The quest for becoming leaner has been leading many companies through the process of reducing their headcount while increasing the responsibilities of employees. Many will be dealing with more context-switches and changes than before. The byproduct of this is that you’ll always seem to be missing people in order to achieve your goals. The team will be required to perform many diverse tasks and will seem to have less time to do them. It seems to be a pain, and it may seem like you need to push your people to their absolute limits. In reality, this is an opportunity for many people. A good team leader will know to take advantage of this situation and allow his team members to fulfill their personal goals.
Room to Grow
In a way, teams are similar to Rush Hour – that game where you’ll need to break free a specific car while others block its ability to move. While we’re not pushing anyone out, the principle inside the game is the same. The team has responsibilities and tasks to cover. The more team members you have, the less room you’ll have to move them around. If you have enough resources to cover all of your tasks and responsibilities – no one will have room to grow. If they’re stuck in their position – you won’t be able to move them should they get bored with it.
A few years ago I was managing a team and we were three people short. Two had left the team and a new product was put on the market which was mostly our responsibility. It was the most work-intensive period of time in my career, when I had to call upon everyone to do above-and-beyond for months.
What started as a crisis became a really major highlight for us – it allowed me to fully restructure the team. I got to talk to each team member about what they wanted to do with their career. Some wanted more development responsibilities, while others wanted more product management and design work. We had so much work to do, that I had my pick at what to assign to each person, restructure the team as I saw fit, and allow every team member to advance both personally and professionally.
The changes gave everyone a major boost in motivation and productivity. What seemed like a weight on our shoulders ended up a really good thing for everyone involved.
You’ll notice that as time progresses, teams change organically. New products will grow, and older will die. You may get people for your team from within the company who will carry old responsibilities. Being low on resources will allow you to push irrelevant tasks away, taking on new ones, and will give you room to change your team structure to what your company needs today rather than what they needed years ago.
It is very important to avoid placing too much pressure on both yourself and your team. As a team leader it’s your responsibility to know when to, or to avoid placing more load on them. In some companies there is always a sense of emergency and constant load. It is important to learn how to navigate these waters – everyone will benefit when you choose when to add pressure. You want your team to be there for you when you need them most. Identify when someone is burning-out, and show appreciation when you are in fact overloading them. Appreciation can cost very little and will pay out dramatically. Like in any relationship, it’s the thought that counts (…and the gift cards. The gift cards count too.)
When you emerge from a time when resources were low, you can come out substantially stronger than before. If you manage doing that – your team will hold gratitude.