I believe the greatest responsibility of a leaders is to make their teams better. Jack Welch, the former outstanding CEO of General Electric phrased it this way, “The team with the better players usually wins.”
Whether the arena be sports or a company, there are three major strategies for improving your team.
One, invest heavily in developing current team members. “We are always training and retaining our operators,” a manger told me. “And whenever we get a new tool or discover a better process, we educate members thoroughly.”
Two, consider shifting the roles of some of your team members. A member, who performs marginally in some tasks, may perform well in different tasks.
A manager of a floral shop said, “Soon after I assumed my position, I began getting many customer complaints about one of our employees. I asked the owner, why he had kept the person and he said because she is a genius in floral arrangements. I moved her to the back of the house arranging customer orders and she performed exceptionally well.”
Three, if marginal employees do not respond to training and if there are no other tasks they can perform well, the only remaining option is to replace the marginal employee with a more talented individual.
Great leaders reach their annual goals, meet or surpass quarterly objectives and insist on hitting weekly metrics.
Teams that show up and work hard will achieve a lot. Teams that strive for specific objectives (outcomes) achieve more.
Yet, when I ask managers and employees to list the top three objectives for their teams, surprises bubble up. I combine the individual lists and the result looks like a hundred-car pile-up. Items fight with each other, general (often meaningless) statements emerge from the deep, and important outcomes disappear into the mist. Literally no one agrees on the priorities.
Confusion abounds in spite of the fact that companies have systems for identifying, communicating and tracking objectives.
If you want to send a bat signal to your team, write down three objectives you want the team to achieve by quarter end. List three measurable targets for each objective. Communicate this list to your boss and employees. Monthly, attach a symbol (green, yellow, red) to each objective to signal how the team is doing. Discuss progress, or lack of, briefly in regular meetings.
To galvanize a team, members most know what defines success and they must receive timely feedback (scores) on how well, or poorly, they are doing.
A manager said, “I take the long view. We drive toward goals three to five years in the future. Annually, we adjust and revise as needed.”
Another manager responded, “I have a general idea of a long-term vision, but I try to avoid getting ahead of my skis. I pick the three to five most important things we need to accomplish next quarter.”
Personally, I side with the short-term view. I understand that top-level leaders may dream of exotic future visions. I’m also aware that most of these visions do not materialize. And many dramatic developments (internet) were neither predicted nor planned for.
I say apply the effort toward reaching three-month goals such as: shipping on time, ensuring supplies arrive, improving customer service, controlling costs, and the like. Each department should have no more than three to five targets.
It is important to track daily, weekly and monthly progress with easy-to-understand metrics. If the needle falls south of a metric target, the team can quickly adjust.
At the end of the quarter, all members know the score. Leaders should also have clear insights about which goals to continue, add or drop.