HOW TO DRIVE PRODUCTIVITY IN YOUR TEAM
Getting the most from your people is one of the most critical goals of every manager. This doesn´t just mean that you have to get your team to work long hours and work hard, but it also means that you must ensure that your people work on the right tasks within the right conditions.
As Peter Drucker said “Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.”
To get greater productivity from your team you must focus on some critical elements.
You must control the number of meetings, their duration and the number of people attending. Limit the number of standing meeting as these have a way of growing in numbers and in duration till they take up too large a proportion of available time. Spend more time talking to individuals and small groups about what is important to them rather than pulling all managers in for multiple days every month to sit through meetings that generally affect each individual attendee for only a small part of the time. When you must call a group meeting limit the number of people attending as well as the duration, making sure you have a tight and pre-circulated agenda and that everyone comes to the meeting well prepared. (See “Meetings bloody meetings” posted April 18, 2011)
GIVE PEOPLE ACCESS TO QUIET SPACES
Pablo Picasso said “Without great solitude no serious work is possible.”
The most common office layout these days is open-plan, mainly because it is a space, and therefore money, saving way to build a floor layout, and yet most organisations do it badly. However, if handled properly it can also be a great way to build team spirit and to get people working closely and collaboratively together. To achieve the most benefit from an open plan office layout it is important that, as well as having places where teams can work, think and plan together, you also have quiet closed-door spaces available for when people need to focus on things that can be best done alone.
As the team leader you set the standards for behaviour so if you use email all the time to communicate with your people you will create a culture where they will be perpetually checking their emails to see what it is that you need next from them. Talk directly with your people either by walking over to them, or by calling them. Overuse of email is one of the worst time stealers and productivity destroyers so ensure that you instil email management as a critical behavioural standard. (See “Fifth secret of time management” posted November 11, 2010).
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR PEOPLE
Listen to your people when they need the time to talk to you directly. Most managers, even good ones, have a lot on the plate at any time, and busy managers have a tendency to cut off subordinates when they have issues to discuss … resist doing so. It is worthwhile giving people enough time to talk with you and to have their say. It will ensure that your people understand that they can come to you to resolve things rather than have to leave them to fester and which could therefore impact their ability to deliver on their goals. It will also enable you to have more immediate understanding of what is happening and in particular of things that could impact your team’s ability to perform.
LET GOOD PEOPLE GO WITH THANKS
Don’t get angry and cut off good people if they decide to leave whatever the reason, and no matter how much it impacts you and the team, as you should always keep strong links to people that you believe are true professionals. You never know when their situations can change and when a critical vacancy comes up in your requirements it is worthwhile checking with previous employees as to how they are situated at that time. It is always less risky to bring back someone who understands the organisation and whose strengths and weaknesses are well known to you, rather than go outside to someone unknown and untried.
SEND PEOPLE HOME
Dedicated professionals often have no real idea of time, particularly when engrossed in a critical project that they find fascinating and challenging. It is important that the manager tracks their hours/days/months to avoid burnout. You need to ensure that people work hard and put in the hours that are needed to get the job done, but you also need to ensure that people get reasonable time to unwind and to rejuvenate, and that means sometimes dragging people away for a drink after work, making them take some vacation or just sending them home in the evening. When your team starts talking about work-life balance you have already let it go too far.
GET THINGS DONE
Getting things done, achieving results and having successes is the greatest boost not only to team morale but also to on-going productivity. You need to ensure that goals that are set and projects that are undertaken have a measurable endpoint that can be visible and celebrated. Creating a culture that acknowledges successful outcomes is fuel that is needed to fire up the team. It is important to have a strategic plan, but the only worthwhile part of it is getting things done well.
PROTECT THEM FROM ALL SIDES
It is a critical role of any manager to protect his people from interference, politics and rumours from other parts of the organisation and from all directions as these can just act to defocus the best of teams. As their manager, and protector, you must establish an understanding with your people that you will keep them updated on the realities of what is going on in the company, and they can therefore disregard external noises.
Never forget that work is also meant to be fun, and by this I don’t mean funny. People define fun in many different ways, but I believe that in a work context it should mean that people get to work with great colleagues, where their skills are appreciated, used, challenged and expanded, working within an ethical, rewarding and supportive environment that sustains their souls.
“I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.” — Thomas Edison