Most people would agree that accomplishing a challenging goal with success requires everyone on the team to operate at a high level of performance. The more challenging the goal, the higher the performance level must be. So this raises two helpful questions, “When do your people do their best work?” and, “What are you as the leader doing to create the environment for your team’s best work?” To answer the first question, consider the following observations:
- Employees do their best work when they are fully resourced to perform what is needed. Your role is to ensure they are fully resourced with the materials, tools, equipment, and a clear understanding of the end goal.
- Employees do their best work when they don’t have to ask for direction or approval at every turn. This allows for initiative and imagination which leads to innovation.
- Employees do their best work when they are not afraid to make mistakes as a way to learn additional methods of task accomplishment. Aren’t we all glad Thomas Edison learned 9,999 ways how not to make the light bulb before he discovered the way which proved successful?
Aren’t we glad the Wright brothers continued to learn new ways to get the first airplane off the ground in a stable manner? Some of my clients are in highly regulated industries such as pharmaceutical research and manufacturing. While innovation is necessary to find new methods to cure and eliminate diseases such as cancer, certain protocols must be followed to test and manufacture compounds. While understandable and necessary, this doesn’t preclude the above three points from deserving strong consideration and attention. In this context, the team needs an environment that blends the freedom to take initiative with a system of accountability, in order to perform their best while driving toward the desired goal. Freedom is permitted because the team has been given a level of trust to accomplish important tasks and achieve results. Accountability is expected because the team accepts their role in the chain of events which lead to results. In other words, the team members know and understands the required tasks, they own their roles, initiate actions, overcome obstacles that come up along the way, and do what is necessary (within their lines of authority) to achieve the desired result. To answer the second question (“What are you as the leader doing to create the environment for your team’s best work?”), consider the following:
- Do you provide high level principles for your team to operate within which are consistent with the culture? When your team knows what you stand for and where you are leading them, making decisions becomes much easier.
- Do you actively coach rather than manage those on your team? The process of coaching shifts the focus of problem solving from you to them when you are ask questions that enable people to arrive at their own solutions. The opposite approach is to do the problem solving for them, which stunts growth and significantly minimizes innovation.
- Do you encourage team collaboration? Multiple heads are always better than one. A healthy, collaborative team environment enables the team to operate as a whole, moving in the same direction. Individual competition is reduced in favor of team accomplishment.
If your team prefers to be managed opposed to being coached or mentored, this could mean:
- They want you to be very explicit in providing direction.
- They want you to make every decision so they have no accountability.
- They are not really interested in learning or growing.
- They will not innovate.
And what this means for you is harder work which will drain your energy and enthusiasm and cause higher levels of stress. In my opinion, this would not be a fun or enjoyable role. Your role as the leader should be s focused on ensuring the team is fully resourced to do what is expected. You are also focused on developing those on the team to become the best they can become. You have created strong relationships, caused impressive results, and developed others to be their best. This is what leadership is all about! I’m curious about your thoughts on this message – what do you agree with and more importantly, what have I missed? Let me know. Best regards, Bill