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THE POINT IS...


Whenever we deal with something complex, categorizing things becomes quite helpful!

Good team managers don't miss these 4 things…

But as it happens with most new team managers, Jenny was trying everything she had read and seen thus far. It looked like she took a shotgun approach to show some runs on the board. At times Jenny was micro-managing, sometimes delegating, and other times biting more than she could chew. She was probably doing more harm than good in a desperate attempt to prove she deserved it.

A few months ago, Jenny got the promotion she was eyeing for quite some time. She was more than excited to lead a small team. It was her moment to show what she could do. But a few weeks into that role, Jenny called me to discuss her challenges. She seemed to understand the urgency to get things sorted as soon as possible.

While chatting with her, I soon found that Jenny's team was quite diverse in experience. It was one of the reasons why she was all over the place. She was barely managing it. But most importantly, she wasn't necessarily leading the team in the true sense. I reckon not having a practical framework to be a good team leader made it even harder.

So I gave her a crash course over a coffee catch-up, which was somewhat as follows:

In my experience, whenever we deal with something complex, categorizing things becomes quite helpful. Our approach becomes easier after that.

Whenever we deal with something complex, categorizing things becomes quite helpful!

INFORMATION

When my son wanted to learn to use the camera, I didn't begin with the whole nine-yard. All I needed to do was to give him all the necessary information and stand behind him. No micro-managing, no poking around. Just let him use that information to the best of his abilities.

When information is the problem, the leader must arrange it and let the team member do their thing. Make it easy to find information when required, and people will find their way around. In many cases, all Jenny needed was to fill that information gap.

When information is the problem, the leader must arrange it and let the team member do their thing.

SKILL

After a while, my son learnt all buttons, knobs, and camera functions. However, there wasn't enough finesse or mastery in using it. Essentially, he lacked skills. I had to give him enough opportunities to practise. So I gave him small projects to shoot with his camera frequently and develop his skills.

It is not difficult to figure out when someone has all the information but lacks skills. The best way to help such a team member is to assign them multiple smaller pieces of work. It helps them develop their skills. Skill development takes time. I suggested Jenny must let some of her team members work on multiple projects to get better. Of course, only the ones who needed it.

Assign multiple projects to develop skills.

JUDGEMENT

As my son was developing his camera skills, he would still struggle in some tricky situations. Unfortunately, information or skills don't help here. Such situations demand better judgement. So I gave him some complex projects to work on with his camera. Scenarios where either lighting was different than usual or locations were unfamiliar. He had to stretch just enough to get the job done. Working with odd situations helped him develop a better judgement over time. He isn't there yet, but I reckon he is on the right path.

Getting better at good judgement comes from a range of experiences. When we don't know the best course of action, we often draw on our past experiences. We try to build on those experiences and improvise. It helps progress with the situation at hand and adds to the experience for the next challenge. For experienced team members, Jenny didn't need to be involved much. All she had to do was help them develop their judgement. Micro-managing them is the worst thing she could do here.

When we don't know the best course of action, we often draw on our past experiences.

WISDOM

Now, while my son is still learning his way around the camera, there is a next step I would eventually take. In addition to tricky situations, I would prefer adding some complexity to his projects. Perhaps asking him to make a short film will be in order. And I am (almost) certain it will make him a bit wiser. Developing wisdom is the goal here.

For Jenny, there is only one person on her team who is highly experienced and would love better challenges, the big-picture work. Her being too simplistic or micro-manager may have already turned him off. So I suggested she could assign him some big-picture projects. Projects that are challenging and could draw upon his skills, judgement, and wisdom. As for Jenny, she practically won't have to do anything on those projects besides simply showing up when needed and being a good supporter leader.

Not everyone needs skills development. There is more!

THE POINT IS

As a team manager or leader, it is crucial to know each team member's gaps. It helps categorize the challenges they face and the goals they might be pursuing. 

Some might only need information, while others need more work to practice. Some aim to develop better judgement, while others might be far ahead. Find out where everyone is in their journey and help them accordingly - nothing more, nothing less.

Jenny offered to pick the tab on our coffee bill and said she liked my suggestions. She promised to work on them. While she is at it, see if these ideas help you too.

Whenever we deal with something complex, categorizing things becomes quite helpful!

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