How do you sustain momentum as a team leader in practice? This is the exact question that I launched a few weeks ago on LinkedIn Q&A (*). What I received was excellent advice from hands-on people all over the world. Below you will find a summary of the responses clustered, distilled and filtered with a little help of good old management theory.
When scanning the answers of this non-scientific survey it occurred to me that the broad categories as summarized in Fayol’s Famous Five still apply when it comes to this century’s practice:
- plan (and look ahead),
- control (feedback and inspect)
Plan (Look ahead)
- Make sure that the work is planned with clear deliverables and dates.
- If the leader allows people to get lost in the trees and lose that forest view it’s hard to keep momentum up.
- Is the route to the goal broken down into time periods of 5 days or less (with defined deliverables) and phases of 30 days or less (all working days)?
- Does everyone know what is expected of them?
- Is success clearly defined?
- Goal setting for your team, for yourself.
- Set the expectation that the goals set should be achieved to a reasonable level, including your own goals.
- Make the goals and the steps to reach them crystal clear. Best when they are 1) understood 2) agreed to by all 3) attainable.
- Be thoughtful but allow no “analysis paralysis.”
- Post the schedule and chart progress. Team member names optional. Peer pressure works.
- Before one can sustain momentum one must first build the best team possible and get them moving. A weak team member will undermine the progress, cause resentment, and may even sow discontent. Another contributor stated it even stronger by saying: “Separate out those who won’t from those who can’t – and get rid of the former while helping the latter.”
- If there is large list of tasks, be sure to set priority to the most urgent tasks, let them some freedom to decide the others.
- Be a Buffer. Protect team members from organizational poachers who want to pick off your team members for other projects.
- Make sure that the team has the right mix of skills. Look out for personality issues.
- The single most important thing to sustaining momentum is to make decisions.
- As the “leader” you must, well lead. As one of the contributors stated: ‘It’s all about greasing the path forward!’. He continued: ‘With a good tight team behind you making sure that they are dealing with the lose twines a leader leaves in his or her ‘wake’ you can concentrate on pushing forward.’
- Be decisive but not dictatorial.
- Get the work done – and have fun: the two are not mutually exclusive!
- Be a buffer between the team and “management speak”
- Be their advocate to the outside world
- When unanticipated problems occur, engage the team to find the solution. They advise, you decide.
- Give them a mission, allow them to manage the path to it giving guidance/support where required.
- Every person is different in a team and needs a personal approach, some people need to be chased, some don’t.
- Deal with problems when they are small don’t wait till they become monsters
- Listen to your stakeholders and your team and trust your own judgment.
- When an individual is ahead of schedule, send them home.
- Trust the team to deliver
- Everyone on the team must participate in the planning and agree on the results.
- Individuals perform the best when they can connect all the dots between their activities and the overall impact of performing them.
- Don’t waste the teams time and energy with non-productive meetings.
- Laud the small stuff. Small steps are better than big ones by far, so when your team makes small measurable headway, shout it from the rooftops, make your team know that their small efforts are recognized as well as the large ones.
- Accolades focused on the fire fighters can start to slow the momentum of the balance of the team trying to be planful and execute.
- A dashboard of some kind so that the team can see progress, speed, warnings, etc.
- Frequent team touch-points (notice I did not say “meetings”)
- Celebrate milestones reached
Control (Feedback and Inspect)
- Open communication between your team and yourself goes a long way. As one contributor put it: “I can’t understand the secretive manager! He or she fails every time, but I can say I’ve seen them in almost every organization I’ve been in.”
- Manage UP and DOWN- it’s a real demoralizer to your team to not know what’s happening above.
- Be open about performance – including your own. We all have good days and others!
- Communicate in a clear fashion.(what you expect, when, how)
- Establish checkpoint milestones for all major tasks every 2 weeks. Gather status every week.
- Never let a week go by without some one on one time with your team. Depending on your schedule you should have one on ones to air out the issues with your team. It’s a two way forum, don’t make it about just your wants and needs.
- I would give a big tip…DO NOT USE TRICKS, period. [Note: the original question stated: ‘looking for tips and tricks’]
- Never lie to the team.
- What works is […] subordinating opinions to facts and figures, experimentation without fear of failure
- Just be yourself mate that is enough to motivate a team 😉
- Specifically be with your team in person frequently communicate