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Mere Leadership: Monitoring Your Team
Today we’re going to pivot back to our leadership material for this episode. Complex leadership material is abundant, but concise and basic leadership principles seem to be harder to find. We’ve called this leadership series “Mere Leadership” patterned after C.S Lewis’s attempt to boil down the basic of the Christian faith into a book he wrote called Mere Christianity. We’re presenting some of the very basics of leadership – foundational components that can help you in whatever sphere of influence you are in. I’ve broken down this material into 4 descriptions of leaders, and 4 actions of leaders. Put differently, I’ve shared who leaders are and what leaders do. The first description was that leaders are pacesetters who set the tone for those that they lead. Secondly, leaders are teachers who multiply their effectiveness through those that they lead. Thirdly, leaders are communicators who chart the path and coordinate forward movement. Fourthly, leaders are listeners who recognize that there is something to learn from everyone. If you want to hear more about these 4 descriptions of leaders, you can go back and listen to episodes 2 and 3. In recent episodes we also discussed the 4 actions of leaders. We recognized first of all that leaders take the time to understand their teams. In our last leadership series episode we talked about the need for leaders to direct their teams. If you want to hear more about directing your team you can listen to episode 5.
Today we’re going to talk about the 3rd action for leaders, and that is that leaders monitor their teams. It is not enough to understand. That action becomes a starting point, but it is just that. Neither is it enough to merely direct your team. A leader may have a very real grasp on the potential of their team, and they may have charted a clear and compelling vision to take the team somewhere – but if they are not monitoring the team then they have no idea whether the goals that have been created are being met. Monitoring has a bad reputation in many leadership circles because it can often be done in the extreme. You may have heard it called micromanagement. Very few people want someone standing over them asking for a report on every move they make. This is more akin to babysitting than leading. But just because we don’t want to encourage the extreme of micromanagement does not mean that there doesn’t need to be some measure of awareness as to your team’s work and progress. I’m going to suggest three different areas you need to monitor with your team and share a few tactics with each of those areas to help you keep your finger on the pulse of your team.
First of all, you’ll want to monitor your team’s activity. You’ll need to have some measure of awareness as to what they are doing. Why is this important? Because they may be working on something they perceive to be important that is actually not. Just because you may have communicated the direction your team is going does not mean that each teammate is moving in that direction at the same pace. So having an idea of how they are spending their time is essential. You can do this through some measure of reporting. Now we know that many people hate filling out reports. So before you ask your team to fill out a report, make sure you identify what is worth knowing. What metrics do you really need to know to determine whether your team is moving in the right direction? Reports for reporting sake is not an effective monitoring tool. Instead, determine what you need to know and review it. It is so frustrating for people to take the time to put together a report, and the supervisor on the other end doesn’t review it. Don’t ask for any reporting that you don’t intend to review yourself. The reporting we utilize with our team’s activity is typically one of two methods. For some of our teammates, they send a weekly update on their accomplishments for the week and their focus for the week ahead. For others, we accomplish this through a shared Word document that lists the top three accomplishments from the previous week and the top 3 things to focus on in the week ahead. This is simple and concise, but also effective because it doesn’t focus on every activity they spent time on. only three that are high impact. As a side note – don’t ask people to do this if you are not willing to do it yourself. I take the time every Monday morning to do this exercise. My team can see it and so they know what I consider to be some of the highest priorities for the week. Another method for monitoring your team’s activity is through quick questions over the phone or in person. Dialogue compliments data and gives you a true grasp on your team’s activity and makes that grasp more accurate. Questions like, “How is the XYZ project coming” or “What’s been your greatest victory this week” are open questions that can help you gain insight on your team’s progress. Other questions like “What has been your greatest challenge this week” or “Do you need anything from me to keep moving forward” can make you aware when your teammates are stuck and engage you in helping get them back on track. Sometimes people get stuck, and leaders are oblivious. This wastes precious time, so monitoring allows you to help them get unstuck.
So we want to monitor our team’s activity, but a second area you’ll want to monitor is your team’s morale. Speaking of leaders being oblivious, this is an area in which some leaders are clueless. Is your team engaged and excited about their work? Are they overwhelmed and anxious? Are they bored or frustrated. You need to know this as a leader. Sometimes you can gauge this through simple observation. What is their demeanor and body language? Side note: this is why webcams are helpful if you are supervising people outside of your physical location. Being able to discern body language over Teams or Zoom is critical to getting the whole story on someone’s morale. How is their tone of voice? Are they acting consistently with their typical pattern of behavior, or does something seem off? That may lead you to a conversation that will offer even more insight into their morale. Ask them how they are doing, and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or elaboration on vague or short answers. Don’t be nosy and pushy but do show genuine interest. It will normally be received well. You may discover through monitoring morale that there is a personality conflict in the office that will need to be addressed. You may also discover that there are some personal issues outside of work that are affecting their attitude in the workplace. You might also discover that they are over-worked. This can have a huge impact on morale. The reality is that morale will ebb and flow. This is natural and normal. All of your teammates will not be in a “ra-ra” mood every day of the week. Everyone has bad days from time to time. But if you notice bad days becoming the norm, this is not healthy and will affect the quality of your team’s work and their synergy with one another.
A third and final area you will want to monitor as a leader is your team’s performance. At the end of the day, we have to evaluate how our team is doing. Students have report cards, and members of your team need to be evaluated in some fashion. You can do this through annual reviews. This allows you to set aside time once a year to talk about what your teammates are doing well, as well as areas in which they have an opportunity to improve. In our bank, we have 97 teammates. Our supervisors do a 1-page annual review that captures this information. It doesn’t have a numerical grade but is a more qualitative approach on evaluating our teammate’s performance. All of us have areas in which we need to grow, and this annual review can allow for a forum to discuss what these areas should be. If you ask your teammate in advance what they perceive are their opportunities for growth, they will often be able to self-identify these things and your review can then focus on how to compensate for these areas of weakness. Most of the time this will involve encouraging them to depend upon others who are strong where they are weak. This can truly help cultivate a team mentality. Because the reality is that people rarely become strong in areas that are natural weaknesses. A more realistic goal is to continue to cultivate awareness of these weaknesses so they can pull in the strengths of others in those areas. But feedback should not be limited to once a year, there should be a feedback loop throughout the year. There should really be nothing in an annual review that is a surprise. It should have surfaced throughout the year in informal conversations as well. Another way to monitor your team’s performance is through the use of autopsies. When something goes wrong, it isn’t a waste if you can learn something from it. Autopsies are not intended to merely point fingers; they are intended to identify causes. If you can identify causes of something going wrong, you can prevent the same mistakes from being repeated. And one of the marks of a great leaders is the willingness to take responsibility for anything that might go wrong in an organization. There is usually something the leader could have done better. Perhaps you could have communicated better. Or maybe your procedures could have been clearer. Perhaps you could have anticipated obstacles or prepared more in advance. Monitoring mistakes in a constructive way can help you grow as a leader and help your teammates keep raising the bar in their own personal effectiveness.
As I’ve said before, at MBC and Foundation Bank we’ve not perfected these leadership principles. But we are on a journey to become an organization that is not simply growing in size but growing in effectiveness and in the fulfillment of our teammates in their job. If you are looking to join a culture like this, we invite you to start a financial conversation with us today by exploring our website. If you’ve found these leadership suggestions helpful, we hope you’ll share this podcast and subscribe in your favorite podcast app. Until next time, God bless you.
-President Chad P. Wilson, CFP
Today’s episode of “Money Matters” was written and recorded by President Chad P. Wilson of McKenzie Banking Company / Foundation Bank on August 23, 2022. This episode does not constitute financial advice. Please consult a financial professional to discuss your specific needs. MBC/Foundation Bank is an Equal Housing Lender, Member FDIC.