If you treat your team like kids, they’ll behave accordingly and you’ll have to spend half of your time handling them and making decisions for them. Your team will quickly turn into non-thinkers and non-doers, and will ultimately cost you a great deal of time and effort while doing very little.
What you need are employees who can manage themselves, and such individuals only thrive in working environments where they are given trust, responsibility and autonomy.
One defining characteristic of a good environment is directness in communication. Avoid abstractions and long-winded, high-level explanations. Get real, and show your team exactly what you mean. Don’t sit in meeting rooms discussing problems but go to the problem sites themselves to get a grip on what’s wrong.
Criticism should be equally honest. If your team is too large and unfamiliar with each other, you will find that the discussion does not flow freely. You need frank, honest communication within your team so that bad ideas are criticized when they should be.
Lastly, there are several terms that you should avoid when talking within your team. Consider a situation where you’re faced with a seemingly impossible task, and somebody scornfully tells you, “We can’t survive without this; it should be easy for you to do it.” It doesn’t leave much room for discussion, does it?Abrasive, value-laden words like need, must, only and can’t imply judgment about the realities of someone’s situation and can rapidly obliterate any hope of a fruitful discussion.
Also, stop using the word “ASAP” entirely when asking someone for something. It suffers from inflation and merely makes other, non-ASAP requests seem less urgent.
Create an environment where people manage themselves and communicate with each other honestly.
As a small company, one of the key advantages you have over your larger competitors is your ability to make quick decisions without getting bogged down in bureaucracy. Start saying, “Let’s make a decision,” instead of, “Let’s think about it.” Don’t look for a perfect solution; get to good enough quickly and keep moving.
Don’t over-analyze or exaggerate. Unless you’ve got a crystal ball, anyway, estimating and planning are basically guesswork. If you begin to believe that your plans are right, and blindly pursue them, you lose the ability to improvise, which is dangerous.
Instead, just wing it. Don’t make decisions far in advance but rather on the spot. Think about things that affect you this week, not next year. Small, reversible decisions that work for the time-being are much easier to make than big, life-changing ones where you have to worry about long-term consequences.
Similarly, don’t make wide-ranging estimates like, “This one-year project will cost us about $1 million.” If you want to have any semblance of accuracy, chop your estimates into more manageable bits, like weeks rather than years. The impact of being wrong will also be far smaller this way.
Finally, when you’re trying to make a decision, don’t be daunted by what might go wrong. There are always possible downsides to any decision but you can always deal with them when they actually happen. (Most never will.)
Don’t over-plan – stay agile with quick and flexible decisions.
Most people are equating efficiency to long hours of work, when the reverse is true. The best employees have busy lives outside the workplace so they work hard to get off at five. Workaholics who remain late can even damage an organization’s overall productivity by making non-workaholics feel guilty and less motivated.
The way to maintain high productivity at work starts by stripping away interruptions that break people’s concentration. Ensure your team has some designated time during the day or week when there are no interruptions.
Of course the worst type of interruption is a meeting. In fact, a one-hour meeting of ten people will cost a minimum of ten hours of aggregated working time. This may be justified in some unusual situations, but meetings also lack priorities, agendas and some connection to the actual job. In short, they ‘re just producing talk, not action.
Another enemy of productivity is perfectionism. Getting bogged down in complex problems and trying to devise perfect solutions for them can consume weeks’ worth of effort, when in fact a quick fix would often be fine. To really be productive, go for solutions where you achieve the maximum effectiveness with minimal effort. “Good enough” is often better than “perfect.”
Choping large projects and tasks into small chunks and to-do lists is one way to encourage this non-perfectionism. Not only does this make complicated projects more manageable, but also offers more opportunities to rejoice along the way as small achievements are reached. These short wins help keep the momentum and inspiration going.
Productivity doesn’t follow from long hours, but rather from focused work and quick wins. Some companies are addicted to hiring people. They find someone great and decide to hire her, even without a specific job or title in mind. This is where trouble starts.
When you hire someone, it should only be to solve an acute problem that is causing your company immense pain. Keeping your team lean for as long as possible will force you to adopt time-saving practices and an efficiency ethos, whereas hiring unnecessary people, no matter how great they are, will just lead to frustration and the creation of unimportant, artificial work to keep them busy.
You might be concerned about losing out on “once-in-a-lifetime” hires, which if your recruiting pool is small, may be a valid concern. But if you’re willing to recruit staff from all over the world, you’ll be able to still find more great workers. These days virtually everyone can work online, so the employees’ geographical position is practically irrelevant.
When you do end up hiring someone, ignore the established recruitment doctrine of analyzing resumes, grade point averages and years of experience. Instead, trust your instincts and concentrate on what they have actually learned to do thanks to their past experience.
Finally, test-drive your employees. No amount of interviewing will show you how a person will actually perform on the job, but giving them a mini-project to work on will let you judge them by their actions, rather than their words. BMW even went as far as to build a fake assembly line where recruiters could watch prospective employees in action. To better facilitate this on-the-job testing, always hire people to do jobs that you yourself have done at some point or another. This will also help you to manage them later on.
Hire people only when absolutely necessary, and forget about resumes – trust your instincts.
Starting and running a company is far easier today than ever before. To build a successful business, you must inject your own uniqueness into your product and embrace the benefits of being small. Build a great working environment by emphasizing trust, independence and focus.
Check out my related post: Can you be one of the Originals?