When companies are struggling with how to lead a team, I've found it usually has something to do with a lack of communication.
This can be on a macro level—management not communicating core values to employees, for example—or on a micro level (a manager not communicating to an employee how to best implement a project). Either way, the company suffers and employees are typically left in the dark.
That's why communication is an important part of how to lead a team. Let me explain.
How to Lead a Team When the Going Gets Tough
At times a business might have to relay some difficult decisions, such as company layoffs or losing a big client.
And whereas some businesses will try to keep these events under wraps, it's important to communicate with employees during these demanding times—especially in smaller companies. There can be very negative downsides if a company decides not to address these events, including uncertainty, confusion and mistrust.
When leading a team, not having a clear communication strategy for navigating these tough times can lead to low morale, stress in the workplace, gossip and a general relational breakdown between the management team and employees. These issues can not only affect internal relationships, but can reflect on external connections, leading to ineffective customer interaction, dissatisfied clients and even clients leaving the company altogether.
To get all the employees rowing in the same direction, it's important to get company communication back on track. This can be done through establishing core values and regular meetings.
How to Lead a Team With Core Values
Core values are an important part of a company and are typically developed during the first couple of years of the company taking shape. These values are the set of beliefs that defines a company's brand, guides its actions and attracts the right kinds of employees.
Businesses must be able to define their core values and then communicate those values succinctly to the entire staff.
In addition to core values, it's also important for employees to be clear on the company's mission and vision. Communicating the core values, mission and vision helps employees understand where the company is headed in the next one, five and 10 years. And it helps keep everyone on the same page.
How to Lead a Team Productively: Meetings
A great way to clearly and succinctly communicate important strategies to the team is with meetings.
Meetings can solve most of an organization's communications challenges. They offer focus and alignment, an opportunity to problem solve quickly and overall can help save time. Moreover, with regular meetings, team members hear the same information so there is less need to repeat the same points.
I believe that every organization should have five types of meetings: one-on-ones, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly. There is a purpose to each type of meeting. The reason for having the more frequent meetings—the one-on-ones and weekly meetings—is that it allows the organization to review goals regularly and clear any roadblocks without waiting a long period of time.
If these meetings are new to your organization, there may be pushback in the beginning. Employees may say, "We don't have the time" or "We see each other every day."
To address these points, consider making these gatherings standing meetings on the calendar of each person involved. This can help manage expectations since they're not popup or ad hoc.
If done effectively, meetings can take less than 10 percent of the regular work week: 10 percent for management team, 5 to 7 percent for middle managers and 3 percent for associate employees.
How to Lead a Team With Meeting Structure
In order to have successful meetings, it helps if they're structured in certain ways.
One-on-ones are meetings between a department lead and the employees reporting to that lead. These meetings can happen every week and last about 30-45 minutes. The purpose of the one-on-ones is for both sides to provide feedback, review goals, set new goals and address roadblocks. (I would recommend having these meetings on Monday through Thursday.)
The purpose of weekly company meetings is to review progress on the quarterly goals and use the collective intelligence of the team to address the main topics. I believe it's best to have weekly company meetings on Fridays. This way, by the time the company weekly meetings roll around, the department heads have been debriefed by each employee during the one-on-one meetings.
Whereas the weekly meetings are primarily for the small, incremental steps a company needs to move forward, the monthly, quarterly and yearly meetings are for big-picture strategies and planning.
Monthly meetings are designed for the senior staff and can last half to a full day. These meetings include giving a company update, reviewing KPIs (key performance indicators), tracking stats for the quarter and making any necessary adjustments to the strategy to get back on track.
The monthly meetings are then rolled up into the quarterly meeting. Here the entire company comes together to review results for the previous quarter, check in on team performance and create goals for the next quarter.
The quarterly meeting is also a good time to go over core values and for the management team to provide examples of how the team's actions are aligning with those values. And finally, during the yearly meeting, the entire firm meets to review goals for the previous year and plan key growth strategies and initiatives for the new year.
These meetings are designed to keep information flowing and improve communication across all members of the team.
Leading a team will always have challenges—but creating a streamlined communication process with scheduled meetings can be a sound strategy that helps keep the team moving forward.
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