Optimizing Your Team: Do You Have the Right People in the Right Roles?
As much as talent counts, effort counts twice. - Angela Duckworth
I know I’m preaching to the choir, but it bears repeating: companies are under a level of strain that is in many cases unprecedented. The volume of decisions that must be made each day can feel crushing, and we’re all navigating uncharted waters.
AND in many ways, COVID-19 is an opportunity for businesses to streamline in a way they may not have been able to otherwise.
It’s holding a magnifying glass to weaknesses that were invisible or unnoticed when business hummed along.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in our teams.
If a team was running like a well-oiled machine, they’ve probably adapted well and stayed productive. If a team had invisible flaws before, however, stress has raised them to the surface.
Now is the right time to take a good hard look at your organization and ask yourself if everyone really is pulling in the same direction.
ARE THERE ANY “DRUNK UNCLES” IN YOUR BUSINESS?
Take a close look at your company. Imagine it as a family.
Everyone has those relatives who are embarrassing at every gathering—but they still get invited anyway because “that’s just what we do,” right?
You might not like the behavior of that drunk uncle who makes a scene at every wedding he attends. But you keep inviting him, because it’s simply what’s done.
Of course, you hope he gets sober and in the meantime, tolerate his disruptions and pray for a miracle.
The working equivalent of causing a rucus during toasts might be poor performance, chronic lateness, or a plain old bad attitude.
The only way to catch these patterns of behavior on your own team is to step back and look for them. So make sure you’re not letting things get out of hand just because that’s the way things have been for a long time.
Your business can’t afford it.
Here is one of the tools we bring to this business challenge when we work with clients. (It may already be familiar to you).
THE PARETO PRINCIPLE
If you’re not familiar with Vilfredo Pareto by name, you almost certainly know his work. He’s responsible for the 80/20 rule.
The basic idea is that 80 percent of your results come from just 20 percent of your actions. This principle can be extrapolated in all kinds of ways. 80 percent of your revenue comes from 20 percent of your customers. 80 percent of your problems come from 20 percent of your team members.
As businesses grow, we tend to forget this principle. Or things evolve so slowly that we don’t really notice changes as they occur.
I see this all the time with my coaching clients, espcially with startups.
Founders create a team that works great together in the early days of the business. Everyone pulls their weight, and together they create something magical, and basically, from nothing.
As the company grows, stress points reveal themselves. Some people don’t work as hard as they once did. They grow complacent, and reluctant to match their previous efforts.
Others were never very skilled at their positions to begin with; they were simply available to do the job at the time.
Applying the 80/20 rule to evaluate your team’s performance is an easy way to keep it “in the math” and avoid falling prey to any stories that would fracture your accurate and dispassionate assessment.
Is there one employee who’s handline 80% of the work in an area and could use some support? Are 80% of team conflicts and tensions coming from 20% of your employees - which, depending on your size, could be a single person?
LOOK FOR THE SIMPLEST, MOST EFFECTIVE WAYS TO IMPROVE
Now is also a great time to reflect on your organizational structure. Do you have the right people in the right roles?
You’ve got to have the right butts in the right chairs.
For each team in your organization, take the time to look closely at who is doing what. Consider having each person make a list of all the tasks they’re responsible for, and then review the results.
Do everyone’s responsibilities make sense, both for their job title and for their skill set?
These tests allow you to compare results in a uniform way across team members.
Use the output and your own understanding of your team to decide if you truly have the most qualified person filling each role.
Be honest with yourself. This may mean making some tough decisions, or reassignments that not everyone will like.
In the end, though, remember that everyone is happiest when they are doing work that plays to their strengths. Everyone in your organization should be responsible for tasks that match their skills.
Repeat after me: “No more ‘failing upward.’”
FOLLOW THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE
When it comes to cleaning up organizational clutter, I suggest looking for the path that creates the least friction.
This is not always the easiest path.
What I mean is taking the simplest, most direct route from Point A to Point B. Whether or not it feels easy.
Use that task list for everyone on your team to dive into the minutiae. Are there any tasks that just don’t make sense for the person doing them, or for their job description?
You may have passed tasks along to someone because that’s just the way things have always been done. Maybe their predecessor did it, so now they’re doing it—whether or not it makes sense.
These little nonsensical tasks here and there might seem insignificant. But over time, they create inefficiencies that compound exponentially.
Imagine a sailboat. Hundreds of tiny course corrections over time make the difference between arriving safely at your destination, and drifting miles off course.
The Organizational Triangle® applies in business the same way it does at home. Keep like with like. Don’t allow similar tasks to be scattered around out of habit. Be intentional.
PRODUCTIVITY IS DIFFERENT FROM BUSY-NESS
In a culture that values hard work as much as we do, it’s easy to forget that being “busy” is not the same as being productive.
Warren Buffett famously said, “Busy is the new stupid.” (I wish I’d said it first.)
Zen philosophy calls an overly busy mind monkey mind.
Monkey mind is busy, but it’s far from productive. It spends too much time jumping from thought to thought, or task to task. It never lingers on just one thought long enough to get anything of substance done.
This is where my advice veers from what you normally see in articles on “productivity hacks”—I’m much more focused on impact and quality of output than just cramming as much into your day as possible … or checking as many items off your list as you can.
I’d much rather you focus on being mindful of why certain tasks are on your list in the first place.
I often get calls from clients who are worried about their productivity. They aren’t getting everything done, and the unfinished tasks keep piling up.
They’re stressed enough as is, without the weight of a mountain of “to-do”s on their shoulders.
First of all, worrying only increases their stress and makes matters worse.
Then, I tell them to audit their task list. Identify which tasks truly must be done, lest there be negative consequences.
Of the tasks that must be done, how many must YOU do? And how many could be delegated to your team?
And if there’s more work to be done than is humanly possible, there’s simply too much work.
No productivity hack is going to fix that.
Strip away anything that isn’t truly important to your business and your wildly important goals. It might just be busy work—unimportant work disguised as keeping busy.
Who are the “busy” people in your organization, and who has the time and energy to take on more?
It’s likely that there are plenty of truly important tasks to be done. Look at how these tasks are distributed. Are 20% percent of the people doing 80 percent of the most important work?
If someone is overwhelmed, decide where tasks can be redistributed. Ideally, these tasks will fall to people who have the right skill set for them. If that isn’t possible, decide whether you have the right people on your team.
(This goes back to having the right butts in the right chairs.)
Once you’ve streamlined and removed all unnecessary tasks, look at what’s left. Where could you delegate, and to whom? What can be fully outsourced? Maybe an additional hire is necessary.
The point is, you won’t be able to make key decisions about hiring and firing until you’ve identified the work that must get done.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Teamwork is make-or-break important right now. Prioritize auditing your team closely and determine if the team you have in place makes sense for where you are and where you want to go with your business.
Can your current team support both your short-term and long-term goals? Is each person spending their time on the right tasks? Are they doing work they’re good at AND enjoy?
A lot of this organizational introspection requires focus and a willingness to go deep.
We may uncover things that are difficult to accept or deal with. No one wants to be the person to tell Drunk Uncle Sal that he’s not welcome at the next birthday party.
But keeping a business afloat and profitable is about the whole organization, not just one individual—even if you’re a solopreneur.
Keep the greater good in mind.
And remember that it’s in each person’s best interest to do work that motivates and engages them. If people on your team were great, but aren’t anymore, acknowledge that and figure out if they can be great again or if it’s time to move on.
Stay focused on the tasks that align with your values and support your business goals.
Watch out for those unimportant tasks that can creep in and steal your time.
If staying productive while working from home is an issue for your team, check out my recommendations for staying focused while working remotely.
Hundreds of tiny micro-corrections, over time, will yield incredible results.
Here at AMI, we coach businesses every day that are struggling with how to optimize their teams for peak performance.
If you’re ready for a major organizational change, we can help. Schedule a quick and free strategy call with our Senior Coach.
We’ve helped dozens of businesses get back on track and produce better than ever, and we’d love to do the same for yours.