“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.” – Simon Sinek, British-American inspirational author and speaker.
As I explain in my upcoming book Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time, executives are no longer limited to the C-Suite of a company. Strictly defined, an executive is anyone who executes business strategy to benefit their organization.
In our Brave New Business World (to paraphrase Aldous Huxley), the gap between leadership and workers has decreased significantly in recent years. But whatever the business conditions, it’s always helpful to put your heart into achieving your team’s goals. In part, this means helping make sure the whole team is willing, not just able, to achieve its goals. Contributing to your team’s well-being doesn’t mean usurping your team leader’s authority or prerogatives. The idea here is to contribute in ways that improve not just your own productivity, but the productivity of the entire team, without generating friction.
A Common Sense Approach
One way to pump up the volume on your team’s productivity is to make sure everyone has clear expectations not just of the team goals, but also of each team member’s expected contributions. For example, if you’re struggling to understand the team goals, make an appointment with your team leader, and ask for some clarification. If you already know the goals but feel hazy about the details, it may be because your leader has issued directives to everyone individually, so they know their individual contributions but no one else does… either that, or you missed the memo or meeting explaining everyone’s contributions and how you all fit together. Either way, if you need a better idea of what to expect from your coworkers, just ask them. With the exception of special projects, your team probably doesn’t practice compartmentalization; nor should it.
In the most effective teams, members work closely, share willingly and openly, are committed to the team, listen and communicate well, and actively support each other. All that occurs on the foundation of trust, respect, and reliability that underlie the workflow of any decent team. While long-term association helps establish all these characteristics, even new teams or team members can work together happily when they’re willing to expend some common courtesy. All it takes is a brief meeting to clarify who does what, how, and when, and to determine how all your contributions fit together. If necessary, you can be the initiator who arranges the meeting and clarifies those expectations. Hey, someone has to do it, and it doesn’t always have to be the boss acting as the project manager.
Clarifying each team member’s work role exorcises the demon of uncertainty, leaving one less thing for the team to worry about. Up goes the satisfaction level, almost inevitably boosting productivity. We’re all happier when we all know what we and our teammates are supposed to be doing, rather than floundering around uncertainty or unclear processes, wondering if you’re all climbing the same mountain—and if you are, where you can find the rope that’s supposed to tie you together. When the matter is settled, you all have a clearer understanding of the team’s goals, accountability, and outcomes.
One way to ensure clear expectations is to learn in detail what your teammates normally do on a daily basis. I mean, what do they do? If you already know a teammate’s job so well you can fill in for them during an illness or vacation, you’re golden; otherwise, find a way to clarify their work tasks and style, and the type of information they work with or produce. Produce the same kind of role map for your own job, for the rest of the team’s benefit. Document your role maps on paper, in a meeting, or even by shadowing each other when your jobs allow it.
Hopefully, your leader already believes in transparency and cross-training, since this will simplify role mapping. Well-constructed but non-communicative teams can’t function at full capacity when one of the crucial members goes missing, so it benefits everyone to not only have a deep knowledge of his or her own role, but also a working knowledge of everyone else’s.
For example: on a software production team, a tech writer benefits from some knowledge of programming and beta testing; the testers should know what information the writer needs; the programmers and other SMEs must be willing to communicate with the testers and tech writer on a regular basis. Even something as similar as a shared dashboard or document protocol can make life easier for team members, especially for groups whose members are geographically distributed.
Take special care mapping out the places where your roles overlap, because those “joints” will produce the most strain on your partnership. A little additional insight may be the oil that makes the most effective use of your team’s collective KSAs, and keeps the joints moving freely.
© 2015 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and in 2015 was inducted into its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401 or visit her website.