Q: We would like to achieve world-class results in our operation, but our efforts seem consistently to fall short of our expectations. Can you suggest ways that, as a manager, I could improve the level of teamwork in our operation?
A: The solution could be as simple as improving the level of managerial effectiveness. If you review the following eleven questions as honestly as possible, you may discover that you have only tapped the surface of your capability to achieve world-class results.
Question 1 - Do you truly understand your relationship with your staff?
Does your team perceive you as a dynamic decision-maker and planner who takes personal interest in their success? If your response is less than an emphatic yes, it is time to take a personal inventory of how you interact with your team. Begin by asking them to evaluate you, using a standard form. If the responses you receive are all complimentary and offer no constructive criticism, your staff may not be comfortable enough to be open and honest, and you have an indicator that you need to understand your relationship with each team member better.
Question 2 - What motivates staff members to excel beyond normal expected performance?
To roll individual successes into a strong team performance, a manager has to understand how to motivate individuals. When you develop goals and key performance indicators for each team member, how much time do you spend identifying how to assist each person to achieve and to exceed those goals? You can begin by considering that nearly everyone is motivated by pride and recognition. You will identify other motivating factors as you proceed.
Question 3 - Have you empowered your staff to achieve success?
Managers are responsible to develop people, and people do not develop unless given responsibility and the opportunity to fail. Allow team members to manage to their ability and assist them to develop that ability. Managers are equally responsible to constructively identify and review mistakes, indicating the impact on the organization, as a developmental tool. No one wants to be micromanaged. Give team members the opportunity to be successful on their own. It is a strong part of appealing to their pride and respect.
Question 4 - Are you reluctant to delegate tasks and responsibilities to your staff?
Unless you develop this ability you cannot successfully empower your team. You will never achieve the greatest potential level of results by thinking you can do everything better than anyone else or by wanting to make every decision.
Question 5 - Do you trust your associates to complete tasks effectively and accurately?
If you are continually checking team members' work, you need to identify quickly whether the reason is your personal discomfort at delegating or whether the person actually lacks the ability to be successful at a task. If it is the latter, and if the associate has received all the appropriate training required, then you have to consider improving the quality of the person occupying the position. Remember that it is a manager's responsibility to assure that team members have proper training before you consider replacing them.
Question 6 - Are your team members the most capable and talented people you can afford to hire?
As a manager you cannot meet objectives if you don't surround yourself with the best people you can afford to hire for the position. Look for the best candidates. Don't fall prey to the idea that a candidate is overqualified and won't stay. Understand instead that if you can't generate additional opportunity or responsibility for a qualified candidate within two years, then you should expect to lose him. Meanwhile, you will have had the benefit of that person's skills and capabilities for two years while generating results and success together.
Question 7 - Do you believe any team members are qualified to succeed you?
The point here is simple. A manager won't move up in responsibility until there is someone in place to succeed him or her. This is the perfect defense for hiring the best people you can afford.
Question 8 - Are any of your staff too weak to enable you to achieve the success you were hired to develop?
This may appear to be a selfish thought, but answering this question really supports your company's decision to hire you. The first question to ask is whether the staff has been properly trained to perform the work. If the answer is affirmative, the next question becomes, Does the individual have the ability to perform the work? The day you enjoy terminating people is probably the day you need to find something else to do. However, your managerial obligation to your employer is to build a team that can generate the results necessary to grow the business.
Question 9 - How effectively and objectively do you evaluate the performance and development of your individual team members?
Most companies have a standard annual performance review that consists of checking boxes on some graduated level. The most important portion of the review, however is the blank section usually labeled "Additional Comments." This is where a world-class manager identifies strengths and weaknesses and documents them, indicates constructive criticism as appropriate, but most important, creates plans for improvement.
Question 10 - Have you initiated individual action plans for team members' development?
These plans are your contract with team members to develop improved performance to generate results and success. It is every world-class manager's responsibility, regardless of the level in the organization, to develop and manage mutually agreed-to plans for each direct report.
Question 11 - Have you been reluctant to reach out and to hire the most talented people you can afford?
Do not be intimidated by talent. If you surround yourself with talented people and manage them effectively, they will make you successful, and you will be credited for developing a world-class team.