One of my most trusted and respected mentors once told me that effective leadership rests on two things: people and process. Over the years I have seen this proven to be true over and over. Optimal performance rests on the competency to connect with people, nurturing their best work while at the same time dissecting and improving–in most cases simplifying–the processes they work in everyday. Effectively managing people and process is key to optimal performance.
I start with people because people are the foundation of any good work. Primarily we are not resources or even roles but human beings who have a deeply intrinsic desire to connect to the work we do. The human potential for idea generation as well as the grit to push through and accomplish even the hardest of tasks becomes doable–even motivating and energizing–when people feel connected and valued for the work they do.
How do you connect people to their work?
You give them a vision and purpose. Yes, there are overall visions of organizations which are very important but every initiative also has a vision or a goal. Share this! Get it clear and simple so that everyone involved understands where the ship is headed. Revisit it, over and over, preferably every time the group gets together. Don’t skip this step! It’s the key that turns the car on–you won’t go anywhere if you neglect to share the specific vision and purpose of your initiative.
You give them a voice so they know their presence is valued. Create opportunities for everyone to share their ideas. I love using Post-it Notes in my meetings as a way to engage and give opportunity for every voice to be heard, especially the quieter ones. Have people write down their current barriers and ideas on Post-its and give everyone an opportunity to share their collected thoughts with the group. Sharing their ideas allows them to connect to the work being done while at the same time feel like a valued part of the team.
Appreciate the process as much as the end goal and accomplishments.
People don’t want to waste their time and need to feel valued for their effort in every step of the process, not just at the end. Make it a part of your time together to revisit their wins–even the small ones–that have been accomplished. Appreciate the effort, time, and even the failures of the group as opportunities to learn and keep propelling yourselves forward.
Everything is a process and can be improved. EVERYTHING. I love using process flow charting to dissect complex and undistinguished processes occurring everyday in order to identify confusion, waste, and generate ideas for improvement.
When thinking of process, include:
Measurements and targets. How will you measure your success? What is your objective target goal and how will you track your milestones in getting there?
Opportunities and ideas for improvement. Conduct a process flow or simply ask the group what is working and what ideas they have to improve the process. Identify waste that is occurring and where there are opportunities for training, standard work, automation, and mistake proofing. Use an impact/effort matrix to prioritize the incentives the group wants to work on. Form smaller teams to own and develop the ideas.
Project Management. From here it really is about managing the progress of the team for the action items they have been given responsibility for. Make the list of To Do’s transparent and hold them accountable to their due dates. Throughout the process, remind them of the vision and appreciate the milestones achieved along the way.
Know your end point and celebrate it.
Finally, when you have completed a process improvement initiative, celebrate it. This is a culmination of both people and process. I like to incorporate report outs at staff or leadership meetings to summarize, communicate and appreciate the work the team has done. The audience get to understand how the process improved as well as allowing the team to clearly see and articulate the issues they started with and what they did to resolve them. It brings us back to connecting the team to the work they do. Report outs give the team an opportunity to reflect for a quick 10-15 minutes on the impact of the work they accomplished. This small reflection of their work has immeasurable effects on decreasing burn out and is well worth the effort to put together.
Optimal performance rests of the effective management of people and process. In any initiative be aware of how you are addressing the needs of both. When both are effectively managed optimal performance is the natural outcome.