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What “doing a good job” really means as a Leader?
Unpacking the meaning of effectiveness.
Every week, my team consistently gets all our work done and introduces something new. Does this mean we're doing a good job? Have you ever thought about what “doing a good job” really means as a leader?
The truth is, whether a team is doing well or not depends on how you, as a leader, define what “doing well” is.
Let's be clear about two important words: efficiency and effectiveness.
We often talk about them, and they have to do with getting things done, but they mean slightly different things. Efficiency is about doing things quickly, while effectiveness is about doing the right things and getting the best outcome, not just doing things fast.
So, what makes an effective engineering team?
First, it's essential to realize that there isn't a single, one-size-fits-all definition for team effectiveness. Teams are unique, so it's crucial to pay attention to the signs that work best for your team. You can come across various models that can help you figure out how your team operates and how well it's doing. Today, I'd like to introduce one of these models - the Lencioni model, also known as the “Five Dysfunctions of a Team".
This model helps teams tackle common problems that can make them less effective. It's like fixing parts of a car to make it run smoothly. The model lists five main issues/dysfunctions, and dealing with each one can make a team work better.
Here are these problems and how to solve them:
Absence of Trust: This is when team members don't genuinely believe in each other. They may hesitate to share their innovative ideas or admit mistakes because they lack trust in their coworkers.
Example: Consider a team developing a new app. Without trust, team members may hesitate to share their creative ideas. To tackle this issue, team-building exercises, discussions about individual strengths and weaknesses (e.g., using CliftonStrengths Team Activities), and sharing personal experiences can help build trust.
Fear of Conflict: When there's trust in a team, people can have healthy arguments. It's like when friends can argue without being mad at each other. But when they're afraid of arguing, they don't talk about their differences, and that's not good for making decisions.
Example: Consider a team where team members are afraid to debate the best marketing strategy for their product launch because they're worried about offending their colleagues. To improve this situation, leaders can encourage open discussions, establish rules for healthy debates and feedbacks, and emphasize the value of diverse perspectives in making important decisions.
Lack of Commitment: Team members may not fully commit to decisions and plans because they didn't have the opportunity to express their opinions and concerns during the decision-making process.
Example: In a tech company, team members might have trouble agreeing on the development timeline for a new product, causing delays. To address this challenge, teams should ensure that everyone has a chance to voice their opinions and express concerns. Decisions need to be made through a clear well define process and communicated effectively.
Avoidance of Accountability: If team members can't commit to decisions, it becomes challenging to hold them accountable for their responsibilities. This can result in missed goals and a lack of ownership.
Example: A team working on a new software project, if one team member consistently falls short of their tasks, it can negatively impact the entire project. To address this issue, the leaders should establish clear expectations, regularly monitor progress, and ensure individuals are held accountable for their roles.
Inattention to Results: the main goal is achieving success. If team members prioritize their individual interests over the startup's success, it can hinder the overall progress.
Example: Imagine a team developing a new e-commerce platform. If one team member focuses solely on their part of the project and not the project's overall success, it might lead to problems. To address this, leaders should align team goals with the organization's objectives and create a culture where the team celebrates collective achievements.
While models like these may sometimes appear theoretical and not entirely reflective of real-life challenges, they consistently offer valuable inspiration and a framework for improving team dynamics.
To make the Lencioni Model work well, I suggest that teams should focus on solving each problem separately. These issues are related, and fixing one can help with the others. Regular communication, team-building activities, and creating a culture of trust, responsibility, and shared success are important for making the team better when using this model.
Now that we have a good starting point for improving team dynamics, I'd like to share something that can further enhance leaders' personal development.
Many of the most effective leaders follow specific practices in their way of working (effectiveness can be learned), and I'd like to share some of these from a book I highly recommend to everyone:
5 Habits for Becoming an Effective Executive.
The book is called The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker, may not be a recent publication, but my first coach recommended it to me, and it truly helped me focus on what matters most.
Drucker identifies 5 essential practices to be effective in business:
Record: see where your time is spent.
Manage: reduce things that waste your time. For example, with the many meetings on your schedule, could someone else handle some of them for you?
Consolidate combine your free time into longer blocks. Why not work from home for a day each week and schedule dedicated focus time on your calendar?
Choosing what to contribute to the organization
Communication: Effective leaders ask their team members what they should be responsible for and expect from them. This makes communication easier because the team member knows what's expected of them.
Teamwork: Focusing on what each person contributes helps people work together well. They work together because it makes sense for the task, not just because they're told to.
Self-development: Where can I contribute the most, and what skills, standards should I set for myself, and which strengths should I use?
Development of others: Leaders who focus on contributions inspire others to grow. They set high standards, encourage ambitious goals, and expect great work.
Knowing where and how to mobilize strength for the best effect
As a leader you need to focus on your strengths and the strengths of your team. Don't dwell on weaknesses. When building your team, choose people who are great at what they do. Don't hire well-rounded people just for the sake of it. Always look for what they can do exceptionally well. Overall, it's strengths that matter most in making your organization thrive.
Focus on areas where top performance leads to valuable outcomes.
Learn to understand what your manager needs. Most people are either readers or listeners. Talking to a reader is usually not helpful; they only pay attention after they've read. Similarly, giving a lengthy report to a listener isn't effective; they understand better when you speak.
Some individuals prefer concise reports, while others want all the details. Figure out which type of person your manager is.
Setting the right priorities
Ask yourself, "If we weren't already doing this, would we decide to start it today?". You should always question if it's still a good idea to keep doing something. If it's not, it's time to stop so you can focus on the few things that really make a big difference in your work or your organization's success.
And, before you take on something new, make sure you get rid of something old.
Knitting all of them together with effective decision-making
Effective leaders make crucial decisions, focusing on a deep understanding and the bigger picture. When deciding, they follow these five elements:
Recognize common situations from exceptions.
Set clear decision goals.
Prioritize what's right over what's just okay.
Put the decision into action.
Incorporate feedback in the process.
In the domain of making effective choices, decisions are about options, not just right versus wrong. Start with opinions, not just facts, and value diverse viewpoints. Determine what to measure, seek input before deciding, and don't hesitate to explore different perspectives (disagreement stimulates the imagination).
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See you next week! Best, Alex Di Mango
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