Achieving results with your team is the fundamental value you provide to your company as a manager.
Equipped with the context about your team and your company from Alignment & Managing Up, Getting 1:1s Right, and Career Development, we’re now ready to talk about how you can leverage it into running a high-perfoming team.
There are four key areas which will impact your team’s performance:
This sprint is about making you aware of these areas so you can optimise each and get your team running at their best. It should also help you diagnose where things are going wrong if you don’t feel you’re hitting the heights you want.
We’ll also talk about these specific challenges of being a first-time manager:
‘Every major disappointment is a failure to set expectations’ Julie Zhuo, The Making of a Manager
No-one can be expected to hit a target if they don’t know what or where it is.
Every member of your team, at all times, should know what success looks like for them in the context of their work.
If you don’t think they do, that’s usually either a) because you don’t know yourself or b) it hasn’t been well-communicated.
The importance of a) should highlight why the first sprint we looked at was Alignment and Managing Up. If you’re not clear yourself on what constitutes success, you won’t be able to develop a plan for your team to deliver it, and communicate it to them.
For b), communicating expectations usually happens in three moments:
When setting expectations:
The second aspect that will define your ability to achieve results is whether your team has the capability to meet the expectations you have set.
Do they have the technical skills and experience to do the work or is additional training and/or employees required?
Most of the time, hopefully they do. But if you’re not achieving the results you need, you may have to investigate.
Andy Grove suggests a simple mental test - if an employee’s life depended on performing a particular task they’re not accomplishing, could they do it?
(This is a bit overdramatic, and hopefully your business isn’t a matter of life and death, but it gets to the point.)
If the answer is yes, they’ve got the capability, but they’re just not motivated (see our next section).
If the answer is no, then your role as a manager is to assess whether you can provide sufficient training and feedback to get them to ‘yes’ or whether the role simply isn’t right for them.
‘You’re not “getting it [work] out of them”; you’re creating the conditions for them to bring it out of themselves.’ Kim Scott, Radical Candor
‘Why does a person who is not terribly interested in their work at the office stretch themselves to the limit running a marathon?’ Andy Grove, High Output Management
Assuming you’ve set clear expectations and your team has the skills required, the next factor that will define whether you succeed is if your team is motivated enough to put those skills to work.
Individual motivation is complex, nuanced, and will be different for everyone on your team. But you’ll have learned a lot about what drives each person through your initial 1:1s and career conversations, which you can put to use here.
Various researchers have found that the highest performance comes not as a result of financial rewards (although getting compensation right is important) but through intrinsic motivation - individuals striving to improve themselves.
Daniel Pink breaks this down into three factors, which you can use as a manager to consider how to keep your team motivated:
If you feel your team is de-motivated, consider whether you can make any improvements across these three vectors.
‘In almost every model of motivation, people need to feel an understanding and connection with the purpose of their work. Who are they building these systems for; what is the potential impact on the customer, the business, the team?’ Camille Fournier, The Manager’s Path
Ok so your team has clear direction, is capable, and motivated. There’s one final element which may prevent you from achieving results - your team’s working environment.
Especially when you’re troubleshooting performance issues, it’s important to interrogate this factor so you don’t attribute shortcomings to capability or motivation, when there’s a deeper problem.
There are many different examples of how this could manifest. But some common factors include:
Discussions about these issues will usually come up in 1:1s, but only once you’ve built sufficient trust and rapport with your team.
‘People whose manager makes an effort to help them combat burnout are 13X more likely to be satisfied with their manager’ Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy
One of the trickiest tasks for any new manager is working with an under-performing team member. The frameworks discussed in this piece should help you when faced with this situation.
You’ll need to:
Although it may seem like under-performers are your greatest challenge, supporting your best performers should be your highest priority.
They’re the ones who have the potential to help you achieve outstanding results, and who you want to keep happy, engaged, and retained.
It can be tempting to leave these people to their own devices because it seems they don’t need much help.
Don’t do this.
Most high-performers are looking for further challenges, and opportunities to stretch their capabilities. It’s your job as a manager to guide this enthusiasm, find them those opportunities, and help them do their best work.
If you’re spending more time thinking about the development of your under-performers than you are your highest-performers, you’re doing it wrong.
This may feel like an odd title. Doesn’t everyone hate micromanagement?
Haven’t you spent the last 10 minutes telling me how to set expectations around outcomes, not methods, and give people more autonomy to keep them motivated?
But one of the hardest lessons to learn about micromanagement is that sometimes it is necessary. The idea of the ‘totally hands-off manager’ is a myth.
Sometimes you will see situations where your team members are getting it wrong, you don’t have time to coach them on how to improve in the moment, and you need to step in yourself to get something done.
If you remain ‘hands off’ in those moments, your team will screw up, and you will have failed as a manager. Judging when to intervene and handling those moments is the key.
It’s true to say that it should be a last resort. Micromanagement is bad for your team on two counts:
So don’t take the decision to intervene lightly, and when you do, communicate with your team to reassure them on these two vectors:
Resist the temptation to micromanage, help your team grow, but be aware you may need to do it.