In part one of this article, we discussed the first time-tested strategy to help you as a Manager, or anyone in a leadership role, to mitigate the stress of your team and to care for your most valuable asset in your organization, your people.
In part two, let’s talk about the second strategy, creating a supportive team culture, where team members take ownership and deliver results with flexibility.
Create a Culture of Support with Accountability and Flexibility
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Peter Drucker
Under both complex and regular situations, leaders at all levels must know the value of contributing to a culture that sets up team members to succeed, and where teams are ready to pivot as needed.
As a leader, you will enhance team engagement, productivity, your company’s brand, leverage your unique value proposition and personal brand, gain brand ambassadors, and loyalty by genuinely caring for team members.
Create a safe, supportive structure and team environment that’s both people and results centric.
Here are some suggestions.
Once your team is clear on the deliverables, you validate that team members understand the expected results, timeline, and ensure they have adequate resources to complete the assignment or they know how and where to get them, check-in periodically.
To avoid unpleasant and high-stakes surprises, set the expectations with team members and stakeholders for two-way open communication and regular check-ins (daily, weekly, bi-weekly), with a cadence that makes sense given the crisis, type of project, or assignment. This practice will avoid learning about delays when there’s no time to pivot.
However, beware of the “micro-managing” monster. Think of these check-ins as guideposts and make them milestone-driven. They should not interfere with your team’s productivity, but rather serve as data points along the journey to surface potential roadblocks and address them.
When facing personnel challenges or new business circumstances, re-assess the implications and how the work will get done, and pivot decisively and with transparency.
That’s where the flexibility comes in handy.
If anyone in the team is running into roadblocks, first, show empathy. How? Be ready to brainstorm and coach them around what they need to move forward confidently. Wearing a Coach’s hat, get curious, don’t be judgmental, don’t make assumptions, don’t take things personally, be honest, and ask open-ended questions.
Open-ended questions typically start with “What” or “How,” e.g., What is the problem? How could I support you? What’s another way to approach this situation? As their coach, your time investment will be well-rewarded as they become more self-sufficient.
One of the initial instincts for many Managers is to want to solve the problem for them—it could seem like the fastest way out. However, if the team members are safe and able, taking a more constructive and people-centric approach of coaching team members involves them in generating the solutions, helping them grow, and teaching them how to fish.
It may turn out that you’ll need to get other team members involved to overcome the challenge, which can also improve collaboration, teamwork, and a sense of camaraderie as they help each other out.
Due to this pandemic, we’re gleaning a new level of appreciation for what it means to be flexible in the workplace, and it’s forcing us to re-think how we work on the journey toward the post-viral age, or the “next normal,” as McKinsey & Company calls it.
While specific roles must be in the frontlines, we are learning that many others could function remotely, even ones that we had traditionally thought could not.
This threatening situation is creating an opportunity for employers to consider what a more talent-centric and flexible work schedule could look like in the future.
In addition to a health crisis scenario, another driver for this flexibility is the changing workforce. We know by now that the millennial plus workforce works very differently from the Baby Boomer generation.
Post-pandemic, as we strive to attract and retain talent, companies who demonstrate a culture of flexibility and work-life integration will have a competitive advantage over those that stick with rigid, inflexible work practices that are unsustainable and impractical.
While adhering to regulatory mandates and meeting the needs of stakeholders (clients, co-workers, people who need to interact with us in the regular course of business), let’s consider focusing on the results, rather than focusing on “how” the work gets done.
When we become laser-focused on the results, we inherently build-in the flexibility to maximize our talent’s peak performance configurations (work in the office or remotely, in the morning or night). The end-game is delivering value to the organization and customers and adjusting to meet the complex and competing personal and professional demands of our talent. Now, that is a differentiator.
Ultimately, however, it’s imperative to be clear about each team member’s accountability for driving the execution of the organization’s goals.
If, regardless of your efforts to communicate clearly and proactively and create a supportive environment, a team member fails to consistently complete the assignments and take personal accountability for the results, without any apparent reason, figure out the root cause.
To get to the bottom of it, try these questions: What worked? What didn’t work? What can you have done differently? What could we do differently as a team?
Based on the answers, analyze whether the person is not qualified to perform the role or if he or she needs training in a specific area, e.g., developing a technical skill, communicating effectively, asking for help, managing conflict, collaborating, time management, etc.
The main idea is to involve team members in the root-cause analysis and in generating a solution. In the process, you will evolve and grow as a leader and in your approach as a Manager.
Bringing It All Together
This approach to creating a culture and team environment of support with accountability and flexibility that is both people and results-centric requires that managers lead the way and harness the skill set to execute on these practices daily. However, we know that in many cases, that is not the case.
As an organization, the skills shortage translates into needing to invest in your leaders and managers to develop those skills.
To the individual, it requires that as a manager, you prioritize and invest your time and efforts honing your craft To grow professionally, lean on your purpose, the legacy you want to leave as a leader, and the impact you can realize in your role and the lives and families of those you lead.
The benefits of implementing any aspects of this strategy are clear; better team productivity and a workforce that is engaged and on the same page as management to deliver on the company's brand promise in a way that is sustainable and cares for its people.
What will you take away from this strategy, creating a supportive culture with accountability and flexibility? Please let me know in the comments.
In the final post in this article series, I share the third and last strategy and proven tactics you can leverage to manage during a crisis and beyond.
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With love and appreciation,
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About Dr. Ginny A. Baro
Dr. Ginny Baro is an international speaker & executive coach, and the #1 bestselling author of Fearless Women at Work. She is the CEO and founder of ExecutiveBound™ and Fearless Women @Work™ and the creator of the innovative and proven method, C.A.R.E.S. Leadership Success System™.
Ginny specializes in helping executives develop great leaders. As a career strategist, she partners with talented individuals who are navigating a corporate hierarchy or transitioning into an entirely new phase of their professional careers.
She has successfully facilitated leadership training and coaching programs for global companies with over 140,000 employees and delivered keynotes impacting international audiences larger than 7,000 people.
For over two decades, Ginny held multiple Director and senior leadership roles in financial services and technology. Her academic degrees include a Ph.D. in Information Systems, an MS in Computer Science, an MBA in Management, and a BA in Computer Science and Economics. She's a Mastermind Professional and Certified Professional Coach (CPC), accredited by the International Coach Federation. For more information, visit www.executivebound.com.
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