Thursday, July 23, 2015

4 Moves Smart Leaders Make to Get Better Team Results

Guest post by Victor Prince:

Teams at work are like portfolios of people with different skills and performance patterns. Like smart investment managers, smart people managers figure out how to shift their investment of time and energy from some parts of their portfolio so they can invest more in other parts where there is more potential for improvement. Here are four moves that smart leaders do to get the highest overall return from their team.
1.   Stop Micromanaging your Exemplars – You know who the Exemplars on your team are. They are the star performers who produce great results without needing much help from you. Many leaders, however, spend more time than they need to direct or check the work of their Exemplars. Not only is that a waste of the leader’s time, but it can be frustrating to the Exemplars. Leaders often over-manage Exemplars because it is easier than managing other people on their team who need more supervision but are harder to work with. Some leaders may also spend too much time with their Exemplars because they think that by doing so, they might get more credit for the great results the Exemplars generate. Weak leaders may even worry that their Exemplars are more respected than they are, making them want to exert their formal authority more. Whatever the case, smart leaders will dial back their micromanagement of their Exemplars to free up some of their own time to invest elsewhere.  

2.   Start Managing your Passengers – Passengers are the folks on your team who show up to work but you have a hard time finding any results other than paystubs from them. They don’t annoy you or get in the way of other people on the team, but they are dragging your team down. Your team morale suffers because, even if you don’t notice Passengers’ lack of real results, their colleagues do and resent you for letting them get away with not pulling their weight. Some leaders shy away from managing their Passengers because it is uncomfortable. The “you need to start pulling your weight” is a difficult conversation that weak leaders avoid. The thing Passengers are best at is not causing trouble, so a weak leader finds it easy to just ignore the problems. But if a leader does start holding a Passenger accountable for the same results as their peers, good things will happen. The Passenger will start producing or make it easier for the leader to make way for someone who will. And their peers may step up their results as well as the team morale improves when they see their leader making much needed, albeit uncomfortable, moves for the overall good of the team.  

3.   Stop Enabling your High Cost Producers – Like your Exemplars, the High Cost Producers on your team produce good results, but they incur high costs along the way. They may cause a lot of problems and ill will with others as they steamroll their way to results. Or they may need a lot of hand-holding from you to get their job done. Either way, you are enabling them by fixing their problems and doing their thinking for them. If a steamroller hurts a relationship, you are probably using your own political capital to sooth unnecessarily hurt feelings. If you are helping make decisions that one of your team members should be making, you are now taking accountability for the results of those decisions. Making your High Cost Producers accountable for cleaning up their own messes and making their own decisions is the best way you can force them to develop the skills they need to be independent. It also frees up time for you to help others on your team who need the help more.

4.   Start Addressing your Detractors – You know who the Detractors are on your team, and everyone else does too. They are the people who are not pulling their own weight and are also pulling everyone else down because of the problems they cause. You end up spending a lot of your time cleaning up their messes or doing their jobs. They may just lack the skills they need to get their job done but are not willing to ask for help for fear of showing weakness. Maybe their job changed but they didn’t get the additional training they needed. Or they maybe they just lack the motivation to do their job. Whatever it is, you owe it to them, and to the rest of your team, to quit just throwing band aids on their problems and address them directly. The Detractors need to know the status quo is not sustainable, they need to get out of the rut they are in, and that you will do all you can to help them. You will stop spending your time covering up their problems and spend the time it takes to help them build the skills they need to keep their job.
To help you figure out where these opportunities are on your team, you can take this online assessment to diagnose your own team situation. To learn more about the framework behind this methodology, you can read Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide their Teams to Exceptional Results by Victor Prince and Mike Figliuolo.

Victor Prince: As the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Victor Prince helped build a new federal agency and led a division of hundreds of people. As a consultant with Bain & Company, he helped clients across the United States and Europe develop successful business strategies. Today, Victor is a consultant and speaker who teaches strategy and leadership skills to clients around the world. Victor is co-author of Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide their Teams to Exceptional Results, (Career Press, July 2015) which is now available at, Barnes & Noble and other retailers.

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