Summertime is one of my favorite seasons because there is so much to do. Nice weather, longer days, lots of fun! In our business, we see that most clients try to get through the summer months handicapped by lots of vacation and distractions. Work tends to be less critical for most during the summer months. The work environment becomes a little less formal, and people tend to work fewer hours.
However, many leaders get significantly behind on their goals without solid momentum leading up to the summer months. They panic in the early Fall, dreading closing the year on a sour note. This has a lot to do given many companies changing leadership in the Fall months to get off to a fresh start the following year.
While your colleagues are taking a more relaxed approach to just getting through the Summer, you and your team can use this time to invest more energy in working smarter, not harder. Here are some basic steps that you can take to keep your team moving forward and not suffer the consequences of poor performance.
Opportunity #1: Tone down the volume
Most organizations have multiple communication channels that tend to drive more communication, and staff spends too many hours responding to emails, text messages, IMs, and the like.
Here is a simple process to facilitate more effective communication on your team:
Is the issue a valid problem, opportunity, or informational?
1. If the issue is a valid problem, don't email. Instead, pick up the phone. Leave a voicemail. Follow up with a text message. Your management operating system needs attention if you've got too many problems. An easy way to determine if your systems are outdated is to determine the nature of your work environment. Which of the following best describes your current work environment?
- Fighting fires
- Treading water
- Incrementally improving
You will need to work on your management operating system if you fall into either of the first two above categories.
2. If the issue is an opportunity for the team, send a thoughtful and well-structured email in less than 100 words. Outline the solution, the business's value, and the steps needed to implement it. Schedule a time to meet with your boss about it or another key stakeholder.
3. If the issue requires you to inform others, what we call informational, then keep it for your next team meeting. Surface it with your colleagues only if it has a tangible impact on improving customer or employee experience; it will help others gain more productive capacity; saves time, or improves quality.
Opportunity #2: Spend more time together – Capitalize on a more informal and relaxed time of year
The Summer is an excellent time to make group lunches. Buy lunch for everyone and meet over lunch to deliberate on essential topics. Some examples of lunchtime conversations are:
- What's going well on our team, and how can we leverage the success and do more of it?
- What's not going so well, and what can we do to improve?
- Create more purpose. Revisit your team's mission and create more energy around your objective and its importance to the organization.
- How can our team improve relationships with other groups?
Teams that don't take time to discuss these issues do not meet the definition of a "team."
Opportunity #3: Figure out where your time is being spent
On average, less than five hours of productive work is accomplished during a typical 8-hour workday. In any given week, you're looking at 12-16 hours of wasted time per teammate! It sounds crazy, but it's true, and we have a ton of data to support this.
To see how much efficiency can be gained through better time management, the first step is to have your team log their time. But before you begin logging time, think about categorizing your core work activities. Many teams have a plethora of tasks to accomplish. Often these tasks have evolved based on other inefficient or ineffective work policies, procedures, and processes or have developed for different reasons. An excellent exercise for the team is to take all of its work and categorize it into major work buckets. These work buckets effectively define the purpose of the team and the team's must-do deliverables, in addition to logging the time spent in the significant work buckets, log interruptions, meeting time, and time spent on emails.
It is most effective to log for 30 days, and you will have some incredible insights to manage your time and improve your management operating systems.
Let's get started
The great thing about using the summertime work environment to revisit these critical aspects can be summarized by the following benefits:
- Your team will gain more clarity.
- Your team will feel more autonomous in producing their solutions.
- Your team will feel more important after they understand their contribution to the organization.
- Your team will develop better relationships with each other, more trust, and more collaboration.
- You will have a blueprint of operational improvements that you can begin implementing at the end of the Summer.
In short, you will have taken the summertime to improve team performance and employee experience. It is fun and is an easy decision, right?
Top Ten Percent Leaders use the summer months to get ahead instead of fighting fires or treading water all day. Try it, and you won't be disappointed.