In the process that I coach for Operational Excellence my favorite phase is when crews start to report and share results from their metrics. Many ask me why it is important to report results from the data the crew are collecting and there are many reasons but two big ones stand out. The first is that the act of reporting results continues to embed "ownership" of those results in the person reporting. Second, and this is particularly true if the group or team are all reporting at once, the reporter gets a clearer picture of how what they do fits into the overall company process and goals. They no longer see their results in isolation but rather as part of the bigger picture.
Boost Employee Engagement
From an engagement perspective the first point is gold. Getting employees to own their results is a huge leap forward in terms of driving performance. Ramping up engagement beyond the average of 33% will already reap you big rewards that impact your bottom line.
Super Charge Innovation
However, this process gets "super-charged" when reporting happens in the larger team or group setting. A frac group I worked with hit this phase in full stride. Daily meetings went from two minutes to thirty minutes almost overnight. As results were shared members of the group began to make connections between what everyone was doing. Suddenly ideas to improve process or maintenance and downtime started coming out of these meetings. When a job was completed all the crews would meet for a post-frac review and they started developing opportunity lists from the things that had come up during the job. Everything from improvements to safety, processes, maintenance and communication and even creating new pieces of equipment went on that list. With the support of the data collected within the team front line leadership were able to implement innovative new approaches to each of these areas.
The result was staggering. Performance burst into the 90% plus range and operational costs and times went down. One crew presented a request for a new piece of equipment that they could prove would save the company over $3M in one year alone! The biggest take away was the response of the clients. One client sent their VP of Operations to congratulate these crews on their outstanding performance and how they had been able to add 25% more wells to their completion cycle that year because of it. New clients heard about them and came knocking to sign them up. But the response that the crews valued the most came in the form of an observation made by one of the operations consultants for a client. He said, and I quote, "In over 30 years of work in this industry I have never seen a team operate at such a high level. You guys are absolutely the pointy tip of the spear with regard to setting new standards of performance for what you do." High praise coming from an industry veteran - and you know in the "patch" those don't come easily!
Tap Into Your Tribal Knowledge
You better believe that this commentary circulated like wild fire around the crew and they approached every new job with a sense of enthusiasm and vigor. The reality is that there is a lot of useful knowledge (I call it tribal knowledge) circulating around a company. The ability to get your team to develop, track and report on their metrics and tie that to company goals is key to finding and using that knowledge. Metrics to reporting to innovating and developing new metrics, that how this cycle should fit together. Reporting is key to innovation, don't miss out on that part of your Operational Excellence cycle. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
In my many years of providing instruction and consulting I have come to learn one very important fact; The more steps you require someone to learn for a new process the less likely you are to succeed. Implementing Operational Excellence has a higher chance to succeed if the steps are kept simple and easy. Another way to put it is that complexity works against implementation.
What to Measure?
This is usually the first sticking point in the OE process. It is normal that most people will have a hard time describing how what they do contributes to the success of the team or company. Even crew members who operate machinery vital to a process will have a hard time making this connection. Behaviors are a good place to start.
What You Can See And Count
With one crew there was a lot of specialized machinery and many specialized roles. To keep it simple they came up with measuring how many times maintenance was done each shift by the crews for each piece of equipment. Downtime was a big issue so counting the amount of times maintenance was done seemed a good place to start. Doing maintenance is a behavior that can be seen and counted. The expectation was that this was happening and as it turned out - not so much. However, once they started tracking it they discovered that downtime began to drop. Why? Because tracking that behavior communicated its importance and how it related to the success of the crew. Tracking this behavior elevated it to a higher level of visibility and accountability.
In one restaurant the manager and staff decided to track smiles at the drive through window. Their reasoning was that every encounter was an opportunity to boost client satisfaction (one of the company goals). Smiles were recorded as checks on a napkin!
One executive office tracked the number of times their client (VP, EVP, CFO, COO or CEO etc.) asked for material for a meeting that had been set. This was an EA staff and they took the attitude that it was their job to have all materials prepared and in the hands of their boss before each meeting. They believed that if their boss was not constrained by these delays before meetings they would be more effective for the company. If a boss asked for something then the EA's regarded that as a missed opportunity to serve their client effectively.
With metrics, or kpi's or measures it is the same. The more user friendly the reporting mechanism the easier it is to implement. How easy you ask? In most cases it began with hand drawn graphs. Once staff, crew or plant operators have an idea about what they want to measure I get them to make their own graphs to track it from shift to shift. These eventually move to a spread sheet but the key is that each person created their own tracking system (graph) that made sense to them and was easy to input information into. It doesn't have to be high tech.
All that is left then is for you as a leader to give them an opportunity to report their results. This could be one on one as you spend time touching base with them. It could be at start or end of shift meetings or regular staff meetings. Getting staff to report their results ties them clearly to what they are tracking and they "own" it much more quickly. The point is that these things don't need to be complicated. In fact, you should make sure they are not complicated. Once you do these things watch and see how your team will transform. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
There are your metrics and There are Their metrics - Setting the environment for effective use of metrics
Metrics can be a powerful tool. As someone who has explored the use of metrics across a wide scope of industries and settings I can tell you that setting the environment for the use of metrics is key to giving them meaning and effectiveness. This is important for two reasons; first you need the collectors of those metrics to view them as their own. Second you need to provide a safe place for those metrics to happen.
Your Metrics or Their Metrics
Getting your staff or team to own their metrics is key to giving power to those measures. This is important for a number of reasons; one reason is it creates linkage between crew or team metrics with company or unit goals - they see how they contribute to the overall success of the group. When that takes place staff can now see themselves in the larger picture and understand better how they contribute. It also gives them a better sense of "team" where they can communicate better with regard to needs and issues. A good example of this was a group of plant operators who after going through a process review were challenged to come up with key pieces of information that they needed to do their job better. Once everyone knew where they fit into the bigger picture it was easier for them to say "I need x, y and z from you so that I can be more effective on my shift.” What it translated into was a clear set of expectations and talking points for each cross shift meeting so that better communication enhanced overall performance.
Getting staff to "own" their metrics is the other part of making a metric a tool to drive performance. In one plant two crews took different approaches to this. The Plant Manager wanted more leadership from his floor leaders so that they spent less time "doing" tasks and more time "teaching" tasks. The challenge was presented to the supervisors and each was to come up with solutions. One supervisor went in and told his floor leaders that he wanted them to do more mentoring and he was going to be checking for that on a regular basis. He outlined the need and established a metric that they report back on the number of times they spent showing staff how to do things on each shift. It was hit or miss as the supervisor had to constantly remind his team about the metric but as soon as he left the floor things went back to the old way.
The other supervisor met with her team and brainstormed what a good metric would be for this challenge. They concluded that often the temptation was to do the task for an operator rather than mentor because it was quicker. Because the floor leaders had been promoted through the ranks it was easy to just fall back into "doing" rather than teaching. They came up with an ingenious metric - bums! Every time a floor leader was spotted "head down and bum up" doing an operators job either a fellow floor leader or operator had the right to call them on it and the tally was totaled at the end of each shift. Because they had come up with this as a team and because it was the floor leader’s idea they really ran with it. Discussions that revolved around this were collegial and non-threatening and soon they were doing way more supervision and mentoring and the crew performance was also on an up curve! On a side note those floor leaders moved to the front of the line for promotion as well.
Let's be clear, these were both great crews and leadership but what was the difference? With the first crew the supervisor "owned" the metric and with the second crew the crew "owned" it. It was their idea and they were invested in making sure it succeeded. But what if the supervisors or the plant manager had been a couple of hard-nosed tyrants? Could either of those two scenarios have taken place? The short answer is no.
Making It Safe For Metrics To Work
The single biggest obstacle I face in my work with Operational Excellence is overcoming the residue from toxic work environments. Even when there is complete agreement at all levels about the need for the changes being undertaken it is hard to overcome some of the distrust that has been created in the past. The first question I typically get is "will the management be doing this too?" Asking someone to create and track a measure related to their performance is asking them to take a big risk. They know there will be good days but they also know there will be bad days. What happens on those bad days? Are the measures they are collecting going to be used against them?
In addition to teaching leaders how to get crews to develop their own metrics I also spend a lot of time teaching them how to respond to those metrics. The temptation is always to lead the discussion around a metric and fix whatever issue is at hand - wrong. Getting that crew member to explain their results (good, bad or otherwise) and getting them to come up with a plan to improve a result is key to their success. If they ask by all means offer input but for the most part let them report and run with it - it is part of getting them to own it.
When crews take these first steps one of the things leaders will come to me with is "the metric is too soft or too safe", that it doesn't give them the information they need. This is normal and again here is where a certain amount of poise and patience is needed. Crews will figure out on their own that their measure isn't giving them what they need. They will learn that metrics are dynamic. That is to say they ought to be constantly evaluating in order to adjust to new challenges and needs. In addition, once a safe environment for measuring performance has been established you will find that the next move to fostering "innovation" will be much more seamless. Creating opportunities and potential innovations gets easier when they lead with solid data and when they feel safe enough to contribute.
Get Your Metrics To Work For You
Metrics can be a powerful tool. I have seen them transform the way crews perform and in that transformation change entire processes for production. It is not easy and it does involve a time commitment at the front end of the process. However, when everything falls into place you will be amazed and how much of your time is freed up. Metrics don't just have to be a speedometer that measures how fast you are going right now but can be used as a motivator to get crews to aspire to breaking the next barrier to performance. What do your metrics do right now? Performance Leadership - Think About It!
For many of you this will sound familiar; "We can't train now because it is too busy and we can't afford to take anyone off-line right now." This is usually bookended with another refrain that goes like this; "We can't train right now because of the downturn and we just can't afford it at all." Some of you have even made those comments. The reality is that for many companies the idea of a training initiative around Operational Excellence is simply overwhelming. Either there is no time or there is no money. Yet if we are honest about this these are excuses not actual constraints. How we allocate the time of our staff is a choice, how we allocate budget toward things like training is a choice and in both cases those choices reflect priorities.
So what is the cost of not doing Operational Excellence? This is a big question. What does it cost you to bleed staff who have not been engaged? What does it cost you to have a staff who operate at only 1/3 of their potential? What does it cost you in lost innovation and opportunity because no one "owns" what happens in your company? What does it cost you in recruiting because the quality candidates "know" your company and are not interested in being there? What does it cost you to have clients fall away due to lack of attention or care? And the list could go on and on.
Those are the costs of not doing Operational Excellence but what is the value of doing it? What value is it to you to have staff that are keenly aware of the competition and are all working to stay in front of that competition? What value is it to you to have staff constantly looking for ways to improve process, quality and client satisfaction? What value is it to you to have staff who can't wait to get to work each day because they are part of a winning team? What value is it to you to have the best candidates knocking at your door because they "know" your company and want to be part of your winning team? And the list could go on and on.
Dollars Vs Value
We could talk ROI or dollars and cents. I could talk about the company that was facing going under because no matter what they did they were always just under break even on their margins? How that company took their team through Operational Excellence training and almost overnight were able to add 10% to that same bottom line. I could put dollars and cents on that but you tell me as a business person or leader what VALUE would you give it? I could tell you about the company who brought Operational Excellence to their team and within months saw performance shoot through the roof and as a result saw contracts, big contracts, come in. Or a local company going through the same downturn so many of you are who slashed their Opex budget only to have their operations crews who had been trained in Operational Excellence come in another $5M below that already slashed budget? That $5M is a nice number but if you ran that company what VALUE would that be to you?
What Do You Value?
If you haven't figured it out already my point is simply this; you can put a number on costs and a number on profit margins or bottom lines but can you really put a value on what Operational Excellence would bring to your company or group? I could tell you that one month of Operational Excellence training and support would cost you about $1.67/hour for each employee that you trained. For what you could get in return for that training what VALUE would you give it? Performance Leadership - Think About It!
I spend a lot of time working with leaders and their teams. We talk a lot about metrics and how to use them and I admit it took me a while to realize that often we were talking about two very different things.
“I do not think that word means what you think it means?” Inigo Montoya – The Princess Bride
Many of my clients come from an engineering background and regard metrics as something that is used to report performance. For example; last month we produced X number of widgets. Or we lost X man hours last month due to maintenance down time. These metrics tell a story regarding how a company is doing in terms of things like production, time to market, cost of sales and so on. All companies have them in one form or another.
But there is another metric that is out there and it may even be the same as the metric you are now using to report performance but that is where the similarities end. The difference is that reporting performance does not drive performance. Let's use the first example to examine this more carefully.
One Metric – Two Purposes
A company may have a metric around production. Last month we produced X number of widgets. If we dive down into this metric we could ask questions like; how many departments had a hand in reaching that production number? In those departments how different people were required to get that part of the product made? If there were bottlenecks where did they occur and why? You get the picture.
Let's be clear, at this point all of these are just subsets of the overarching metric of total production numbers and are still just reporting performance not driving it. The shift to driving performance is when each of the individual contributors to that process understand how they are contributing to it and whether that contribution was better than the day before or not. Metrics drive performance when those who contribute to the metric take ownership of their contribution.
We use metrics to drive performance in our everyday lives but strangely enough we seem to struggle with them at work. Don't believe me? What was the score in the Stampeder football game last weekend? How many medals did Canada get in the Rio Olympics? What is your golf handicap? What is your bowling average? Are you a better bowler today than you were last time you bowled? How do you know? Metrics. One of my favorite movie scenes involves Billy Crystal as a grandparent attending his grandson's baseball game. He discovers that in that league they don't keep score, there are no outs and every game ends in a tie. Needless to say he is incredulous and rightfully asks the question; "what is the point?" We are wired to respond to metrics this way.
We are all competitive at some level. We respond to that urge naturally and numbers help us gauge how effective we are - they drive performance. To prove it to one front line leader I asked him to simply post a number between 1-10 in the crew room at the end of each shift and not say a word. The first day it was a 6 and nobody said anything. The second day it was a 7 and the crew took note of it. On the third day though he posted a 3 and they went through the roof! How could today be a 3? They all did the same work as the 7 day, what did they do to warrant a 3? All it took was three days and that metric was already driving performance!
Are You Plugged Into Your Power Source?
That is the power of a metric for driving performance. That leader did not have to take his crew through some pre-planned analysis of what they were doing, good, bad or otherwise, the crew interpreted the numbers to be a performance metric and had already at some base level begun to try and figure out how their boss was arriving at that number. Going up was okay, going down not so much!
Perhaps you are using and collecting metrics and the data around them. Perhaps you have a good handle on what performance looks like at your company. But are you using those metrics to drive performance with your staff? Do they know how they contribute and whether they are improving? If not, why not? Performance Leadership - Think About It!
I love walking folks through operational excellence and the benefits it brings. One of the amazing consequences of the program is the communication bridge that is created between operations and corporate. I never cease to be amazed when I get to watch a group of front line personnel present to the VP of Operations an idea that they generated, researched and supported through the data they have collected. It is great to see the VP Ops react when this group speaks clearly to how this improves the company bottom line or aligns with a company goal or value. That, as the say, is worth the price of admission!
An Issue As Old As Time
The gap in communication between leadership and follower, executive and staff, corporate and operations is as old as time itself. It is one of the chief issues that drive so much of the business support industry. Management consulting, communication consulting, change management, Lean, Six Sigma, Agile, SAP, LMS's and so many others are indicators as to how significant this issue is.
Moving from Opinion to Measurement
Often the biggest barrier to communication is lack of methodology which leads to lack of trust. I walk into many businesses and management will tell me what their biggest pain point is. I can walk down to the floor or go to site and I will have at least a couple of the veteran staff tell me why that is an issue and what needs to be done about it. The breakdown comes because when those ideas get relayed back up the line it sounds suspiciously like opinion. While decision makers by nature may have a higher tolerance to risk than most they are not going to bet the farm on an opinion even it comes from a veteran staff member. In short they don't speak the same language - numbers!
Risk involves uncertainty and opinions do not address that uncertainty. Measurement addresses uncertainty. If you know what to measure, why to measure and how that will reduce uncertainty around a decision then you have begun to bridge that communication gap. Let me share a quick example. Cold weather operations in Oil and Gas are problematic because many operations use fluid, chief of which is water. Water, metal pipes and cold weather are a sure mix for disaster. Every O&G company has its "winterizing" processes which for the most part tend to be time consuming and costly. Sites that are not on a 24-hour rotation wind up performing this "winterizing" process at the end of each day and then at the start of the next they have to "undo" it.
One particular group I worked with had begun to measure a number of things around performance including "winterizing." Because they now had data which included the time it took to winterize and time to put everything back together the next day they knew exactly how long this took. They also had an idea of the approximate value of a downtime minute - time spent doing something else instead of pumping or drilling. It had been discussed for sometime that this process could virtually be eliminated by flooding the lines with a methanol water mix but due to lack of data the idea had been dismissed as cost prohibitive. Once they examined the data in terms of lost time and what it cost the company it was discovered that this was in fact not the case at all! There was in fact a cost savings and when that and the time savings were all calculated in the company saw an increase in completions of nearly 10% from that one idea alone! They crew may have known this for some time but until they could speak "measurement" in order to reduce the uncertainty around the decision change was not going to happen.
Everyone Wants to Contribute
You may be tempted to believe that this is a unique situation with a motivated crew. The reality is I have seen it happen time and time again. Simply put, people want to contribute to the success of the team you just need to give them the tools to do so. By showing them how what they do contributes to the company's success and showing them how to measure what they do so they can improve their performance you provide them with those tools. Once they speak "measurement" they have bridged that communication gap with leadership. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
Operational Excellence is one of those terms that can have a wide variety of meanings depending upon who you speak with. For one group it is about streamlining processes. For another it is about developing and tracking key operational metrics. And for others it is about developing an "engaged" workforce that can spot and adjust to necessary changes quickly. I am sure you have your own unique understanding for what operational excellence is and what it means to your group. The fact is that all of these things are correct. Operational excellence is a dynamic blend of organizational design and process improvement, the development and use of metrics and continuous improvement and performance management.
This interesting blend of approaches is indeed dynamic with a unique ratio of each of these elements depending upon your company and what it needs. What is not dynamic and what is not up for interpretation is the purpose of operational excellence. Improving profitability. This can mean "becoming" profitable, increasing your profit margins, ramping up a competitive advantage, increasing client satisfaction, increasing quality - you get it - and the list goes on. All of these goals center around increasing profits.
Let's look at a couple of examples; one that was pretty straight forward with an immediate outcome. And a second scenario that took a bit more time but with pretty spectacular outcomes as well.
We Need To Free Up Budget Room Now!
Company A was already well into developing operational excellence into its field work force when it suddenly realized it needed some pretty drastic and immediate savings around its Op Ex budget. Gains were beginning to come in from the field but this was a bigger and more immediate issue. A team of facilitators was brought in and various components of the company came together to spend the day brainstorming. Breakout rooms were created for teams that had representation from each department that touched production from start to finish. I facilitated one team and had them create a process map from when they came into the picture until they handing something off to the next group. It all went up on one wall and for the first half of the meeting it was just each department mapping their part of the process. The second half of the meeting each group described their process and needs until all had presented. Then the magic happened. For many of them this was the first time they saw the process in detail from start to finish and questions and ideas began to percolate and flow. By the end of that session they had come up with a pretty extensive list of potential operational savings. It won't say that every item was approved but that day generated literally tens of millions of dollars in savings!
Law of Unintended Consequences
Company B wanted to get field operations to become familiar with and use performance metrics to drive day to day activities. For the executive it was really about developing a more detailed data set to stay in front of needs and issues. We took it a bit further by teaching the frontline leadership to not only get their crews to develop their own metrics but to use those metrics to drive performance and innovation for their teams. In a short span of time crews increased performance by over 40% (based on their own metrics), downtime virtually disappeared (it was not uncommon to have more "perfect days" each month than days with issues), crew engagement went up and client satisfaction soared! And oh yes, they collected so much valuable data that clients were now coming to them to use it. One of the more unintended and pleasant side effects of this improvement was the awarding of several very high value contracts (over $100M) with companies that only months before were considered well beyond this groups reach!
Necessity is The Mother of Invention
Two different companies, two different applications of operational excellence yet very similar outcomes in terms of impact on profit. The thing I notice is by the time I get called in the pain is unbearable for these companies and in desperation they look for answers they would not normally have considered. I guess necessity truly is the mother of invention! My question for you is simply this; why wait? Operational excellence is something any company can implement and it works! Performance Leadership - Think About It!
Another Oil and Gas company is laying off head office staff in Calgary. Another victim of the typical down cycle "contraction" that oil and gas companies go through every few years. This is so common place that many in the industry see it as normal. Oil goes down, people get laid off, oil goes up we hire them back. This is the tune everyone sings. But I suspect that tune may be coming to an end, that "winter is coming" as we GOT (Game of Thrones) fans are apt to say. There has always been a cost to these things so in true operational excellence tradition I am going to lay out some "placeholders" just to give us an idea of what that looks like.
The Immediate Cost
There is lots of research in HR circles around the estimated cost of losing an employee (voluntarily or otherwise). Those numbers are often represented as either months of salary or percent of salary. In months the number most frequently provided is nine. That is to say that it costs the equivalent of nine months salary to replace someone in that same position. For the percentage people the numbers range from 15 to over 200% of that positions' salary to replace them. This is based upon the premise that replacing an EVP is more costly than replacing a manager or geologist. For the sake of this discussion I decided to opt for both. I figured that nine months salary is the same as 75% so why not use that as a place holder. Its not 15% but its not 200% either.
I did some further research and study done by Hayes Oil and Gas Recruitment a couple of years ago pegged the average O & G salary in Calgary at around $130,000. When we take that number and multiply by 75% and then by say around 300 laid off we get a cost of $29.25M. That is to say this is what it will cost the company to get these positions back when things turn around. These numbers include things like recruitment, interviews, background checks, on-boarding and training (assuming they get each hire right the first time around). It also includes lost productivity as it is estimated that workers don't get back up to pre-exit levels of performance for at least six months.
"But wait!" you say what about the savings to the company in terms of wages? Fair question and again using the latest set of lay offs as an example it would mean that our company has saved an average of $39M. Factor out the cost for re-hiring later and that is a net gain of $9.75M. A respectable number to be sure but is it really a net gain?
Decline in Engagement
Research done by Gallup and other organizations like it show that during down cycle periods employee engagement drops from an average of 33% (let that sink in for a second) to somewhere around 28%. This is attributed to low morale created by the loss of coworkers and the uncertainty of the current market. New metrics measuring profit per employee have become fashionable of late and the numbers for this come in at $366k (USD) per employee. Source: Zacks Investment Research. 'As of August 13, 2015' Again for the sake of argument lets assume a straight 1-1 correlation between engagement and profit per employee. At two percent that works out to a drop in profit of around $50M/year. Of course that is a ridiculous number and doesn't factor in things like current drop in market prices (impacting profit per employee) and so on. So let's drop our number to 0.5 of one percent or one half of one percent. That still works out to a drop in profit of $12.6M. Suddenly that $9.75M savings doesn't seem quite as respectable does it?
Now before all the accountants and CFO's form a lynch mob let me restate, these are only place holders and there is going to be variation between one company and another and these will be impacted by a number of factors. The point is they DO tell a story that contraction may not always be the best solution.
Winter is Coming!
Here is the kicker. When markets pick back up companies are going to be confronted with a very different workforce demographic. The "boomers" have decided that this downturn is just the motivation they needed to take that step into retirement and they are now moving out of the work force in large numbers as Stats Can reports that rates retirement have already moved from 175,000 per year to over 250,000 per year and that is expected to climb to 400,000 per year shortly. They take with them all of that "tribal knowledge" around operations and productivity and they take a large amount of leadership knowledge and experience. The demographics that are following this group the Y'ers, X'ers, Nexters and Millennials are much smaller, lack that "tribal knowledge" and lack the leadership experience and skill sets.
Rather than ramping back up as anticipated many companies are going to be scrambling to fill those positions with qualified people. It won't be business as usual and companies that are not RIGHT NOW training and preparing their teams to use operational excellence and performance management to do more with less are going to be ill equipped to compete. Winter is coming and what are you doing about it? Performance Leadership - Think About It!
If you saw the news this morning you heard about the construction boom coming to that town and all the benefits that it will bring. The fly in the ointment is that they cannot get staff at the same levels as before the fire or the oil and gas downturn. This should be a sobering reminder of a trend that is soon going to hit all industries in this province; a declining workforce demographic. Don't wait until its too late! See how a training in Performance Leadership can prepare and equip your company to prosper in a declining workforce environment. Call today!
For some this is an easy topic and for others it can be a bit intimidating. It is the idea that a good leader will know and utilize the strengths found on their team. It is one of those "mom, apple pie and hershey bar" type of statements where everyone nods agreement that this is a given. In practice though it often is missed either intentionally or for other reasons.
You are not Superman
I am tempted to say that new leaders will often avoid this area as they have come into that role under the false impression that as the leader they must know it all. It is a natural and common mistake after all as most people will move into leadership for technical expertise not leadership skill. Validation comes not from what they do as leaders but how they contribute from a technical expertise perspective. Interestingly enough this struggle to let go of ones "expertise" in order to let others use their skills is not new.
Probably the best example I can provide is that of the game of chess. Aside from the pawn the weakest player on the board is the king. Instead what exists on the board are in fact a team (okay army) of players who each have a unique specialization (movement). The king doesn't have to do it all and in fact can't do it all. But an effective chess player knows how to utilize the unique characteristics of each player to further their position in the game. And so it is as well with a good leader in a business unit, or crew or company.
You may have guessed from the previous pieces of this study that this does require the leader get to know the strengths on their team. Some places are already getting pretty good at this and certainly one useful tool is to develop a skills matrix. It will help you identify where there may be gaps in your teams skill sets and will allow to to address those gaps with either training or hiring. However whether the company has something like this or not it is a good idea to get to know what your team members can contribute.
Look for the gems in the mix
Strengths focus is about all your team's strengths which may include hither to unknown skills (Excel wizard comes to mind) or if they have strengths around things like communication, team work, detail vs global thinkers and innovators. Since this series of articles is derived from Gallup's Strengths List suffice it to state that they have an extensive list of strengths to explore and it makes for a good team building exercise. There are other tools out there as well such as Myers-Briggs, Insights and so on. And while I know that some of these items may be viewed as personality traits they are and can be profound strengths as well that in the right circumstances can be used to really help the team meet its goals.
Everyone can contribute
Just a quick example (which is why the Excel wizard sprang to mind) of how that can work. One crew I was working with had developed personal metrics and team metrics but wanted to represent those numbers on something more than hand drawn charts (which are fine by the way). It turns out that one of the crew, and literally the last person you would have thought of, had a real passion for Excel and volunteered to put a spread sheet and graphs together for them. It was amazing and not only did wonders for the team but it really boosted that person's level of engagement as well. It was something that he was uniquely skilled at and he "owned" it.
Find your team's strengths and be their advocate and encourager with regard to developing them further. Train yourself to look for gaps that each individual can fill and let them go for it! Don't know your team's strengths? What are you waiting for? Performance Leadership - Think About It!