The Denver Post
Improving productivity and creating a healthy work environment
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.
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.