Im­prov­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity and cre­at­ing a healthy work en­vi­ron­ment

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Kath­leen Win­sor-Games — Kath­leen Win­sor-Games is the prin­ci­pal of The Win­sor Group, a Den­ver-based firm of­fer­ing lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment, team build­ing and ca­reer coach­ing. See her blog at TheWin­

Con­grat­u­la­tions on your new job. You in­her­ited a team of di­rect re­ports and one of your pri­or­i­ties is to im­prove per­for­mance. Where to be­gin?

Be­fore is­su­ing or­ders to your new team, it is im­por­tant to learn the lay of the land, both ex­ter­nally and in­ter­nally. This in­cludes learn­ing about com­pany prod­ucts, his­tory, com­pet­i­tive stand­ing in the market, cus­tomer base and so on. You will need to eval­u­ate your team and the fit of each in­di­vid­ual for his or her role. Be­fore you can im­prove on pro­duc­tiv­ity and per­for­mance, though, there are some im­por­tant steps to take. Be­gin with trust

Start with the hard­est part first, which is build­ing trust. Un­less you cre­ate a safe en­vi­ron­ment and build re­la­tion­ships based on in­tegrity and trust, any changes made will be un­sus­tain­able. Trust is pos­si­ble when you are trans­par­ent, con­sis­tent in your mood and com­mu­ni­ca­tion style and fair to all team mem­bers.

If you have ever worked in an en­vi­ron­ment where yelling at em­ploy­ees was the norm, or fear and in­tim­i­da­tion was con­sid­ered a man­age­ment style, you can ap­pre­ci­ate the sig­nif­i­cance of build­ing trust. Teams that op­er­ate with­out trust suf­fer from a lack of cre­ativ­ity and poor em­ployee en­gage­ment. The re­sult is poor work and the ex­o­dus of the most tal­ented team mem­bers.

De­cide what to mea­sure

It is dif­fi­cult to show im­prove­ment with­out mea­sur­ing the cur­rent state and set­ting goals to gauge progress. Were you charged with de­creas­ing turnover in your de­part­ment? Is it your job to in­crease qual­i­fied leads for a spe­cific prod­uct? Can you trim the num­ber of la­bor hours spent on re­search and still pro­duce qual­ity data for man­age­ment? Be­fore you im­ple­ment any key per­for­mance met­rics, make sure you and your boss are aligned on the pri­or­i­ties and im­prove­ments that will cre­ate the big­gest gains.

Es­tab­lish norms

Your team needs to know how their ob­jec­tives align with com­pany goals. Your job is to com­mu­ni­cate roles, goals and time­lines, while al­low­ing the right level of au­ton­omy to ac­com­plish tasks. How do you want updates re­ported? What re­sources do team­mem­bers re­quire? What ob­sta­cles can you re­move? Es­tab­lish fair and sim­ple ac­count­abil­ity stan­dards, so team mem­bers can real­is­ti­cally meet and re­port on goals.

Pro­vide timely feed­back

Don’t wait for re­views only to sur­prise your di­rect re­ports with feed­back from mis­takes made months ago. Keep any crit­i­cism fac­tual. Al­low for di­a­logue about what went wrong and why. Paint a clear picture of what con­sti­tutes im­prove­ment. Praise good work pub­licly and cel­e­brate wins as a team. Iden­tify team strengths and align as­sign­ments wher­ever pos­si­ble to pair up team mem­bers with com­ple­men­tary strengths. Re­view and re­vise

When a project is com­pleted, or it’s time to re­view quar­ter-end or year-end per­for­mance, set up a de­brief ses­sion. Keep it sim­ple and short. What went well? What were our big­gest wins as a team? Where did break­downs oc­cur? How can we im­prove to­gether? So­licit and lis­ten to ideas.

Make it a pri­or­ity to set an ex­am­ple with hon­esty, in­tegrity, clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion and re­spect for all team mem­bers. In­vest­ing in build­ing trust and map­ping ex­pec­ta­tions will help you at­tain the mea­sur­able im­prove­ments man­age­ment seeks.

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