Many times in my career, I led a large team. Most of the time, the team members were located in one city, but they could be located in multiple facilities, or multiple buildings within our campus. However, as I finished my career, I had team members in three cities across the country. Below are some of the best practices to be an effective leader no matter the size of the team you are leading.
Empower your team leads and stronger team members. Provide them clear direction, and extend trust to let them run with the work. Establish regular “Status Meetings”, and provide feedback as necessary. This way, you provide development opportunities for analysts by giving them this additional responsibility and you increase your capacity.
Delegation is a statement of capability. Let your team members know that they are capable, and that you trust them, even though you are ultimately responsible and accountable for the work.
Don’t take on “monkeys”, or problems that others bring to you. When team members approach you with a problem, ask them to bring possible solutions as well, instead of you adding them to your “To Do” list. Again, coaching is a statement of capability. Don’t let the message be that you’re too busy for them.
One leader I worked with had their team read the classic Harvard Business Review article “Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey”? by William Oncken Jr. and Donald L. Wass. They then held a meeting to discuss it, and they gave all her team members little plastic monkeys to effectively reinforce the message.
You may not be able to attend all of the meetings you would like to. Look at who else is attending the meeting. Another representative from your team may not be needed. If representation is needed, consider sending a team member in your place.
Set expectations with your teams on “drive-bys”. Constant “Got a minute?” interruptions are time killers for a leader. Communicate to your team how you would like them to handle these situations (set up a short meeting on your calendar, etc.).
Manage your calendar, don’t let it manage you. You don’t have to accept every meeting invitation that you receive. Sometimes, a short phone call might handle the situation. Determine if this is a “would be nice” or an “essential” meeting to attend. If you accept meetings that you don’t need to, you have only yourself to blame for a calendar that is out of control. In addition, schedule “desk time” on your calendar and protect that time.
To manage your time, you may have to limit the number of mentees that you work with at a given time.
- Utilize Your Mobile Device
Use your mobile device to stay on top of your email as you walk to and from meetings, in the evenings, and on weekends.
- Good use of “One on One” (and other) meeting time
If you are finished with one of your monthly “One on One” meetings with a team member in less than the one hour it is scheduled for, give your team member the gift of time.
Leaders need to continue to think differently. For example, do you need to meet every month with those team members that you work closely with and interact on a daily basis?
- Personal organization
This is a must. Use “To Do” lists. Consider keeping an overall list, and also create a daily “priorities” list to make sure that you are focusing on working on the most important items each day. Be aware of the tyranny of the urgent. The urgent gets our attention, not always the most important.
When leaders get extremely busy, the one thing that tends to drop is their time with their people. On your “To Do” list, consider one column for the “work” items and one column for the “people” items.