The Leadership Equation

I’m working who I have too hard, being told I expected too much, and everything always feels like it’s a rush. Any suggestions for how I can do a better job as leader to help my people feel like they’re in control?

Thoughts of the Day: As owners we often forget all of what’s on everyone’s plates. Build a method for keeping track of projects. Find out what motivates each of the people on your team. Learn how to accurately estimate the workload.

Owners tend to focus on the things they want done. They are also often the one marshaling resources to deal with the challenges that crop up. That means they’re acutely aware of the need to move quickly from one project to the next. At the same time they may overlook, or be unaware of the additional demands on their employees’ task lists.

Build time into the schedule to bring people together. Ask each member of the team to report on what they’re working on and what’s coming up. Collectively discuss and agree on priorities and work allocation.

Avoid the temptation to overrule someone on the team if there are conflicting views regarding upcoming work assignments. Instead ask the group to discuss and agree to the order in which tasks need to be completed. Advocate for the way you see things playing out and listen carefully as others advocate for alternative views. It may take longer, but it will allow everyone an opportunity to process conflicts and get on board with the final agreements around what gets worked on in which order.

Set up rules for setting priorities, that will help everyone on the team reach a common conclusion. For example, client needs get attended to first. Employee development plans get worked on in small doses over a long period of time. Internal projects are prioritized based on potential for payoff short and long term.

Build a company wide project report and review it at least weekly. Help everyone see who is assigned to what projects, when those projects are due. Practice estimating the amount of hours likely to be committed to each project, so that each member of the team builds skill at being realistic with time commitments.

At the weekly meeting, look for projects that are stalled. Ask the group to decide if more people are needed, if the project is taking more time than originally estimated, and / or if the project would be on track if only it hadn’t gotten bumped by some other priority. Teach the group to work together to adjust and get control of the work plan.

People are more likely to put in extra time and produce top notch work if they are passionate about the projects they’re assigned to. Link employees’ work to what motivates them individually and collectively. Take time to find out what your employees are passionate about. Ask them why they work for you, and what makes them passionate about working there.

Owners are usually optimists. This usually results in chronically underestimating the time and resources needed to accomplish tasks. Especially with something new, it’s essential to allow time to deal with roadblocks, fix problems and learn from mistakes.

Try this rule of thumb when estimating the time needed to complete projects. If you’ve never attempted something similar, estimate the time needed to complete and then triple the estimate. If the team has done something similar before, double the time estimate. If the task is old hat, add 25% to the estimate to allow for unforeseen interruptions.

Build a schedule that has room in it. Avoid the temptation to overbook. Make sure that the teams under you have 20% free time, which they can apply to dealing with interruptions, fixing problems and getting ahead on the next project.

Looking for a good book? Try… Essential Manager’s Manual, by Robert Heller and Tim Hindle.