(Photo Credit: USAG-Humphreys/Flickr)
1. Fall out of love with meetings.
Before you schedule a meeting, ask yourself, "Is this really necessary?" Planning a meeting can become a go-to action for managers when you're feeling behind, want to prove you're accomplishing something to your own bosses, or trying to figure out how communication has gone awry. The problem is that blocking off yet another piece of potentially productive time doesn't solve any of those problems.
There are over 25 million meetings every day in the US, and you can bet that many of them are not the best use of every participant's time. Only have the meetings you have to have, and include the people who have to be there. For every problem, be open to other solutions that cost less in time and productivity, such as sending an email or getting together with a few individuals instead of a whole team.
2. Be willing to hear something that you don't want to hear.
Employee A says she has too much work and can't get past her top few to-do items every day; employee B reminds you that he's still doing grunt work from two job titles ago, and wants to concentrate on higher-level projects. Your first instinct is to remind everyone that budgets are still tight, and to threaten to ban Facebook and confiscate smartphones, and then see how busy everyone is. Ahem.
Before you assume that what you're hearing isn't valid, take the time to really listen to your reports' complaints. Sometimes, the problem is bad time management; sometimes, people are legitimately overbooked and can't do their best work as a result. But whatever the reason for your teammates' complaints, it's essential that they feel listened to and heard by you, their manager. Even if the answer is that there's no real solution right now, every conversation is an opportunity to build trust and improve the relationship.
3. Try sprints.
Why do sports teams work out together? It's not just because coaches want to be able to make sure their folks are working out as hard as they need to. It's because humans are social animals. Working together reminds us that we're in this thing as a team.
When deadlines loom and big projects require fast progress, organize voluntary team sprints. Book a conference room for a few hours, and have everyone work in one place for a change. (Or at least, everyone who wants to work together; you'll likely have a few introverts who need peace and quiet more than team spirit.)
It'll be easier to have people in the same place when questions arise, and foster a sense of being a team even when everyone is heads-down. You'll probably get more done than you would individually, and you'll feel less stressed while you're doing it.
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