5 Ways to Build a More Productive Team

This article originally appeared on Techpoint.org

As a leader, you’ve worked hard to hire incredible talent. Now it’s time to get out of their way as they work their magic, right? If only it were that simple. The best teams demand more than autonomy – they need a leader at the helm who can keep them laser-focused on getting a few priority projects across the finish line.

Your job is to create the kind of environment where employees feel empowered to make important decisions and progress toward individual goals, while working to achieve the long-term objectives of your organization. It’s a delicate balancing act, but when executed correctly, has led to the most innovative and profitable companies in history. With the right direction, teams become greater than the sum of their parts, and achieve results that are only possible through the power of their combined efforts.

How do you transition from a collection of star individual players to a cohesive dream team? Start by following these 5 rules:

Create clarity.

When it comes to your team, creating clear expectations and working toward a few achievable priorities makes a difference. Remember, your team doesn’t exist in a vacuum – requests from other departments, rumors of changes overheard in passing conversations, and interesting but unnecessary projects threaten to derail your team’s productivity at every turn. As Jim Collins, the author of “Good to Great” and “Built to Last,” likes to say: “If you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any.”

As a leader, it’s your job to help your team stay laser-focused on meeting their objectives, and ensure as much of their time as possible is dedicated to achieving a short list of priorities. As outside forces threaten your progress, it’s your job to keep your team centered and focused, and find creative ways to overcome obstacles that threaten your team’s ability to meet their specific objectives.

Model open communication.

A quick search on communication issues reveals that even the most prestigious teams struggle with a lack of communication and transparency. From Glassdoor to Blind (an app built specifically to allow tech employees to speak anonymously about topics from culture to compensation), it’s painfully clear that even with advances in technology built to facilitate communication, leaders are still failing when it comes to creating an environment where employees can express their thoughts freely, without fear of retaliation. A breakdown in communication quickly results in a breakdown of trust, and without the trust of your team, achieving your goals will be increasingly difficult, if not impossible.

Leaders should communicate with individuals and groups often, with the goal of understanding barriers and roadblocks to the goals you’ve set for them. From an overwhelming workload to concerns about diversity and inclusion, honest conversations serve to build trust, and alleviate pain points that may be standing in the way of achieving your goals. Open communication starts with a deeper understanding of individual priorities. By understanding the values, preferences, and personal goals your employees have, you can ask better questions and get to the root of potential problems quickly. The faster you can open the lines of communication, the better chance you’ll have keeping employees motivated and engaged long-term.

Engineer interactions.

The best leaders don’t just hope collaboration happens – they engineer it. From optimizing seating arrangements, to eliminating unnecessary meetings, to implementing productivity tools, leaders are in charge of orchestrating productivity by designing an environment and culture where employees can do their best work. It’s not necessarily about putting more processes in place to force interactions, it’s about creating the right opportunities and implementing the right technology to connect the right people at the right time.

Many teams use technology to make recommendations to connect people with mentors or collaborators based on data points like skills, department, or shared interests. Some leaders even make cross-functional team interactions possible through free coffee or lunch incentives to spur interaction between departments or locations.  As Structural CEO Scott Burns suggests, “Be intentional about how you create ways for people to collide and find each other with informal interactions. You’ll find that when people have access to connect with people outside of their core group of colleagues that they’re more creative, engaged, and inspired than they would be if they didn’t have those opportunities.”

Allocate time wisely.

People have limits – research suggests for most people, working more than 50 hours per week not only hurts productivity, but increases employee turnover and absenteeism. Your goals should never be to have your team work more hours, but rather, do everything you can to ensure employees can be productive during the hours slated for work. That includes setting clear expectations, communicating realistic due dates, and following the 70/20/10 rule when possible (70% of time dedicated to core tasks, 20% to core-related tasks, and 10% dedicated to non-core tasks).

With clear guidance for working hours and time allocation, employees can have more time to recharge, de-stress, and come to work with more energy and inspiration to devote to their top priorities.

Set goals that contribute to the big picture.

While SMART goals served us well for a time, the handy acronym leaves out a major consideration when it comes to organizational strategy: how does my work contribute to the overall success of the team, or the company? Instead of another year of SMART goals, consider helping your team build a new goal framework: the V2MOM. Created by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, V2MOM is a framework designed to align team goals with organizational objectives by outlining vision, values, methods, obstacles, and measures.

By aligning the priorities of your team with the priorities of the company, you’ll create a North Star that can help employees navigate challenges and prioritize work with a sense of purpose and direction throughout the year. “Having a clarified direction and focusing collective energy on the desired outcome eliminate the anxiety that is often present in times of change,” writes Benioff. If the V2MOM played even a small role in Salesforce’s success, it might just help take your team’s productivity to the next level.

Hiring great talent is only the beginning. As a leader, you’re responsible for making sure your team has the support and structure it needs to achieve its goals. This is no easy task, but with the right resources, we believe we can upset the status quo when it comes to productivity, and create truly extraordinary results for more people.

Structural creates products powered by people data that reimagine the way modern teams work together. To learn more, visit www.Structural.com.

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