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Three Steps to Unleashing Your Team's Potential

Jul 25, 2008
Most people could perform at a much higher level than they do if their boss created a suitable environment for them to flourish in. In many instances, it's the boss who is holding the team back by trying to control it too closely.

So ask yourself, do you set unnecessary boundaries for your teams? If you have no idea, maybe you should ask them. "How am I holding you back?" you could ask.

One useful technique to adopt is a KISS strategy: use it in this discussion and you won't go far wrong.

Ask your people these four questions:
1) What should I KEEP doing?
2) What do I need to IMPROVE?
3) What should I STOP doing?
4) And what should I START doing?

What else can you do to unleash the potential in your people? It's about open conversations. I call these 'No Limits' conversations.

This is what you should do:
1) Keep your people informed with face-to-face briefings. This helps them feel useful and important. Clear and open communication is critical.

What does this mean? It means you've got to make sure you have a great team briefing mechanism in place. The Work Foundation in the UK (formerly the Industrial Society) has a useful team briefing mechanism you should consider. It's simple, powerful and effective. Visit the Work Foundation's website for details of 'Managing Best Practice No 72 Team Communication'.

2) Listen to your people and act on their objections when they have good ideas. Do it graciously and make sure folks know whose the idea was.

If, after listening to the objections, you decide not to change your plans, say why you won't change them. Try this kind of statement: "I can see that you're not happy with the process, but until we come up with a better one, I'd like to stick to this one for now. And if you have suggestions that will improve it further, do please let me know."

3) Let people decide HOW to do what you want. The toughest thing you have to do is let your people exercise as much self-direction and self-control as they can on routine things. You may need to say exactly what you want them to achieve or do, but please let them decide how to deliver it.

If your early indications are that what they're doing isn't going to hit the target, ask them whether progress is on target. If it then doesn't actually work, tell them it didn't work. Some managers assume their teams will know or find out, but this is not always the case.

Ask them what they're going to do next time. Ask what they need to do differently.

You've probably noticed that my suggestions involve talking to your people. You need to create an open environment, where everyone's ideas are welcomed and explored. And you do that by starting the conversations yourself. YOU are the one who has to change the way things work.

Your team has to know that you're interested in what they're doing, but that you're willing to let them get on with it.

Structured brainstorming techniques are needed here, not just haphazard 'shouting out' at meetings. I've got a great one I use called Nominal Group Technique but there are hundreds out there.

This 'No Limits' conversation policy is based on different assumptions about why people do the things they do. Great leaders assume that people actually want to contribute to their jobs. They know that people are 'pre-motivated to perform'. The trick is how do you get the performance out?

Secondly, great leaders know that the more people are involved in designing and managing their work, the better they will perform.

And thirdly, great leaders know that good and meaningful performance leads to job satisfaction - which creates an even higher performing team. You create a virtuous circle of performance that reinforces your leadership success and the success of your team.
About the Author
If you want the leadership success you deserve, get the leadership training you deserve. Download more free articles and leadership training videos from Steven Sonsino, an international business school professor and author of the Amazon bestseller "The Seven Failings of Really Useless Leaders"
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