At Infoblox, we take employee development very seriously. We want employees to have a great career path at Infoblox and teams to succeed brilliantly and feel good about the work they do. We strive to practice what we preach. Following are some tips on the skills we encourage Infoblox leadership to cultivate that I think are useful reminders for team leaders at any company who want to be more successful.
- Always bring it back to the business strategy and priorities
Never assume everyone has a good grasp on the “big picture.” It’s easy to be heads down on a project and not realize that other projects should have top priority. Priorities are never as obvious as we think! It’s a leader’s job to communicate the company strategy in a timely manner and develop a shared understanding of how the team can have a direct impact in the company’s overall success.
- Clearly communicate expectations
To make the company strategy relevant to and actionable for your team, translate company strategy and KPIs to more specific department objectives with timeframes. Tie individual employee performance and rewards to successful achievement of these goals. Further, start every staff meeting with a reminder of the business strategy and key priorities: “Now let’s talk about our agenda today in light of our key areas of focus…” Also, frequently recheck the progress towards key projects and don’t let competing priorities get in the way of your primary objectives that tie to overall company performance.
- Set your employees up for success
If an employee is under-performing, don’t just sit back and hope he/she improves. Ask yourself:
- Does the employee understand what is expected? Be sure to provide a clear outline of goals and expectations.
- Is this something the employee has the capability to do? If not, then how big is the gap and how much time and effort does it take to fix? Can you afford the time and effort to close the gap?
- Is the employee passionate about the work? People gravitate to the work they enjoy. Sustained performance won’t happen if the employee isn’t passionate about the tasks he/she performs.
- Is the environment a fit for this employee? Evaluate if the employee can perform to expectations with the resources, support and environment that exists or that you can reasonably create.
- Reject the myth of the irreplaceable employee
We’re all replaceable – and this is a smart approach for any business. Avoid letting one person become so critical to the business that you’re lost without him/her. Build depth and breadth around the critical few. Cross-train and become familiar with what they do, and do it sooner rather than later.
- Establish trust and credibility among your team
Listen and learn. Actively listen and seek feedback and input from your team, your peers and your own boss. Don’t over promise and under deliver. Instead, say what you’re going to do and do it. Also, be sure to give credit where it’s due. Identify and communicate team accomplishments and promote the team or individuals who made it happen.
- Consider more than skill set when hiring
More important than having exactly the right skills for the job are passion, intellect and cultural fit. If you hire smart people who have a thirst for knowledge and learning, you’ll build a great team. A lack of passion for the job will eventually affect performance. Also, cultural or a work-style fit is required for sustained high performance. For example, employees must be able to work within the framework of how decisions are made, with the resources and tools available and in a manner consistent with the personality of the company.
- Always look for ways to improve your team
Instead of accepting the current limitations of your team, ask yourself: “What have I done today to make my team better?” Then do it! You can grow capacity in three ways:
- Hire the right A Players
- Coach your existing talent
- Improve your teamwork and coordination
To paraphrase: “Tell me and I’ll forget. Teach me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll learn.” In other words, delegate responsibility for team performance to others. As the single, central hub for all projects, communication and actions, you’ll soon become the bottleneck for getting things done. Instead, involving your team in problem-solving and setting strategy builds interest, buy-in and a shared passion to succeed. Delegating gives employees room to succeed and builds trust.
- Create a culture of transparency and open communication
Corporate communications can often be like a convoluted game of “telephone” as information filters down from the top. By using multiple communication channels, including email, roundtables, skip level meetings and walking around, you can gain a more holistic understanding of how people are interpreting and acting on information. A good approach to untangling confusion is to think: “As a leader, I know what I heard might resemble the truth, but this needs context and I need to find another way to sense what is actually going on.” Listen more than you talk to create a true “open door” relationship with your team.
- Over-communicate in times of change and uncertainty
People want more information, not less in times of uncertainty, and this is when leaders need to step up, be more visible and over-communicate. Talk truth as you know it, and explain the known and unknown clearly. Create a picture of optimism about what can happen, remaining realistic, honest and sincere.
For more information about Infoblox and our collaborative, supportive and fun work culture and pro-learning environment, check out our Careers page.