I want you to think about something that happened last week.
You were in your office preparing to meet with a rising star on your team…when “you know who” knocked on your door.
You lifted up your head, your eyes locked, and in they walked.
“So-in-so,” you said politely. “I am heading off to a meeting is this urgent?”
“Yes,” So-in-so said.
“Five minutes,” you responded authoritatively.
Ten minutes later you are still listening to a laundry list of complaints and dissatisfaction about another member of your team who didn’t do this or that on the project. You nod and listen, interject a word of surprise now and then to show support, and then it escalates where you need to push your appointment off so you can go down to the floor and deal with squabbling between coworkers about schedules.
You just picked the burned out light bulb.
As a team leader there are many opportunities in the day to “Lead First and Manage Second.” But what does that really mean? What are the issues throughout the day that avoid conflicts and gain insight into your next opportunity for results and growth?
Here is your first step: Leave the burnt out bulbs in the bin.
What I mean by that is: these are your team members who cannot get along well with others, always have issues and complaints, and are in your office daily looking for you to solve their problems. You cannot slam the door, but you can redirect the person. In the case of So-in-so who interrupted you, try this next time:
“So-in-so I am meeting with “rising star” in five minutes, what do you need?” Now the problem member knows that you are playing favorites with a high performer. They go on about the problems. You cut them off at five minuets and say, “Good to know So-in-so, I have a meeting now with ‘rising star’ so let me know what you resolve to do about the (scheduling issues, workflow, etc.) And then go to your rising star and give them attention.
It is not your job as a leader to jump in and solve everyone’s problems. You need to develop that person who has a problem. Give them authority to go and fix their problem and then, when you meet up for your weekly review (and this is key) you can discuss how they did and offer solutions for next time these issues come up. Fixing problems will not recharge that burnt out light bulb. They need to recharge themselves with proactive solutions that they do–not you!
Second step is to pick the brightest light bulb every time.
Yes, that it is playing favorites, but by patting the back of your motivated team member they will rise higher (i.e. give you more results) and hopefully the dud, will either take notice to your priority of performance over drama and rise to the occasion, or they will quit. And every leader has someone on their team they hope will quit. You need to work with the willing.. that 20% that give you the results and enthusiasm that you need. By constantly taking time in your day to solving problems for the bottom 20% you not only lose precious hours in your day for your own work, but you are showing your brightest stars that complaints–not passion–are valued.
Step three: Meet with your team, one-on-one regularly–with an agenda.
This is going to explode your business. Have a short agenda, say ten questions that you ask every week (ie. What challenges did you face this week? What was most rewarding? What are your goals? What actions will you take to accomplish them, etc.) This process is going to give you insight into issues that are growing on your team. It is also going to open your eyes to opportunities for creativity and growth. Whenever you make your team accountable to their actions you are creating opportunities. And the critical part in meeting weekly is your feedback. Offer quick responses to what you would find helpful to accomplish goals. Explain what is hindering their results. 20 minutes a week because they come with the form already done! You are already spending countless hours now solving problems, so why not schedule one-on-one meetings to direct opportunities and growth?
Opportunities are everywhere in the workplace. These are the light-bulbs that are shining bright, but if you are constantly picking up the duds and trying to recharge them, the brightest ones on your team begin to lose their enthusiasm and will eventually jump ship. It is important to remember these three things:
1. Redirect your complainers to solve their own problems.
2. Focus on your performers.
3. Schedule regular weekly meetings for feedback and direction.
What actions are you going to take this week based on these insights?
Source: Photo IStock
Reality-Based Leadership by Cy Wakeman