Is your team held together with duct tape?

I’ve been talking for the past few weeks about “duct tape leadership” — the chaotic, patched-together operational environment that results when the gaps between organizational strategy and team execution are just too big.

The duct tape consists of the short-term solutions that hold everything together — moving resources from one project to another, rapidly shifting between priorities, pressing pause on some projects, and asking the team to double down and push through (again).

By their very nature, these “solutions” are fragile and provisional — 

— so as we head into the new year, let’s look for ways to strip out the duct tape and replace it with something more robust.

Step 1 is to assess your current leadership situation

Step 2 is to create alignment between the work and mission

And Step 3, which we’ll tackle this week, is to lead your team with intention.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

From Duct Tape to Intentionality

When you have 1001 competing priorities… project specs that change daily… new projects added to your plate on a whim… and a never-ending shortage of time, budget, bandwidth, and personnel…

…carving out time to focus deeply on your team can feel like an impossibility.

But if your team is always scrambling, you’re feeding a culture of chaos, burnout, and high turnover — with a correspondingly high risk of missed deadlines, poor performance, and project failure.

In contrast, taking time to lead with intention and foster a culture of calm, focus, and excellent performance actually frees up time and bandwidth to complete projects to high standards.

But how do you actually go about doing that?

Start by reviewing your current team operational strengths and weaknesses.

1.  Assess your team’s engagement.

Nothing but nothing beats a functional, collaborative, motivated team for getting projects shipped and delivered to high standards.

A great team that works smoothly together and takes ownership of their work can get a surprising amount done even when resources are scarce.  

In contrast, a dysfunctional team wastes resources, time, and energy; gets mired in resentment and miscommunication; and often struggles to meet even basic expectations.

So it’s worth paying close attention to your intra-team dynamics — and taking swift action to rectify any issues.

Ask yourself (and your team):

  • How are your team dynamics right now?
  • Are the team collaborating and working effectively together?
  • Is there a high degree of ownership and accountability?

Any weaknesses you identify should be your first priority to correct. 

2.  Next, review your team’s resources.

A motivated team can make up for a lot — but proper resourcing is the key to minimizing stress, eliminating burnout, and ensuring that projects are delivered on time and to specifications.

Examine the balance of skill, time, and bandwidth on your team.  Look for places where you might add or reallocate resources to provide your team with the support they need. 

  • Do you have the right resources on the team?
  • Do they understand their role?
  • Do they have the right skills?
  • Are they available to complete their assigned tasks?
  • What are their current challenges and constraints?

3.  Examine your team’s focus.

It’s surprisingly easy to get caught up in execution, without considering the strategic value of the tasks your team are completing.

Spend some time comparing the work your team does to the outcomes they get. Are you executing the work in a way that is achieving the right results?

4.  Manage the work and the outcomes.

Finally, get strategic about the day-to-day work your team performs. Review your team operations to ensure that you have systems in place for keeping the entire team on track and focused on the correct priorities.

  • What are the team working on right now?
  • How does this align with your new priorities?
  • Do your team understand the new plan of action?
  • Are you addressing issues daily?
  • Are risks reviewed frequently?
  • Is the schedule realistic?
  • Are decisions logged and managed?
  • Is the work clearly assigned?

*      *      *

Block time on your calendar to go through this evaluation process on a regular basis. As you identify weaknesses and other “duct-taped” areas in your operations, develop a plan for addressing them — and then be sure to prioritize the relevant action items.

Every time you complete this evaluation, you’ll uncover new areas that merit your attention. And each time you replace a patched-together procedure with an intentional one, you’ll find that your team strengthens, their work improves, and the entire team culture shifts for the better.

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