As a leader, sometimes you have to step back from the day-to-day grind and evaluate how you can help your team to be more effective. Most teams in business are hungry for leadership and accountability. Your people may not know it, but they want and need you to challenge them to think more clearly and perform more effectively. In my work with clients inside and outside the construction industry, I have identified some steps that help business leaders set priorities, focus their energy, and provide the leadership their teams want. Here they are:
- Sketch out an organizational chart for your company. At the top of that chart, write down the overarching goal or purpose of your team, however you may define it. You might define your company's purpose, for example, as profitably solving construction problems.
- Draw the standard boxes that make up every organizational chart. However, don't write in people's names. Just write in the titles of each role and then ask yourself how each role contributes to achieving your company's purpose. What are the key results for each role? Do these line up well with the company's purpose? Would shifting the priorities of one or more of these roles help your company achieve more?
- Write in the names of your team members. Now, fill in the boxes of the chart with people's names (if a person plays more than one role, you can write their name in multiple times). How comfortable do you feel writing in each person's name? What are the gaps between how each job should be performed and how the person currently in the role is performing?
After going through the exercise above, you may have to reset the priorities for certain positions in your company. Let's say that your company's overall purpose emphasizes the importance of running profitable jobs. Right now, however, poor management of the change order process is killing your profitability. You need to change the goals of your Project Managers to reemphasize the importance of managing and documenting change orders. Get your Project Managers engaged in this conversation, work with them to reset their goals, and then schedule regular meetings with them to make sure they are managing things more effectively.
You are also going to find that this exercise ends up being a Gap Analysis for the performance of each person on your team. When you write in the names of your team into this organizational chart, you will have:
- A-players whose names are easy to write into your chart. They are achieving great results in their current role. If you needed to, you could put them in a new role and they would be just as successful.
- B-players who have the potential to be A-players but they need coaching.
- Borderline B to C players. They work hard but their skills don't match up well with their current role.
- C-players and below. You don't feel comfortable writing them into any box on your organizational chart, including the job they currently hold.
With this perspective on your company in hand, here is some advice on how to proceed.
Spend time with your A-players first. Most leaders and managers focus their time on trying to "fix" people. Don't do that. Instead, figure out the most important goals for your company and then invest your time with your best people to achieve them. If you want to see an immediate, measurable increase in results from your leadership, spend more time with your A-players.
Provide your B-players with a game plan and coaching to become A-players. Help talented but inexperienced employees set goals. Assign them to work with an A-player mentor within your company that can help them to get better, faster. Set a regular meeting time (weekly or bi-weekly) with your B-players to encourage them, measure their progress, and hold them accountable for improving.
Turn borderline performers into solid performers by reducing their role. If you have employees with strong work ethic and motivation but weak skills, reduce their responsibilities to fit their skills. Get them more focused on the areas where they are effective and stop trying to "fix" them. Ultimately everyone will be happier with this arrangement.
Finally, put a plan in place to replace C-players. Most leaders tolerate poor performance and poor performers because they don't have anyone to take their place. Particularly in a tough economy, there is no reason not to have your talent pipeline full. In my upcoming book How to Hire A-Players, I describe companies that I work with that consistently create A-player teams.
All of these companies know their "A-Player Profile." They create an A-player mindset throughout their organizations and get everyone engaged in finding great people. Finally, the executives at these companies interview people all the time. If you do the same, you will be able to upgrade the talent level in your organization.
If you want better results out of your team, you as the leader must be clear and focused on the results you want. Then, you have to strategically invest your time - starting with your A-players - to get more out of your team. If your team is like most, you can get more out of your A-players right away by giving them the time, attention, and resources they need. You can develop talent on your team by teaming them up with your best people. Finally, you can make long-term improvements to your team results by finding more A-players to take the place of chronic poor performers. These steps are not complicated, but they are not easy either. However, if you are committed to improving results, they are the right steps to take.
Eric Herrenkohl is the author of the upcoming book How to Hire A-Players: Finding the Top People for Your Team - Even if You Don't Have a Recruiting Department, published by Wiley and in bookstores everywhere April 12, 2010. He is also President of Herrenkohl Consulting, a firm devoted to helping business owners create the organizations they need to build the businesses they want. Contact Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org.