I have often been asked to share some common situations new team leads face and that come up in my coaching practice. Here are a few that I hope to be instructive but not definitely not comprehensive. (It's an excerpt from my talk at 'Software Team Meet up'. There are many wonderful and much longer guides to being an effective first-time manager; my favourite book on the topic is ‘First Break All the Rules”.
In my humble opinion, the primary purpose of your role as manager is to keep your people engaged, productive and growing. Here are the ways I think that can be done effectively:
Ensure your folks are challenged, engaged and highly productive
It’s an opportunity for mutual feedback
Creates deeper and clearer mutual understanding of motivation
No surprises at formal checkpoints (performance reviews)
It’s investing time for them and you
Keep regular and consistent meeting times and agenda - it’s an important indicator of your commitment to them
Agenda - powerful questions:
• How do you think you are doing?
• How do I think you are doing?*
• How will you know? what information do you need? then what/what’s next?
• How is the team doing?
• What was the highlight of your week?
• What could have gone better?
• Is there anything blocking you, or that you need from me?
• How am I doing?
• How are you doing?
• Is there anything else I haven’t asked about that I should have
For more depth behind this model check out Fred Kaufman’s “Conscious Business” model for Communication: Listening, Ask Questions, Validating, Summarize, Express, Negotiate, Commit(ments)
Setting stretch goals to achieve your organizations Objectives & Key Results
A good number is 3-5 goals at any one time. Structure your direct reports’ goals so that they support your goals, which in turn support your company’s goals. The best goals are a balance of personal development/learning and outcome-based goals that line up to your team's Vision and Organizations’ Vision/Goals.
These goals must be within your and your staff’s control. It’s a collaborative process where you provide the context and you want to give them lots of room to define how they plan to accomplish them. Goals are best when they are specific, reasonable and have a timeline associated with them.
Examples of personal development goals you might pick are: improve my Python coding skills so that I get faster and better and the number of bugs in my code are significantly reduced, find 5 creative ways to acquire customers that result in x more customers over y period of time etc.
Most successful folks focus on breaking down large goals into mini-goals or milestones both because it's easier to manage and because it feels good to see your progress over time.
There are a great many resources around goal setting
• Chapter 2 of Becoming the Evidence-Based Manager
How to course correct poor performers
When people are experiencing a performance struggle e.g. they are not meeting your expectations or missing clear goals/deadlines, here's what I recommend:
• 1:1 verbal discussion (you and the employee) about issue, and
• use this guide:
Put them at ease
Ask permission to give feedback
Choose a suitable moment
Provide feedback in private
Be specific and observable
• Stick to observable facts
• Avoid judgment, opinions and comments
• Avoid absolutes (e.g., never, always, constantly)
Explain the impact
•Describe specifically how the behavior promotes or hinders desired results
Work together on next steps
• Confirm - you may not have the whole story
•Understand– simple confusion is common
•Help -involve other person in identifying options
If issue issues persists please continue to Step 2
Step 2) Involve HR and/or create a Performance Improvement Plan
By this point the person is no longer surprised by the issue. In my experience people generally choose to either try and improve or acknowledge this isn’t a good fit for them and negotiate a departure.
Step 3) A performance plan sets clear expectations of items needing resolving/repairing and the ultimatum clear-- with a hard date set. For example: 30 days to do X and Y, if not met, then termination. Signature or some other form of clear accountability on part of employee
Step 4) Success — a new skills is built and level of achievement is possible or negotiate their termination - transition to leaving e.g. will they have time to wrap up, do you want them to go, what will fair compensation be (consider how you would want to be treated in the same situation).
Know that many folks in this same situation have turned things around and are now highly successful as a result of this practice. Sometimes the sting of direct feedback is what we need to find focus and performance.
Delegating to continuously build your next team leads
The main principle behind this approach requires that you allow for failure. It will feel incredibly difficult to let go - to feel the sting of watching someone on your team potentially fail. It’s probably among the hardest things to do. This is a four step approach:
Phase 1: requires that you offer support and guidance
Phase 2: tactical instruction, describing the how and why
Phase 3: support and guidance, encouraging and championing their success thus far and course correcting
Phase 4: let them go - celebrate success
A word or few, on adding new team members
1 - hold a 1:1 meeting and cover the following:
a - share the vision of the team,
b- relevant history of your team in the context of your organization
c- discuss a preliminary set of SMART goals for the person e.g., get up to speed on, focus on, etc.
d- set frequency for check-ins on progress and time to get to know each other e.g., weekly or bi-weekly and time of day
2 - Have a fun (whatever fun means for you) team type session to welcome them. in that session you can share with each other this:
a - strengths and what that means to each person e.g., i'm an activator and in this job that = ...
b - learning e.g., I can contribute this great stuff/skills/experience to team and would really like to learn x, y, or z (you could also add dislikes e.g., i hate filing but will do it in a pinch)
c - logistics/style e.g., never call me before 10am cause i'm a late riser; I like direct and timely feedback
Please ask me to provide more insights for you in whatever situation you may find yourself. email me :)