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How’s your team’s performance been over the past year? If your answer is that it hasn’t been great, you’re going to love today’s episode. I’m sharing the pivotal strategy that’s going to help your team focus on the 20% of action that’s going to make all the difference

Spoiler alert it’s often all about the manager and how you’re choosing to be on the daily.

How busy is your team?

Is your team spinning its wheels? They seem to be busy, but they’re not really making much progress. Or you find yourself having the same conversations repeatedly, day in, day out. Dealing with the same theme of issues, and you’re noticing similar frustrations bubbling up amongst your team members. What if there was a way to fast track your team to where they are now to where you need them to be?

Self management before team management

The most fascinating observation, and often the most confronting one, is that your team is a reflection of you. It’s about self management ahead of team management.

If you’re seeing frustration within your team or there’s a theme to that frustration and it’s expressed by two or more members of your team, it’s likely that how you’re being on the daily as their manager is contributing to that source of frustration.

But great news, because this is one of the easier management issues to resolve because it’s entirely within your control.

Knowing how to do it all holds your team back

Do you know how to do absolutely everything that needs to be done by your team? Are you capable across a number of areas? You know, you’re the type of person who can apply their hand to almost anything.

Do you like a bit of variety? If you are, then it’s likely that you have a natural tendency to get involved in a wide variety of areas across your team. Now, we’ve been told that that’s what good managers do. We roll our sleeves up, we get stuck in wherever there’s a need. We’re there to lend a hand.

Are you a dabbler?

I call these managers my dabblers. Rather than helping their teams, they’re accidentally getting in the way. Instead, I think targeted immersion rather than dabbling.

Let me explain. So imagine you’re about to take yourself off in the car for a long journey.

Do you need to know how the engine works in order to successfully arrive at your destination? No? You’ll need to know where you’re going. You may even punch in the coordinates to your route finder on your phone or in your car. You’ll need to make sure that there’s enough oil, water and gas, or battery charge if it’s electric, to get you to the destination, but you don’t need to know exactly how your car works.

You need to hold the vision. You need to ensure that you have enough resources to get you to the destination. That’s what managers do.

Start dabbling in your team’s ‘how to’ business and you’ll notice that you don’t have enough time to do your work. Or, potentially, you’re getting in the way of them delivering theirs. You’ll hear things like you’re not available or you’re not responsive.

Your good intentions or your control freakiness are causing confusion. They’ll be asking themselves, am I supposed to be doing that or are you? You deprive them of on the job learning, and you’re training them to not think for themselves. Your star performers, the ones who do want to take responsibility and do want to think things through, they’re going to become frustrated, and they’ll leave.

When your team starts to look like a never ending revolving door, it’s not about the job or the organisation or even the market.

It’s usually something a little closer to home. So choose targeted support rather than a widespread approach. One of the biggest challenges faced by managers who come up through the ranks is that often they promoted because they’re talented technicians, not yet capable managers. And, sadly, they’re often promoted with no management training or mentoring.

The hardest part is working out that you actually deliver through your team. Now, these new managers try to create certainty by holding on to the work they were doing before. They try to wrap managing the team around their day job rather than making the leap to managing the team, is my day job. If this sounds familiar, then you could be a reforming techmanager.

If you’re somebody who’s naturally good at a bunch of stuff, you may be tempted with the “well, I’m good at this”, so I’m gonna keep doing it. But there’s an opportunity cost at play here doing the low lying stuff because you’re ok at it stops you from doing the stuff your magnificent at; the game changing stuff.

Steve Jobs was known to have a meticulous eye for detail. He would have been a great finance manager.

It was Steve Wozniak who did the programming and the circuit design at Apple. Steve jobs focused on the design elements. It was Apple’s ability to think outside the box and disrupt the computing mainstream that changed how we interact with technology.

Would we be walking around with boom boxes still on our shoulders if the two Steves had dabbled across those two distinct areas of form and function?

If you needed a valve replaced in your heart, would you go to a general surgeon, a cardiothoracic surgeon or a neurosurgeon? I mean, they all do similar things right? When it comes to weilding the scalpel, of course, you’d seek out a cardiothoracic surgeon.

You want the person who spends their days operating from their zone of genius. Your team wants that too. So what’s the pivotal strategy that will help you stay in your lane and operate from your zone of genius more often? There are just two steps to this strategy. First of all, you need to know what your zone of genius is.

what’s your zone of genius?

What is it that you do without even thinking about it? You’re automatically in the flow every time. Now you may get feedback on it, and people might say, oh my goodness, that’s amazing. How did you do it? I was recently watching Suzie Fletcher on the repair shop.

She brought back to life a person’s much loved but well worn toy leather pony, complete with tiny bridle. Her brother, Steve, commented that it reminded him of when she made bridles and saddles for her toy horses as a girl. A master sadler in the making. Or someone who has mastered the craft that sits within her zone of genius.

Get really clear on your zone of genius. And even more importantly, make a note of the signs and the symptoms of you being in your genius zone. For example:

  • How do you feel?
  • What are you doing?
  • How do you look?
  • Is there a sparkle in your eye or a smile on your face?

Perhaps you just feel light and open. Once you’re aware of all the permutations of your genius zone, review your calendar. Colour code, everything in your calendar that has you operating from your zone of genius what percentage of time do you spend in your genius zone?

Based on that colour coding now take a look at the other stuff and make a plan for how you can stop or move the stuff on to somebody else’s zone of genius.

It’s not about cramming in more genius time. It’s about it’s about creating space so that you can effortlessly slot in more genius time.

bonus productivity tip

Being in your zone of genius opens up your creativity so schedule in some active recovery or some mundane admin time after each genius time slot and get ready to catch some amazing ideas.

So today we’ve talked about our dabblers, our technomanagers and our multi-taskers, and how these well meaning ways of being can actually get in your team’s way. It can create frustration, cause your superstars to leave and derail your succession planning. It dumbs down your team, and it stops you from being the transformational leader you were destined to be.