Posted by Tom Gable
In the previous post, I introduced the concept of PR as a team sport. How to organize to deliver consistent, quality results for clients? How can you achieve your goals with the minimum possible resources? How to leverage time, so one hour of senior management can turn into ten hours or more of productive work by others on multiple fronts?
I covered the two big traps: do it yourself; and throw everything at the issue (full-court press, hair on fire, etc.). Now, what positive, pro-active thought processes and check lists can help in leveraging your talent? As noted before, Michael Gerber, in the classic e-Myth Revisited, advises building the team from the bottom up. Create checks and balances and systems so average people can achieve extraordinary results. Here are nine steps that have worked over time to leverage talent for improved mentoring and team results, not just in PR but in almost every type of business:
1. Spread the Wealth – Analyze what needs to be accomplished and plan to achieve it with the fewest resources possible. Start at the lowest level and work upward.
2. Communicate Clearly – Set your lever in motion with the power of clear, precise communication. Provide specific direction, timetables, expectations and creative guidance. Then ask if the person understands the mission. Reach agreement on the details. This two-way communication is essential in keeping junior people, in particular, from struggling with ambiguous assignments.
3. Leverage – Once you’ve given good direction, think about how far others can advance the work before you need to get involved. The goal: have others accomplish 70 to 80 percent of the most time-consuming work.
4. Orchestrate – This starts with clear directions. Then, the good manager has check points along the way. Five to ten minutes of quality time at critical junctures adds more leverage. The manager keeps the parts moving forward together toward the desired goal, making adjustments as needed and communicating appropriately.
5. Respond – Managers need to respond to requests for more direction or clarity as soon as possible. Your job is to help other people do their job better than they would have otherwise. The reverse lever starts working when you don’t, building up negative pressure throughout the organization. Positive reinforcement and encouragement will improve the ultimate product. Harsh criticism or condescending approaches, like the old professor in journalism school, can be demoralizing and counter-productive.
6. Monitor, Course Correct, Critique, Delegate Again – Don’t get stuck in the do-it-yourself trap. Send poor or mediocre work back for another round. Provide specific feedback and point them to other resources if needed. The basic process: pre-brief and discuss, provide adequate background and resources, monitor progress, QC, critique, and evolve to demand increasingly higher levels of results. The process ensures that each person soon understands what is expected of them and what needs to be done to generate the right result. People want to learn and grow. Send it back until it’s 80 to 90 percent of the desired level, then step in and guide them the rest of the way.
7. Look for Inefficiencies in Your Approach – Analyze if you are following the above steps with precision. What do you need to do better? What will it take? Are you helping people do their job better or are you an obstacle?
8. Don’t Get Stuck in Minutiae – To ensure you have time to put your best energies and brainpower into things with the highest payoff, deal with all the nagging, short-term issues with alacrity. Don’t put it off. If it can be moved forward or a need satisfied in less than five minutes, do it! The trap is to keep setting aside these little things until you have a big pile of garbage projects or tasks. Then, instead of having dealt with something once and been done with it, you touched it again and again, wasting more time and brainpower and perhaps causing frustration among your team.
9. Promote and Praise – With ongoing delegation and smart management, you will help your team members graduate to increasingly higher levels of competence. As people improve, give them new challenges. Take a few chances. Test people at one level, then advance them higher as they improve. Praise good behavior right away. Harvard calls this the “Pygmalion Effect.” Praise and good guidance can help people achieve levels of competence they never before imagined. Unduly harsh criticism and negativity can have the opposite effect.
The best managers play an ongoing game inside their head of figuring out how to do more with less. They look at each goal, then strategies and tactics within, as potential opportunities to magnify their power through others. As Archimedes said, the lever works both ways. So the most successful managers do everything in their power to eliminate inefficiencies, redundancies, duplications, bad processes and systems or other obstacles to performance. Turning one into ten – it’s the alchemy of good management.