One of the greatest risks to the productivity of an organization is having an individual on whom the success of that organization is dependent. Since realizing this, my business partner and I have been on a journey to replace ourselves. When we started, we were writing all the code and reviewing all the contracts. We were finding all the new work and responsible for completing it. As you might guess, it didn’t take long to recognize that the way we were operating was not sustainable. So we took a hard look at our responsibilities and have been slowly chipping away at them ever since. These days, our primary job is creating the space for a productive and healthy team so that they can create great work.
Rather than tell you about my personal struggles with productivity, I thought I’d share a few things we’ve learned over our years trying to cultivate a productive team.
Informed teams are productive teams
There are plenty of opinions out there about transparency in business. I believe there’s a tricky balance to strike with how much you share. I also believe that any sharing you do with your team needs to be supported by educational efforts so that folks know how to interpret the details you’re revealing.
With this in mind, it’s fairly clear to me that people respond really well when you are willing to consistently share, in the good and the bad times. For a team, understanding your expectations of them and the impact of their productivity on the business is incredibly motivating. When you find opportunities to connect the two, give it a shot.
Trusted teams are productive teams
One side effect of an informed team is that it increases trust. It’s a powerful feeling when someone knows that you trust them. One way that we demonstrate trust is by sharing things with them. But trusting your team also means you’re willing to let go of some things. If you’ve done your job right, when you get out of the way you’ll see the team rally to own the process. And when a team owns a process, everyone shares the responsibility for success and failure and their willingness to contribute is much greater. Conversely, when you own the process, you own the success or failure. And many times people will feel the need to get permission to contribute.
My friend Claire shared with me recently that 75% of employees feel they could be contributing more than they currently are at their place of work. So, why aren’t they? There are likely many reasons, but one of the big ones is that the folks in charge don’t trust them to.
Happy teams are productive teams
If you think back on your own life to a time when you remember being happy, it’s likely not that Hawaiian vacation or the moment you got your last raise. Our desire to be challenged is core to the human condition and most folks recall a difficult time when they’re asked this question. If we turn this thinking to our teams, finding the right amount of challenge is tricky—too much and folks are frustrated, too little and their bored. I believe striking this balance is a critical skill that our digital project managers need to develop. They are the right folks to keep tabs on the team and orchestrate the appropriate amount of challenge.
We’re also social animals. We want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. When that thing is our team, we’re happy and we’re productive. Casting a vision that your team can rally around and then using that vision as a filter for your decisions will go a long way toward creating happiness in your organization.
Rubber, meet road
It‘s easy to espouse these ideas on paper. It’s a unique challenge to put them into practice daily. No matter how young or old, how frustrated or successful you are, there is always something to learn. Hopefully these simple ideas will aid in your progression toward a more productive team.