Experts want to be consulted for their insights and recommendations. Experts want information readily available and obstacles removed. Experts may get defensive when challenged. Experts take pride in being the go-to resource. These are just a few of the things I’ve learned in the past year as a new manager.
If you’re a manager and you’ve built your team the right way, then your team is a team of experts. It starts with hiring people who are just as good as you, and sometimes even better. It follows with trusting and empowering them.
Building a team from ground zero can be intimidating and challenging. After a year in my position, I’m still learning what to do and what not to do. Personally, I think it all starts with understanding your employees’ common psychology when it comes to risk and growth. Once you have a sense of the way each approaches change, you'll be in a far better position to figure out how to give them opportunities to expand their thinking and to use new strategies for responding to opportunities or adapting to changing situations in their work.
One of the first things we should do at the start of every project is set a clear performance goal. This holds your team accountable for the desired outcome.
For example, some of us are intrinsically motivated, while others are extrinsically motivated. Intrinsically motivated people are constantly competing against themselves, setting their own goals, and doing their best to exceed them. Extrinsically motivated individuals are driven by things that are outside of their control, like money, a superior’s approval, etc. It’s important to keep in mind as we discuss these that neither are bad. They are different, and pinning down who you’ve got on your team will help you figure out the best way to help them achieve their goals.
So, how do we do it?
One of the first things we should do at the start of every project is set a clear performance goal. This holds your team accountable for the desired outcome. The next thing you need to do is get out of the way. This can be difficult as a new manager but, although it can be tempting to give workers all the answers to a problem, adaptive managers know it’s better to create an environment where workers feel empowered to come up with their own answers.
During the course of projects, encourage your team to ask questions. The last thing you want is for them to think that because they are high-performers, they are supposed to solve everything on their own. I truly believe that it’s almost better to start a project as a novice and not an expert on a subject because it gives you the chance to learn something new. Unfortunately, this can be difficult for many high-performers who see failure as a flaw. Failure isn’t accepted in their minds, and they might neglect important parts of the process to reach their end goal.
Another issue you may run into when managing a team of experts is dealing with strong personalities. If everyone is a high-achiever with a pedal to the metal mentality, they might think that results override protocol, and in their mind, it is okay to bend the rules and even skip meetings to meet the end goal. That’s why it is important to hold meetings and checkpoints with your team. It gives you clear visibility into what’s currently being worked on, what still needs to be accomplished and what can be improved.
What am I trying to say?
Often high performers are perfectionists that can be very hard on themselves. They lack perspective and are world-class overachievers. They tend to be overly independent because they are self-motivated and self-sufficient. They want regular, specific feedback that can help them improve.
Guide them on how to handle stress, deal with failure and most importantly, make an impact. Go on, lead the way!