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The Six Disciplines Blog


Tuesday, April 21, 2020

One Habit to Train Your Team to be Self-Leaders

How the Weekly Review Can Develop Your Team to Be Proactive, Not Reactive

 

The Weekly Review as a Training Tool

Catherine, like most high-quality managers, is always pushing to get the best work out of her small customer support team. “I am constantly checking in with each of them. I make sure everyone is aligned. We really do not need any different management processes.” Yet, an employee survey revealed her team did not understand the unique strategy of the company. They also could not identify how their work connected to larger company initiatives They also confessed, in confidential comments, to being uncertain about what they were actually responsible for and what they weren’t.

Catherine is a people person. No one felt she was micromanaging. But from the outside, it was clear her team had become hyper-reactive to her. They had slowly stopped making proactive decisions on their support cases and devolved into depending on Catherine. We recommended she establish a weekly self-review process for each of her team members. “The weekly self-review process is the single greatest tool to help your team become self-leaders.”

 

Why Managers Create Reactive Teams

Over-active Managers

Over-active managers can unwittingly create reactive rather than proactive teams. What’s the fallout?

  • Manager bottleneck – the group’s overall productivity is limited by the individual capacity of the manager. When the manager is feeling good and running on high-doses of caffeine, the team is whirring. When he’s distracted by personal matters, feeling stressed and sluggish, without any coffee breaks in sight, the team seizes up.
  • Decreased teamwork – instead of a network of communication, an over-active manager creates a single communication hub, stifling collaboration.
  • Reduced innovation – a good manager thinks both tactics and strategy, but a manager “down in the weeds” innovates less, and so does their overly dependent team.
  • Increased stress – for the team and the manager
  • Under-investment in leadership development – while they certainly agree with the idea of developing self-leaders on their team, over-active managers tend to view the work to do so as unnecessary and inefficient.

Under-engaged Managers

Does this mean managers should pull back and have a more “laissez-faire” style? No, probably not. Here’s what comes in the wake of under-engaged managers.

  • Escalation failures – inexperienced employees fail to identify and escalate problems.
  • Increased rework – without critical input and review from both the manager and the rest of the team, isolated employees can continue working on a project with the wrong set of assumptions.
  • Lopsided workloads – under-engaged managers lean on their star employees and let freeloaders slide.
  • Indecisiveness – without critical input from a manager, employees can stew for weeks over an important decision.
  • Weak energy – like it or not, productivity depends on the emotional energy of your team. A leader’s rallying cry is a significant factor in whether a team senses their work is urgent and important.

There is a solution for both over-active and under-engaged managers: train your team to do weekly self-reviews. Stephen Covey and David Allen made the weekly review popular among top leaders and managers. But have you passed this wisdom on to your team? Establishing this one habit with your team will develop them into proactive, self-leaders.

 

How to Establish the Weekly Review Habit for Your Team

First, define the process. Here is our recommendation (we call these “Self Check-ins”):

  1. Every team member needs an individual plan that clearly defines their responsibilities for the quarter.
  2. Establish a set day/time the self check-ins are due to the manager
  3. Each week, every team member will review their plan and
    • Rate how each item is going. Use a simple status reporting system. Green – on track. Yellow – at risk. Red – unable to meet expected outcomes given current circumstances.
    • Provide a brief update comment on each item, especially for items marked “at-risk.”
    • Finally, give an overall summary of how last week went, what your priorities are for the next week, and how you are feeling in general about your work.
  4. The manager will review every self check-in.
  5. Last, hold a ½ hour team meeting that covers essential topics surfaced in the team’s self check-ins.

Next, hook it up to real work. No amount of input, feedback, review, accountability, etc. matters if team members don’t know what they are responsible for (and what they’re not). This is a front-loaded process. Take your time. Work with each team member to build their plan. Ensure every item has clear outcomes and realistic due dates.

Finally, lean on it. The more your team sees you relying on the self check-ins, the more they will invest in the process. Reply to their comments. Add agenda items based on their status reports. And connect personally with them when it’s obvious they had a tough week. All of this will show you care about the work and them.

Click here to learn more about Six Disciplines’ Workgroup Alignment Kit.  Click here to learn more about the Six Disciplines Methodology.

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Since 2005, the Six Disciplines blog offers posts about performance excellence, strategy execution, business coaching, leadership development, innovation, and business process improvement. This blog has received prestigious awards for leadership and management and has been syndicated by several major media sources.

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