
How do you define your strategic direction? It’s pretty simple. Ask yourself the simple question, where do I want the team/business to be in the next 5 years?
Yes, a lot can change in 5 years, but it is important to clearly see where the business is going in that time. Articulate this (with your team), and write it down.
This will guide you in creating your more short term goals, e.g. what you want to achieve in the next year and consequently your quarterly goals. It is important, very important that this exercise is done as a team. This way, you get buy-in from those who will execute and everyone feels ownership of the vision, as they contributed to it.
Handing down strategies you thought of all alone as the founder/leader/manager to your team simply isn’t always an effective strategy for execution.
Have Weekly Team Meetings
Team meetings are critical to ensuring projects continue to be executed, and that the team has enough time to step back from execution into monitoring and assessment. Mondays are nice for this, and it helps to set the tone for the new week while checking in on the performance of the week before.
These meetings also help you as a manager socialize the priorities for the week and get feedback from your team on their priorities, to align on its congruence with the set company goals. It also helps to highlight issues earlier. During these meetings you will notice lagging projects quickly, as well as issues that need attention, or those that could easily be nipped in the bud.
It is critical that you refrain from setting goals for your team to achieve. Ensure your team suggest their goals themselves, and you can guide to flesh out. This is important to them taking ownership of the goals since they will be the ones executing it.
I typically have a rolling document so we can easily see past weeks’ performance all in one document.
Have Clear KPIs - Key Performance Indicators
We all know the acronym of the best goals, SMART (Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound). This point hammers on the Measurable bit.
It is important that your team is aware of how they are measured and what success looks like. This is a critical part of execution, because without measurement of performance, it is hard to know if you have achieved your goals or not.
This is a key part of having a culture that is generally data driven. In decision making, monitoring, assessment, be the manager/leader/business owner that asks for data, and uses it in decision making.
How did we do last week? How many customers did we have? How many are repeat? How many spent above x? How many customer issues did we receive vs that we responded to? How many of them were rated 7 and above? Etc.
Data like these helps you measure against your goals. An example:
KPIs for the week --
>= 10 Customers
Sales of N30,000 or more
Customer Response Time of minimum 3 minutes
This also helps you avoid the trap of activity without motion, doing the work but not being able to translate its impact in measurable terms.
One critical thing to note here is, as you design your processes, ensure that you are able to easily gather data that helps measure your KPIs. Look for technology tools that make it as easy as a click, or a system that allows it to be easily collated periodically.
One of the great barriers to businesses measuring their performance is that the data is hard to pull and hence, it is not measured.
Do not fall into that trap. While you are small, make sure you can easily gather data on your overall operations. This leads me to my next point.
Create a Documentation and Data Driven Culture
I am crazy about this. It is important early on to instill in your team the culture of writing things down. This makes it so it easy to recollect, refer, and assess information in retrospect with or without being physically present.
As a small business or within your team, encourage your team to send emails/slack/ whatever you use, as opposed to verbal communication. This truly helps.
In addition to the point above, create a system that empowers your team, such that they are able to give reports on performances of their area of focus; if quantitative in excel sheets, and if more narrative, in word documents.
Trust me, this makes a world of difference for organizations. Your team begins to get used to measuring their performance and approach their work that way. This makes it much easier for you to monitor performance long term and makes your team a well-oiled machine that can sustain itself.
Have you tried any of the above and has it worked for you?
What issues did you face? These quick tips have worked (and continue to work) for me and I hope they do for you too!
Remember, you can always shoot me questions here and I’ll be happy to answer them!
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