MT Expert - People: Lead a more productive team

In a week when leadership is making the headlines, what qualities should a manager possess if they are to lead their team to victory?

by Phil Olley
Last Updated: 15 Jul 2011
With Rebekah Brook's resignation still warm from the printer, the do's and don'ts of leadership are a hot topic of conversation. Yet what does it take to be a good leader? Strong leadership is critical in times of change and challenge, at companies of all shapes and sizes. There is a tendency for 'leadership' to be viewed as a big company issue. Yet, peak performance as a smaller team is the key to thriving in the new business environment where resources are more limited, presenting both a challenge and an opportunity for the smaller business. As the business-owner, working with a smaller team, you need to create and lead a world class squad, to help you thrive, personally and professionally.

So, with so many distractions how can you maximise productivity?

1. Leadership starts with exemplary self-leadership. They will follow you, if you are follow-able. Are you running the business, or is the business running you? Are you high spirited, with the right attitude, have focus, and use your time effectively? Demonstrate the traits you want to see in your team.

2. In challenging times, vision and values are key. In military terms, small guerrilla forces need a shared cause and ideology. And so too in business. It’s a jungle out there, so if you want your team to go the extra mile, they need to be compelled by, excited by, and ready to fight for the cause.

3. Individually, collectively, and as a business you need to be playing to your strengths. This is no time to be leaking your resources. Your people, and your business, must be low-maintenance and attractive to deal with. Your suppliers, customers, allies don’t want to be leaking their energy either. Stay focused.

4. Classic time drains must be stopped. Identify those activities that distract from productivity and set ground-rules around them. Get your team to identify their time drains and set ground-rules with them. For example, understand the difference between social networking and social notworking. Switch off tweetdeck / twitter, unless being used productively. Similarly, only check emails at set time-slots during the day. I recommend as few as three email check-slots per day. And at the end of the day/ week, clear your inbox to zero. Generating strong habits in this area will pay dividends in terms of time and productivity.

5. Use the phone. Yep, sometimes a quick phone call can be more effective (in making arrangements for meetings, for example) than a protracted game of email / text tennis. But keep the calls short and sharp. Put an egg timer by the phone on your desk, and keep the calls to three minutes.

6. Overcome the procrastination pandemic. Set proper deadlines, and get active. When you delegate to your team, make sure they are clear about timeline and give them the tools to do the job.

7. Incorporate drum-top briefings: rather like a military general briefing his commanders before the action starts, begin the day with a short, sharp, upbeat briefing, where you can lay out the landscape of the day, ask what individuals are focused on, and get the day off to a strong start, rather than just limping into action in the normal way. This needs only to be three minutes, should be conducted standing up, with a flipchart, and a buzz about the place. Similarly finish the week with an upbeat review, and a look forward to what’s on next week’s agenda.

8. Ensure your people each have a daily action plan, written down, with three key action goals identified for the day.  

9. Make sure you, and your people, take the right amount of time off, and that you and they know the difference between being a result-aholic and a work-aholic.

10. Understand motivation… or 'motive-action'. People do not just want the money, and in stringent times as a small business you need to look for other ways to keep them motivated and loyal too. Apply the F-A-M-E principle: people will perform well when it’s Fun, they get Appreciation, for Material reward, and in a great Environment. Show your appreciation, create a clutter-free environment, and have fun to generate business zest.


Phil Olley is a former naval officer and is a specialist in professional and personal focus, peak performance and business breakthroughs.


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