Effective Team Management Strategies to Boost Productivity

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Written by: Hiba Amin

Published: March 04 2020

In a recent Soapbox report, we learned that 37% of managers surveyed feel that the most important part of their role is to keep the team on track to achieve goals. When teams are better aligned, have goals to work towards, and are able to communicate better, it becomes easier to keep everyone moving in the same direction.

In this article, we’ll walk through five effective team management strategies that managers can implement to boost productivity, including: 


Let’s dive in!

Set Team Goals

The best thing you can do for your team is give them a direction to head towards together. 

In Steven Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he writes about building the habit of beginning with the end in mind. It’s not enough to say, “Let’s have a great quarter”. You need to define what end result you’re aiming for and define the necessary goals and actions to get you and your team there. 

OKR Goal Setting Framework

Depending on how your team operates, determine the goal-setting framework that works best for you. Companies like Soapbox, GitLab, Google and more operate on the OKR system. 

Pioneered by the late Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel OKR stands for “objectives and key results”. OKRs tie clear objectives with ways to measure how to reach those goals. 

When creating OKRs, create challenging, but not discouraging goals. The sweet spot is hitting 60-70% of your goal. If you score lower, the team isn’t achieving enough of what it could be, or the goal isn’t achievable. Scoring higher means that the goal might not have been set high enough in the first place.

Create Goals Collaboratively with the Team

When defining what you want to achieve in your given time frame (i.e. quarter, year, etc), be sure to define your goals collaboratively with the team. 

By doing this, you will be able to:

  • Encourage your team to participate in key decisions
  • Keep your team accountable for the goals you committed to
  • Get immediate feedback on what the team feels is achievable (and not)
  • Include more ideas into how to best achieve your team goals


The best way to define your goals with the team?

Allocate time during your next team or quarterly planning meeting to discuss team goals. Share the goals that you have set for the team and open up the floor to everyone to share their thoughts, concerns and ideas. 

Review Your Goals on an Ongoing Basis

Once you’ve set your goals, keep it as a recurring item on your team meeting agenda. Consistently reviewing your goals and progress during this time will reinforce how everyone’s individual KPIs ladder up to what the overall team and company objectives are. 

Rather than getting nitty-gritty with numbers, focus this time on:

  1. How you’re tracking against your goals
  2. What you need to do between now and the end of your timeline to achieve those goals


Run Effective and Productive Meetings

Considering that most managers feel that the most important part of their role is to keep the team on track, one of the best ways to do that is by running effective, productive meetings. But, for many teams, meetings tend to be a waste of everyone’s time because they’re not run effectively. In fact, an Atlassian report found that for the average meeting goer: 

(Source)

Meetings are inevitable. However, not all meetings are necessary. Before you move forward with the productive meeting checklist below, you’ll need to understand why you’re meeting and what you hope to get out of it. 

In Andy Grove's book, High Output Management, he breaks meetings down into two types: 

Process-oriented meetings

These are meetings that you would have more frequently. Generally, these meetings are run with the goal of sharing knowledge amongst the team. Examples of this type of meeting could include your recurring team meetings, one-on-ones, retrospectives and more. Everyone who is a part of these meetings should know: 

  • How the meeting is run
  • What is typically discussed
  • What the goal of the meeting is


Mission-oriented meetings

These are more ad-hoc meetings. The purpose of this meeting is to produce a specific output, like making a decision. For these meetings to be successful: 

  • Someone needs to be in charge of this meeting and accountable for the outcomes of it
  • There must be a clear understanding of the objectives and goals of the meeting across all attendees


In an ideal world, these meetings rarely occur because all of the things you would cover in this type of meeting would have been covered during your process-oriented meetings. According to Grove, however, you can expect that process-oriented meetings will take care of 80% of your teams issues and problems. The other 20% will be covered in these types of meetings.

Overall, when you’re able to run effective meetings, you’ll be able to better align and create a more cohesive team.

Productive Team Meeting Checklist

If you’re not sure how you can improve your meetings, here are 12 things you need to do to have productive meetings.

Pre-meeting: 

  • Attendance: Make sure everyone who needs to be there can be there.
  • Set a meeting goal: Don’t have a meeting for the sake of meeting. 
  • Share the agenda in advance: Encourage everyone to contribute to it.
  • Prepare for the meeting: Set the precedent on your team that everyone should come to these meetings prepared to discuss what’s on the agenda.


During the meeting: 

  • Remove any distractions. This can be as simple as putting laptops down and setting phones to silent.
  • Follow your agenda: You made one for a reason… Follow it.
  • Take notes: Keep a record of what was discussed, the decisions you made and why you made those decisions. 
  • Encourage people to speak up: This is especially true for team meetings. The team is not made up of just one voice, but a collection of many.


Post-meeting:

  • Send out meeting notes to everyone: Make it as easy as possible for everyone to access the meeting notes to avoid repetitive conversations after the meeting has ended. 
  • Assign meeting follow-up: Keep individuals accountable for what they agreed to during the meeting. 
  • Ask for meeting feedback: Do people feel better about the upcoming week? Did they feel that the meeting was a good use of their time?
  • Iterate on that feedback: If your team is telling you that the meeting wasn’t a great use of their time, ask them why. Action the feedback that you receive to be more productive in your next team meeting.


Have Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in Place

A standard operating procedure is a document that provides explicit directions for completing a certain task. SOPs provide clear-cut directions into how teams and individuals should go about completing certain processes. 

The Importance of SOPs

There are many benefits that come with implementing SOPs on your team, the biggest being a reduced need for managers to micromanage their teams. 

According to Teresa A. Daniel, author of Stop Bullying at Work, micromanaging “squashes the spirit and motivation of even the most talented and driven employee”. Micromanaging can quickly lead to burnout, or worse, voluntary turnover. 

Although there are many ways to teach a micromanager to chill, a great start is by implementing SOPs for your team. Here’s why: 

Systematize processes to allow managers to take a step back

When teams are able to document and build out processes, it allows everyone to move forward in a cohesive manner. Your team will reduce the time and effort (and mistakes) that can come along with doing something for the first time. With a systemized process, managers can take a step back from being involved with every stage of the planning and execution of tasks. 

Keeps everyone on the same page (and accountable)

With everything documented in one place, individuals are more accountable to adhering to best practices and internal processes. 

However, when building SOPs, this should not be a top-down approach. Rather, involve all relevant stakeholders and individuals who have the knowledge needed to build out a process that’s in the best interest of the team’s productivity and the organization as a whole.

Example SOP Use Cases

There are many use cases for building out SOPs. Let’s walk through some use cases, to give you a better idea of how to implement and use one for your team.

Employee Training and Onboarding

A Harvard Business Review study found that nearly 33% of new hires look for a new job within their first 6 months; a lot of this turnover is due to a poor onboarding experience or a lack of proper employee training. SOPs allow your team to ensure that every new individual who joins your organization is set for success from day one by standardizing what steps should be taken to properly onboard and train new employees.

(Source. Example of an SOP for onboarding employees from Charles County Department of Emergency Services)

Maintaining business knowledge

Employee turnover is inevitable (and that’s okay). Whether it’s individuals quitting, getting promoted or retiring, people will turnover at some point. That’s why you need to make it as easy and seamless as possible for the people taking over those responsibilities to have all of the necessary information required to pick up where the last person left off. 

How To Write a SOP

When creating your standard operating procedures, there are a few things you should keep in mind. We’ll go over them briefly in this section, however if you’d like to learn more, check out Helpjuice’s Guide to Writing an Effective SOP.

When writing a SOP, it’s important that you:

Determine your goals: Why are you creating this document? What is the end-user supposed to gain from reading this document?

Involve the necessary stakeholders: Who needs to be involved in creating this document? This should be a collaborative effort. A top-down approach that excludes the very individuals who will actually be going through the motions of the defined process will not work. 

Determine what information should be included (and how to present it): If the SOP is more overwhelming than helpful, it’s no longer useful. When creating your SOP, write it as if you’re sharing it with someone who is completely new to the organization. 

Write it and have multiple people review it: This is when you actually put all of those discussions and planning into action. But, before you release your SOP into the wild, have different individuals read through the document and provide you with feedback. 

Pro tip: When writing a SOP, try using the 10/50/99 approach to avoid having to completely restart the project because of a simple misunderstanding (i.e. misaligned goals for the document). 

Continue to improve and iterate your process: Your team, organization and industry will evolve over time. Maybe a new tool gets added to your tech stack and can automate certain processes. The point is, things will change over time and your SOP should evolve with those changes. This will ensure that your team continues to operate effectively.

When your team builds the habit of maintaining your knowledge document, it ensures that the knowledge, expertise and learnings that they’ve experienced are still available to others within the organization. 


Make Document Management Easy and Seamless

Nothing is more frustrating than sorting through an unorganized Google drive, where files live anywhere and everywhere. 

In fact:

  • 86% of employees surveyed face difficulties when locating specific office files
  • 46% say locating office files is challenging and time-consuming
  • 83% end up recreating an existing document because they were unable to locate the original
  • 65% find it difficult to check, approve, and otherwise utilize office files and documents


Knowledge bases help to minimize these frustrations.

What is a Knowledge Base?

A knowledge base is a centralized space where information is stored, organized and shared. 

When created internally, a knowledge base is built with the purpose of making collaboration within an organization easier. It makes information within the company more accessible (and thus helps to make teams more productive).

How a Knowledge Base Can Improve Your Team’s Productivity

A Queens University of Charlotte study found that 39% of surveyed employees believe that people in their own organization don’t collaborate enough. A big cause for this is because of workplace silos. When information isn’t shared across teams (especially those who collaborate with one another), it makes it harder to get things done faster. It creates roadblocks rather than fuel productivity. 

(Source)

In fact, a McKinsey report found that the average interaction worker spends nearly 20% of their time at work searching for relevant internal information or asking colleagues for answers. That means that at least one full day of every worker’s week is spent looking for information. Furthermore, McKinsey also found that a searchable record of knowledge (a knowledge base) can reduce the time employees spend searching for company-related information for up to 35%. 

It turns out that, when you have a knowledge base in place, there is enough time in the week to get things done. 

"Communication should travel via the shortest path necessary to get the job done, not through the 'chain of command.” - Elon Musk

Whether it’s top-down hierarchy, or team’s holding information hostage, when you make it hard for people to access information, you kill productivity. If you haven’t already, start building out your knowledge base and you’ll see your overall productivity levels rise.


Have the Right Tech in Place: Team Management Software

Speaking of building out your knowledge base, having the right team management apps in place can really help when it comes to: 

  • Breaking down silos
  • Keeping the team accountable, collaborative and productive
  • Giving everyone on your team the tools they need to succeed


In fact, 49% of millennials support social tools for workplace collaboration, 40% of which would pay out-of-pocket for social tools to increase efficiency. There is clearly a need and demand for introducing such tools to your team. 

Here are a few team management tools that can help boost productivity on your team.

  • Helpjuice for building out a knowledge base (and breaking down those pesky silos)
  • Soapbox for making meetings more productive and building accountability on the team
  • Slack for org-wide communication and keeping your inbox as clean as possible
  • Asana for keeping everyone on top of and informed on how projects are coming along
  • Zoom for all or partially remote teams to have better quality virtual meetings


Wrapping Up

There’s a lot that you can change and improve when it comes to boosting productivity on your team. 

Start with determining your destination, and continue to make improvements on how your team gets there. This will make the difference between a productive team and one that’s not.

This is a guest post from Hiba Amin. Hiba Amin is the Content Marketing Manager at Soapbox, a shared one-on-one and team meeting agenda app used by over 100,000 managers globally.

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