Kieran Maloney and Paul Stanford of kmc associates ltd have seen many examples of the “headless chicken” syndrome or focus on results rather than the means of achieving them. Kieran and Paul cite these in their recently published book, “You Can Manage People” as examples where achievement of results may be hampered.
There are tough decisions to be made and we all know the pressure is on. No one can be under any misapprehension of the intentions of the coalition government in the UK to take the tough decisions and reduce costs. This will be echoed in so many organisations that face reduced revenues and profitability where the route to survival is often perceived as being through swingeing cuts. Reality and experience tells us that some element of this is inevitable. But, in these circumstances how do we get the best from the beleaguered teams of people who are charging about attempting to achieve desired results?
Letting your team know what to expect
Assuming your organisation has sorted out its priorities and determined what it needs to deliver to its customer base, then you can begin to look at what the teams and individuals must do to facilitate these outcomes. The critical aspect at the beginning is having “clarity of purpose”.
In other words, individuals and teams need to know what's expected and what their contribution to the overall outcome is. Managers of teams need to be “bold” enough to question activity that is thrust upon them that does not contribute to these outputs and feel confident that they can engage the team in purposeful activity, while being engaged purposefully themselves.
On a practical level, it's good to have a competency model built, in part at least from the behaviour, attitudes, skill and knowledge of the “top” performers. This gives a measurement of the possible and the necessary activity to achieve the task. This can drive the performance and development in the right direction. A prerequisite to success, especially in difficult times is knowing what ingredients will lead to success and using this as a template or model around which to build.
Are your employees engaged?
On an emotional level, employee engagement is so critical. At a simple level it may be described as “involvement”: but it covers a multitude of things.
Involvement means that I know what is expected of me, I feel I am making a contribution, I am kept informed and I have a chance to make suggestions to help improve the common “lot”. The biggest temptation for many managers at this point is to roll their sleeves up and pitch in to the “doing” of the activity.
Yes, there may be a need for some of that and it can increase credibility and a sense of “we’re all in this together”. However, managers must still lead and direct the activity and encourage and engage and enthuse their teams towards successful outputs.
How to give great feedback
Feedback and coaching of team members gives individuals the buzz of recognition and the guiding hand towards the desired standards needed. Success can be seen to bloom in organisations that embrace good communication, feedback and coaching. It is not a soft option. Nor is it a luxury.
There are some simple guidelines for feedback: it must be based upon fact and not opinion, it comes from observation and must be delivered from the observation (“I noticed that….” “What I heard was….”). It is essential that we share the good and positive reinforcement by giving feedback that says “well done” or “I was really pleased to see xyz and the results / outputs were exactly what we need!” But feedback alone may not be enough.
What if we have to feed back on stuff that is not working so well or a performance that is not contributing as well as it could and should? Feedback is still essential but we cannot afford to leave our colleague feeling hurt, resentful, confused, inadequate or angry.
In general if we treat our colleagues with respect and value them and their contribution we can look at performance and pick out one or two key activities or issues that will make a definite difference to their outcomes.
Consider posing open ended questions
Again we recognise the understandable temptation of managers to move in to “telling mode” and give feedback and then tell the colleague how to improve. This is, however, usually counter productive and can build a barrier between the manager and team player. Often we have found that while colleagues are very self-critical, they may not always be aware of the true areas of performance that are “letting them down”. That is where the asking mode becomes so important.
Open questions can encourage individuals to reflect, think and become aware of where they may improve and often leads to an understanding of what they need to do to improve. This assumes that we have already taught the skills and knowledge that the team player needs to carry out the job and espoused the values, attitudes and behaviours that are the norm of our organisation. Without this the basis of our performance expectations is removed.
Perfecting messages to your team
A manager’s energy and passion will transfer, become infectious as will the reverse. So it is beholden upon the cascade of management messages, activity and intentions to be positive and encouraging. If the management message is “we are on a sinking ship”, or “life around here is difficult” then the organisation will believe it, may be leave it, and the self-fulfilling prophecy will come true. But if the message is honest, true and yet optimistic and hopeful there is a much better chance of success and true engagement and support from all the team.
It becomes the responsibility your more senior managers to be clear about how everyone is contributing or can contribute to success. It's the responsibility of all management to see how they and their team(s) fit in the big picture and how each team is like part of a relay race. Without one the others cannot succeed.
This concept is true both intra team and inter team. Now more than ever a sense of common purpose is essential. Each team and each individual within it needs to be clear of their purpose, their objectives and how each complements the other in building success.
The need to be human
Equally important now is the need to be human and aware of others. People are capable of extraordinary things and will make super human efforts if trusted, involved and given a chance to perform. But we are not all superhuman and rest and recreation are as important to any individual now as at any time.
Involve, encourage, coach, give feedback, be clear on your expectations, show how each team and individual contributes, praise, be honest with and respect your people and they will do extraordinary things for you.