The final ingredient in the Formula is process
. If you’ve been following along, you’ve now established a culture, identified the right people to hire with clear roles and responsibilities, created a rhythm and defined objectives and tasks to accomplish in specific time periods. Process ties it all together
by helping you use these strategies with your team. To be a good manager, there are 4 important processes to implement:
Communication may be the most important word in this guide. It is the key to making your team operate effectively. Failure to communicate is the #1 cause of people problems.
Communication ensures that a few critical things happen:
Everyone is aligned on what the goals are
Everyone is accountable for their responsibilities
Everyone is transparent on the progress being made
are the building blocks of a successful team. They are must-haves to make everything else in this guide work.
Let’s outline how communication actually happens on a high performing team. There are typically 2 processes for formal communication:
Meetings have a bad reputation.
They are often long and result in promises that never get completed. They also favor the loudest people in the room, who may not have the best ideas. The key to making meetings better is differentiating update meetings from decision meetings:
Update meetings: people communicate status of an objective or task
Decision meetings: relevant people discuss an issue and come to a decision
Your goal is to avoid update meetings
. At update meetings, everyone talks and no one listens. The updates discussed are often only relevant to a small part of the team. This makes it difficult to pay attention and commit to taking action during the meeting.
Updates should always be in writing
, never in meetings. This will keep your team happier and save you a ton of time.
To avoid the dreaded update meetings and ensure your people are accountable, written updates
are an important process. It involves each person writing a brief summary
at the end of the week outlining 4 items:
Progress: what did I accomplish this week?
Plans: What tasks am I doing next week?
Problems: what is blocking progress?
Other: what else should the team know?
The best way to do this is to have everyone fill out a form
sent to their email. When they fill out the form, their update is emailed to the group. A typical approach is everyone submitting their update by end of the weekend. This way, everyone starts out on the same page. Here is an example of a weekly update for Crazy Cookies:
Below is the Weekly Update for Brian, VP Sales:
Closed 2 new customers with several cookie orders
Hired 1 new sales rep that will start next week
Visit 5 offices that expressed interest in ordering cookies
Re-design our brochures to showcase new testimonials
Communication with the baking department has been slow
Customers are requesting more local cookie flavors… can we get them into the menu?
What are next steps for the Leadership team retreat?
I am traveling on Tuesday to the conference in San Diego
Written updates are tremendously impactful
for keeping everyone transparent on progress being made and accountable for delivering on their responsibilities.
I'm such a big believer in written updates that I built a tool to make them easy for my own team. Try it out and let me know what you think.
Now that status updates are being done in writing, there are a few meetings you should have that focus on discussion and decision making:
Your company’s leadership team should meet each week at the same time. This meeting includes a discussion about the following areas:
Progress on achieving current quarterly objectives
How the product is being received in the market
How the most important customers are succeeding (or not) using the product
How the team is performing and any people changes needed
Financial position of the company and review of metrics
This meeting cannot devolve into status updates.
Leaders need to remain focused and spent limited time together making decisions. The agenda should be created based on the concerns shared in the team’s written updates. Any important decisions should be noted in advance with an agenda so everyone has time to prepare thoughts.
An All Hands meeting is just what it sounds like: getting all team members together.
All Hands should be once per week
, typically for 30 minutes. During the meeting, each functional leader should outline a summary of the objectives being worked on for the next week. This meeting is mostly for getting everyone excited and having an opportunity to address the full team. Any important information shared in the meeting should also be sent in writing as a follow up.
Here is an example agenda for your All Hands meeting:
Props (2 minutes):
praise specific people for exceptional work that week
Metrics (3 minutes):
share metrics, such as customer growth
Functions (20 minutes):
each leader shares department summaries
Strategy (5 minutes):
CEO or COO shares strategy and the “why”
Keep your All Hands Meeting focused on objectives, not tasks. This is because tasks are too detailed and should instead be reserved for functional meetings.
Each functional group should have a weekly meeting. This is typically 30 minutes - 1 hour, and should be the same discussion and decision making
format as the leadership meeting, avoiding status updates. You may review the previous week’s successes and share an outlook on the objectives and tasks for the current week. It is also an opportunity for individual teams (e.g. just the marketing team) to bond.
AVP of Marketing at Sutherland
Joe oversees a team of 7 marketers at a global outsourcing firm. Each week, they hold a marketing meeting to review metrics and brainstorm ideas to drive new leads. It is highly specific and often gets technical.
Figuring out your objectives and tasks requires planning each week, quarter and year.
This involves a team discussion to prioritize what objectives and tasks should be included in that period. There are a few types of planning:
At the end of each year (usually December), your team should meet outside the office
for 1-2 days. During this Annual Planning meeting, you'll reflect on the successes and failures of the previous year. From there, identify what the most important priorities are for the following year, and craft your big annual objectives.
Once the annual objectives are created, you can translate them into quarterly objectives. Each annual objective is made up of several medium-sized quarterly ones that are easily measurable. Each quarter may include 3-10 of these. Every quarterly objective should be clearly mapped to an annual objective
that it helps accomplish.
With quarterly objectives in place, it's now easy to assemble a task list for weekly periods.
is a small time block used to group tasks, typically either 1 or 2 weeks. At the beginning of the sprint, the team meets to review the objectives and identify tasks to be completed during the period. If you know that an objective has 24 tasks involved, and there are 12 weeks in a quarter, a good framework would be weekly sprints that involve 2 tasks each.
Partner at Loco Studio
Laura runs a design studio where her team consults for clients to build apps and websites. Their sprint planning is largely based upon client volume and requests, so it changes frequently.
It’s critical that sprint planning is collaborative,
where each team member has input on what tasks are included. Otherwise, you’ll end up with people who are not motivated to complete their tasks because they feel forced.
All of the planning activities described here require thoughtful discussion and well-crafted documentation that outlines all of the plans made. Never rely on your team leaving a meeting and understanding the plan.
Instead, follow the mantra “if it’s not in writing, it didn’t happen.”
This ensures everyone will be aligned on their objectives and accountable for delivering results.
Good managers give regular, timely and actionable feedback
to each person on the team. In addition to using metrics to know if they are doing a good job, people use feedback from their manager and peers to improve quality, adjust behaviors and overall grow individually. This is a perfect opportunity to coach your team, rather than just dictate to them. There are a few simple processes for giving feedback:
At a 1-1, you meet individually with each person that reports to you, ideally once per week. This meeting is an opportunity to discuss challenges, share feedback, and have an open forum to ask each other questions. Some best practices include:
Ask each team member to arrive with an agenda for discussion
Take notes so you can follow up on action items and commitments
Try to avoid discussing specific tasks, and instead focus on personal growth
Replies to written updates
Managers should respond to each weekly written update
. The response can be as simple as “Great job with the new recipe, customers are loving chocolate chunk cookies!”
The key is to provide acknowledgement. The written update is an opportunity every week to provide direct, private feedback to each team member, or to provide public praise for tasks and objectives accomplished. Here is an example:
Thanks Brian! Great work on closing 2 new customers.
The Leadership Retreat is planned for June 20th. I'll send a detailed agenda this week.
Formal reviews involve a detailed evaluation of a team member and sometimes an adjustment to their compensation. This is typically done annually. The process can be effective as long as any feedback shared in formal reviews has already been shared in the weekly 1-1 meetings. Always avoid a situation where someone waits until the end of the year to get valuable feedback.
If you are using metrics properly, you’ll be analyzing performance on a daily or weekly basis by consistently reviewing your metrics and measuring if objectives are being achieved.
This typically happens in your weekly meetings and written updates. To help facilitate your planning, there are a couple of formal analysis activities to do:
Reflection is a healthy and beneficial process. At the end of every quarter, each functional leader should compile a summary of the objectives achieved. The summary should include metrics and descriptive analysis on where the team succeeded vs. struggled. This is easier than it sounds:
simply look at your quarterly objectives and write a paragraph about each, articulating if it was completed and what was learned.
CEO of Crystal
Drew leads a 12 person team at a tech startup in Nashville with $5M in funding. He sends a detailed quarterly summary to his investors and advisors. He includes metrics and clear asks for how advisors can support his efforts.
Annual Reports aren't just for big public companies. Your annual report can simply be a compilation of your 4 quarterly summaries.
Having this written record is invaluable for your company’s history and future planning. While it may sound tedious and time consuming, it is also easier than you’d think. The outline of the report is simply the Annual Objectives you defined earlier.