Time is a constant adversary in project and task management. Managers are often inundated with a performance quandary. Execute a series of tasks that they can easily complete in a manner of minutes. Or delegate these tasks to another person and take more time and effort in the process. The balance between completing these quick tasks or training someone else to perform them is a struggle all managers face. Training allows for these tasks to be delegated away in the future. So how do you balance the pressure of deadlines and training your team for eventual success? Below are four keys that I have used to cultivate and build superior performing teams.
Understand the “Big Picture”
As a Manager, you have to be aware of what is currently going on as well as be able to prepare and plan for the next 2-3 phases. The ability to execute now and position yourself and the team for success is a crucial skill to sharpen. Assess the steps and tasks. Create an execution plan. Evaluate your team and assign tasks based on member competence. Try to keep the majority of your tasks assigned to other team members and not yourself. This will give you the time needed to troubleshoot issues as they arise and provide communications as needed. You can always pull a task back onto your list if necessary.
Your assigned team member(s) may not have the proficiency or mastery now, but your plan is for them to have “acquired” these skills when the execution is most critical. This will also mean that some of the earlier tasks and steps will take more time than originally planned. However, investment in training and teaching will result in more resources that can perform these tasks/functions; reducing the bottlenecks. The task execution time will reduce with repetition and experience. This will make the process of execution faster for the team.
Know when to “Take the hit”
Training takes time and is not always an immediate and efficient use of time. However, sacrificing an hour or two in the beginning phases of a project or operational cycle to train to develop team members will save you hours down the road. Managers are supposed to manage. Team members are the ones that are expected to be the ones executing the majority of the tasks. It is a misuse of resources for the Manager to do all of the work and have the team members sit idly by and watch. At some point, the team must “Take the hit” to their productivity. This is done to gain the efficiencies that will be required at the key moments in the project/operational cycle.
I have seen many managers get bogged down with an infinite number of tasks that result in their whole day getting consumed in task execution. Leaving them with no time to plan and manage. Meanwhile, team members are sitting idle, waiting for their next set of instructions. This even happens in my personal life as I’m working on a project with my kids. I will be busy looking at the project and the tasks we need to do. Meanwhile, my kids are bored and disinterested because I am not giving them something to do. But, if I keep them engaged; we all progress at a good pace.
If I take extra time to train my team members now; then every time that task comes my way in the future, I can easily delegate the task to the person that I have trained to do it. I now have an extra 5-10 minutes to work on managerial and administrative tasks. If I didn’t take “the hit” now, I won’t be able to reap the rewards later. Also, by training that team member, they now have ownership of a specific task. This will build confidence because they know that you trust them and as they show a greater aptitude, you will train them on how to do more and thus free you up to do more as well.
Empower through Delegation
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Delegation is a powerful leadership tool, but you need to utilize it effectively to build a superior team. Overdelegation results in an aesthetic appearance of laziness and a perception that you don’t want to “work.” Under delegate and the perception will be that you horde work and don’t like to share knowledge, skills, or expertise.
The ideal model that you want to strive for is the “Tom Sawyer Painting the Fence” outcome. You want your team members to volunteer and invest themselves in performing the tasks given. The task delegation is a symbiotic relationship between you and your team. Team members want to perform these tasks. You want them to be able to execute them efficiently and effectively. If they feel empowered to execute these tasks, they will come to you when they need assistance and guidance. If you continue to train them on how to troubleshoot their own issues; they will not seek you out for a simple fix for every problem they encounter. To build a superior functioning team, all of its members must be working together and independently at the same time to achieve their goals.
Understand what motivates your team
As a manager, your goal is to have your team operating at a high level of performance. Team synergies need to be fostered. To achieve this, you must understand how to motivate your team. Your goals may not be their goals and that is ok. What is important is knowing how to communicate with them and push them to achieve both their personal goals as well as the goals for the project team or department.
To fully understand the needs of some team members, you may need to have an understanding of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Motivation will vary depending on the team member. Some need to feel that their position and role are secure. Others need to feel that there’s an opportunity to grow professionally. Once you know what motivates each team member, you can tailor your approach to align them to meet the goals of the team.
Build a Superior Performing Team
Taking the time to understand your team will put you on the path to build a superior performing team. Building up their abilities and strengthening their competencies will allow you to efficiently manage time and meet deadlines as the project progresses. To achieve these competencies, you may have to sacrifice some time and efficiency at the start of the endeavor. Once you have built a superior performing team, you won’t regret the loss at the start. That’s because the achievements will be amazing.
At Perficient, we continually look for ways to champion and challenge our talented workforce with interesting projects for high-profile clients, encourage personal and professional growth through training and mentoring, and celebrate our people-oriented culture and the innovative ways they serve Perficient and the community.