This post is a continuation of The Elements of Leadership series.
Knowing your team is critical if you are to lead them, but knowing what you want them to do is just as paramount.
Your job as the leader of your team is to effectively communicate your vision for the organization and to initiate and finalize standard operating procedures. With these two pieces in place, your team will know the direction you want the organization to go and they’ll know how to react without you being there.
Communicate Your Vision
Where is your organization going? Who does what jobs? What does success and failure look like?
These are hard questions that only you can determine. If you want your organization to make $100,000 dollars this quarter, make that goal public. Talk about it with your team. Explain why it’s important to the organization that you do so. No one should be left in the dark about it, and everyone should know how their job helps advance that goal.
Perhaps you’re not in the business of making money, but rather you’re in the business of educating people. Define the standards you consider relevant to education and some threshold for people to aspire to. Talk to your teachers to see how they think they can help achieve that goal. Every employee who shows up to work should know how her/his job relates to that goal.
If you can’t immediately articulate in one sentence at least three short-term goals for your organization, stop the train now and figure them out. Rate them by importance in case your organization comes into the situation that not all goals can be achieved at the same time. If you, as their leader, can’t do it, your organization won’t be able to do it.
I’ve worked in places where I had no idea what the goals of the organization actually were. It’s not that they didn’t have any, but that the goals where so convoluted and inconsistent that when it came time to make decisions, I didn’t know what I should do. The only resolve was to ask someone, who asked someone else, who asked someone else, until someone finally decided what to do.
Don’t do this to your team. People naturally want to succeed — your job is to let them know what success looks like. (Tweet this)
Develop Standard Operating Procedures
Every organization should have standard operating procedures. These procedures document the standard actions to be taken in certain situations.
I was in a sports store yesterday and their credit card server had crashed. Despite the fact that it took forever to process my order, I was impressed with the store’s response. They doubled up cashiers at registers and one cashier prepared the order to be handwritten and the other did the writing. It was clear that they done this before and had developed an efficient system.
I’ve been in other stores where this has happened and they closed down their registers. The store managers and employees had no idea what to do, and rather than continue to get sales, they turned customers away or asked them to shop for an additional twenty or thirty minutes (yeah right!).
The difference in the two stores was the leadership of the managers. The managers of the first store anticipated this problem and developed a system in case that problem happened. The employees of the store didn’t have to try to figure it out on their own — they grabbed their credit card slips and kept going.
The real value of standard operating procedures comes in the training and integration of new people. Rather than having to learn everything the hard way, new team members can pick up the document and see basically how the organization runs.
It’s important to keep in mind that you personally don’t have to write the standard operating procedures. In fact, you shouldn’t. Harness the intelligence and experience of those people who have actually been doing the job and let/make them do it. Review the standard operating procedures and either get them corrected or approve them.
Clearly communicating your vision and developing standard operating procedures allows your organization to run without you getting in the way of normal operations. Your team knows what you want them to do (since you’ve shared your vision), and they know how to do them (since you’ve developed the organizations standard operating procedures). This frees you up to lead, guide, mentor, and decide — which is what you should be doing.
The next installment in this series is on guiding your organization and using your team’s time wisely.