The Denver Post

Improving productivi­ty and creating a healthy work environmen­t

- 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 TheWinsorG­

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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