Ever find your team falling behind at the “easy” stuff? They are crushing major tasks but can’t seem to stay on top of routine reports and deadlines. In turn, as the leader, you believe it’s easier to take on these tasks yourself rather than nag at others. The self-fulfilling prophecy is all too predictable: the team falls into a cycle of missing routine tasks, the leader takes each task on, and everyone falls further behind.
What is going on? Is it a lack of initiative by the team? Or is there something you, the leader, aren’t seeing?
When there are problems on a team, it’s about identifying the problem, taking ownership, and quickly moving towards a solution. When we find our teams missing the easy stuff, here are three places to check:
- Are your accountability structures working? Effective accountability structures are clearly articulated and consistently enforced. This can be as simple as dedicated time during the weekly team check-in where each member provides an update on everyday business items. In the Army, we have a saying: people will only do what you check, so if you want it done, you need to check.
- Is communication flowing both ways? Effective communication structures are open, two-way streets in which your team clearly understands your expectations and has an avenue to communicate their questions and challenges. If your team is afraid to ask questions or raise issues, figure out why and correct it. There may be an obstacle preventing those easy tasks from being completed that you just aren’t aware of.
- Are you part of the problem? No one gets better at their job because their leader did it for them. When you take on someone else’s work, you risk undermining your accountability and communication structures. If the right thing is to cover down on that teammate’s work, know the cost of redirecting your efforts.
The good news is that if you and your team fall into this common rut, there is a way out. Revisiting your accountability and communication structures regularly will ensure they are working in ways that best serve your team in their current environment. And be open to checking yourself – if you absolutely must cover a team member’s work, be sure to consider the impact on the individual and the larger team.