Marty Richard

Tuesday, 27 September 2005 05:50

Supercharging productivity

Picture yourself on the phone. You’re in a delicate negotiation to build a lasting, profitable relationship. Suddenly, your concentration is shattered when one of your team members knocks on your door. He has another question about the task you delegated to him last week.

When a team member has been given a task and all the tools to succeed, yet still seems timid about moving forward, it may be time to look at your company’s culture.

Build a culture of leaders
Your goal is build a culture of leadership. There are many reasons you delegate tasks in the workplace. They can range from freeing your time for more important functions to mentoring subordinates into leadership positions. Time is a precious resource and you don’t have enough to monitor every step of employees’ work. That’s the reason you delegate tasks in the first place! Still, the act of delegation does not in and of itself ensure your team member will take the ball and run. In these cases, a new and innovative way to supercharge productivity may be the answer. Inspire your team members to lead at their own level.

First, you must clearly communicate the vision and goals of the company. Next, it is imperative you describe with pin-point accuracy how each person’s position supports that vision and those goals. Then, you must define the expectations you have for each team member.

You as a leader must spend some time understanding these concepts and communicating the fact that you are building a goal-driven organization. The more time you devote to making these concepts clear, the faster your team will internalize them. Once you have laid the foundation for a culture of leaders, you have identified the path your team will take to success. Sounds easy right? Not so fast!

Motivate them to lead at their level
Most employees want the chance to excel. Give them the opportunity. While they may be timid when a situation is out of their comfort zone, the learning that will occur outweighs the risk. Let team members know that in order to lead at their own level they must:

  • Maintain a bias toward action. Action will yield results. If it’s not the desired result, then take a different action.

  • Accept responsibility for the task and its completion. Support your team member’s willingness to take action, and hold them accountable for milestones and deadlines. You can delegate the responsibility for a task but you must share in the accountability.

  • Know the expectations of their supervisor and the vision of the company. Inspire your subordinates to innovate and be creative <\m> as long as innovation and free thinking are focused on (and in accordance with) the company’s vision and goals. When employees take action, have them ask, is this task getting me closer to reaching the objective? Will my plan accomplish the objective? Do my actions support the company’s goals? Is my plan in line with the company’s vision? If all of these questions are a yes, then don’t be afraid to take action.

Allowing and inspiring the members of your team to lead at their own level will supercharge productivity and build a culture of leadership that your team will thrive on. Your team members will lead at their own level because you gave them the tools they needed and you demonstrated that you have confidence in them.

Empowering team members to lead at their own level will encourage them to embrace their assignment, empower them to own the process and build a culture of leaders in your workplace. The effect of working within a culture of leaders transcends the day-to-day tasking of a job. They will far surpass your expectations through creativity, innovation and leadership.

Marty “Opus” Richard is the COO of Fighter Associates LLC. Reach him at marty.richard@fighterassociates.com.

Tuesday, 22 November 2005 10:34

Leading for innovation

If you want to be a leader, here’s a newsflash: People make mistakes. But — relax — its OK.

In fact, in a well-led organization, mistakes are usually manifest when hard-charging team members try new things, innovate and push the envelope. In those organizations, rarely are mistakes some sinister plot to squander resources.

These employees are good people, people who want to succeed, people who want to be a part of something special.

All thrust and no vector
In my early days in the Air Force as a young fighter pilot, I was described as having all thrust and no vector. Simply put, my enthusiasm was not reinforced by a commensurate level of experience or internal direction. One of my first leaders brought me into his office, sat me down and then conveyed his philosophy to me, using a football game as an analogy.

I was starting on my own 20-yard line and my goal was to score a touchdown. The sidelines of the field represented the boundaries. If I willfully went outside of the boundaries, I was committing a major violation or a crime.

However, in my quest to score a touchdown, he encouraged me to use the entire field. I could roam from side to side and make mistakes as long as I stayed on the field of play.

It was my responsibility to know where the sidelines were. He said, “There is a difference between making a mistake and a committing a crime.” I cannot tell you how many times I have visualized that playing field in my military and business careers.

The key for me as the consumer of this newfound knowledge was to understand the difference between making a mistake and committing a crime. It is a simple concept that is rarely internalized in the world of business.

Too often within an organization, the perception is that your first mistake will be your last; therefore, no one is willing to accept any level of risk and this stifles innovation.

Defining boundaries
In the military, this was simple. The regulations formed clear and unambiguous guidelines. If you broke the regulations, you were committing a crime.

In the business world, it isn’t always so easy. Here are some things you can do as a leader to help your team know where the sidelines are.

  • Define the sidelines. Clearly state, in writing, company policies that define the realm of good conduct and acceptable business practices. Utilize your employee handbook as a place to distribute and maintain your company standards for acceptable business practices.

  • Reinforce guidelines. Use formal and informal training sessions to help your team members internalize how the policies work on a day-to-day basis so there is no ambiguity.

  • Debrief mistakes. When a mistake occurs, treat it as a learning point and let the lessons permeate the organization. Encourage a nonretribution culture where mistakes are discussed openly so they will not be repeated, not just for the individual but for the team.

  • Keep a corporate diary. Keep a record of successes and failures in a continuity book so you develop a resource of collective corporate knowledge. This is best done on a job-by-job basis, so that as one person enters a job that has been vacated, the new person doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel but can try to improve on what has been done previously.

  • Deal with crimes with consistency. Any actions outside the defined boundaries must be addressed quickly, fairly and consistently. Failure to do so will become a cancer within the organization.

Go for it
If you push your team to perform to its fullest potential without fear of retribution for mistakes, your organization will discover new and innovative ways to win in business. Your clear communication and reinforcement of where the sidelines are will give you confidence that your team will achieve results without compromising ethics.

The upside is huge when your team isn’t afraid to go for it.

Marty “Opus” Richard is COO of Fighter Associates LLC. Reach him at marty.richard@fighterassociates.com.