Related Article: Who Is Driving the Bus?
I recommend using the following Bus related questions to guide your hiring and team building:
- Where is the bus going?
- Who should be on the bus?
- Where should they sit?
- Who else can drive?
Each of these questions plays an integral role in building the team you go to battle with, and your long-term success.
Last month in this column, we reviewed the first three questions. Next up we look around at our passengers and decide Where Should They Sit - which includes their actual physical workspaces and the kind of work they do.
We have now figured out where we are going and picked the passengers on our bus of great expectations, so our next goal is to make sure everyone is sitting in the right seats.
Onboard our bus, sitting in the right seat means each person being in a role that suits their skills and experience and where they can contribute the most to achieving our goals.
So, start the bus rolling toward the target and make adjustments as you go. A team is an organism that changes every day in small ways and your job as the manager is to be observant of the small changes. Performance, of course, is a major indicator, but a team member's health, their appearance or energy level, and outside stressors can throw someone off track. Too many of those small changes building up can throw enough people off track, and then you get bigger tremors or even major fault lines that cause the bus to go off course.
Most noticeable in the team fishbowl is when internal stressors are causing someone to go off course - their cubby buddy, their chair, their work schedule, their part in the assignment, their perception regarding their contribution to the end goal - can all lead someone to the dark side and sap their motivation.
As a manager, small changes to make someone happy leads to big returns.
Hard-driving, self-reliant tough talking managers may scoff at the guy who needs a place to park his bike or the team member who gets too warm sitting near the window. But solving these problems are the easiest things to do as a manager and almost always get you the best result. Try it. Just say yes the next time someone needs something small (which is likely gigantic to them). People are so used to "no" and their genuine appreciation for your actions to support them will come in handy when you have to ask them for something larger and more complex in half the time.
In the end, even after everyone is sitting in the right seat, they still have to deliver. If they don't, then it's time to find them another seat on the bus that fits their skills, experience and energy or it's time to pull the cord, ring the bell and let them off at the next stop.
But when they do deliver, seeing your team succeed on their own merits is one of the most rewarding parts about being a manager. Successful product launches or sales pitches or service calls benefit everyone - the company, the manager and the team members.
So after you take a moment to revel in the glory, take another moment to think about who is ready to Drive Your Bus. Or Drive their Own Bus.
The best time for a mini promotion within the team is while the juice is still flowing from a recent success. You will have observed who contributed at what stages, who was the most engaged, and who did the most for other team members. So as you gear up for the next project, find a way to let that person drive the bus a little. As a kid, my dad would let me drive on the highway sitting on his lap while he worked the pedals. I was driving but under his guidance. Same idea here.
Here's an example: If it's a product launch, ask your star to run your version of the After Action Review, gathering feedback from the team and customers about the positives and negatives from the launch, then providing a verbal briefing to other managers or better yet to executives. This allows you to recognize the star's contribution in front of the team and in front of your boss and their peers as well - which helps his career and your reputation as someone who develops high performers.
If that goes well, the next natural step is to ask the star to run the requirements gathering phase of the next product launch or a spin-off from the first product, which can be followed by overseeing the build process, then the Beta test, then the roll out. If all goes well, you have a new product manager, who can then help you identify the next person to spotlight.
Greyhound drivers on long trips switch off the driving duties to keep them fresh and focused, same with airline pilots and people like us on cross country trips to Wally World. Managers should do the same.