As a sales manager at a leading fast-food chain, Nitin directly supervised 20 people; both young and old, eager and seasoned. During a team meeting, Nitin announced, “Team, I’ve been told that the higher ups want to launch a new product for Gen-Z. They are going to hold an auction next week where managers will pitch their ideas to a panel to finalise the funding, and so on. Anyone got any crazy ideas for me to present”?
The team members looked at each other listlessly and then lowered their heads in despair. No one knew what to say or how to respond. This charade went on for 10 minutes before Nitin spoke again, “Alright team, I think you all have a lot on your minds. Take an hour or so to gather your thoughts and let’s meet again after lunch. I need you all to have solid ideas for me then”.
Within the four walls of the empty meeting room, Nitin stared out of the window, wondering what was wrong with his team. They were usually buzzing with ideas, but today? Nothing. Had they left their brains at home? Did they forget to have breakfast that morning? Were they dealing with personal issues that clogged their otherwise vibrant minds?
Outside, Nitin’s team had formed cliques to discuss the main issue at hand.
“What does he mean by ‘launch a new product for Gen-Z’? Such a vague description! I don’t even know where to start”, Urmila broke the ice.
“Give us 1 day, 1 week, 1 month and we’d still not be able to come up with satisfactory responses. How does he expect us to find a solution in a few hours? It’s just absurd to me”, Sandeep chimed in.
“A bestseller? The next flavour of the month? Fancy new meal deals? Novel discount schemes? A never-seen-before soft drink collaboration? The possibilities are endless! Who’s going to tell him that?” Deepak sighed.
The exasperation was evident inside and outside the meeting room. Nitin had analysed the issue inside out, yet he completely overlooked the one thing that could jeopardise his team’s position in the auction next week—he himself. Needless to say, Nitin turned up empty-handed at the auction and the opportunity was rewarded to his archenemy Avni and her fledgling team instead.
A problem well-stated is [a problem] half-solved.
– Charles Kettering
As a mid-level manager, like Nitin, do you often wonder:
- How do I set clear standards with my team?
- Despite doing everything right, why does my team struggle to produce meaningful results?
- How do I form a real connection with my team so I can influence them in the right way?
If you don’t have answers to any, or all, of the above questions, this article is for you. We explore five tried and tested Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that mid-level managers can adopt to: keep their teams motivated; and, most importantly, solicit buy ins for their ideologies.
In this article, we will cover:
Key Performance Indicators – What are they?
KPIs or Key Performance Indicators are measurable metrics that organisations and leaders use to ensure that everyone is on the same page, whilst working towards a common goal. KPIs are especially beneficial for tracking progress and performance, not only of the employees per se but also of the company policies and the work culture. These metrics aim to strike a balance between what an enterprise can take (from employees) and give back (to employees & society at large) in return.
Setting Clear Standards Using KPIs
We cannot emphasise the benefits of setting well-defined standards with your team, one that has no loopholes or scope for personal interpretation, for ambiguity has the potential to cascade into catastrophic disasters, even leading to a firm losing business on a good day!
Clear goals and objectives don’t just help teams to stay on track, but they also create a sense of belonging and purpose (for team members), which has proven to be a significant driver for more than a quarter of the millennials and Gen-Z in the workforce today.
Exercise: Ask your team members the following questions in your next team meeting and let us know which variant elicited better responses:
- We want to give back to the society twofold by the end of next quarter. Do you have any ideas how this can be done?
- We’d like to collaborate with two orphanages within a 5 km radius and organise 3 fundraisers for them within the next quarter. Does anyone have references for the same and would like to volunteer to lead this project?
Stating your expectations upfront: can tell you how much of a difference it makes? Relate this back to Nitin’s conundrum, can you list down suggestions for how he could have posed his question better to his team?
Now that we’ve set the stage, let’s get down to business. Here are five ways in which you can more effectively set clear standards with your team to keep them motivated and efficient:
- Set specific goals using the SMART framework.
Picture this: while travelling to a new country, do you go in blind, hoping that the roads lead you to your destination?
You hunt for a map, look up a travel guide, maybe even get in touch with fellow travellers. You plan things out. That’s exactly how SMART goals function.
Each project has a deliverable, which is your destination. And each member on your team can help you achieve those deliverables. What’s missing in the equation is the ‘how’. Here’s where SMART goals help.
Take for example, Google’s OKR (Objectives, Key, Results) Board. Conceived by Intel’s president Andy Grove in 1968, OKR has become a staple in all the major Silicon Valley companies today. The reason? Google! The company housed a measly 40 employees back in the day. Once John Doerr came on board as an investor in 1999, he trialled the OKR framework to increase the number of employees. Today, Google employs over half a million tech wizards around the world. The lesson here: leverage the myriad benefits of SMART goals to skyrocket your team’s performance. We leave you with a template you can use on a daily basis.
- Provide regular feedback.
Gone are the days when employees would wait for the dreaded, do-or-die performance review once a year. Two separate PwC reports, that analysed the future trends at work in depth, have reiterated how highly both millennials and Gen-Z rate continuous and instantaneous feedback from their direct supervisors.
This means that mid-level managers, now more than ever, need to be cognizant of their team’s needs and implement a daily or weekly check-in system to provide feedback in short bursts on every individual’s performance and set/reset expectations. These sessions need not be a roaring, grand affair. In fact, your team members will likely appreciate an informal one-on-one meeting every few days.
- Design novel recognition and rewards systems.
You may be well aware of the “Saama, Daama, Dand, Bhed” framework in the Indian philosophy. “Daama” or “paying a price to get work done” is one of the oldest negotiation tactics in the book. Incentivising work has been seen as a win-win solution for centuries. Yet, it is only now that companies have realised the power of incentives for getting the best out of people. “What’s in it for me” is a question your team member would have asked themselves, albeit covertly at one point or another, before taking on a task. And you, as their manager, hold something invaluable: the power to reward good work. Recognition and rewards not only help to boost employee satisfaction but also lower staff turnover rates.
In 2019, Amazon announced an audacious reward scheme. CNBC & other news portals printed headlines about it saying, “Amazon is paying employees $10,000 and 3 months’ salary to quit and start their own business”. Amazon received tens and thousands of applications from employees and partners alike. But what was in it for Amazon? Faster Prime membership deliveries and the profits from it.
You needn’t be as outlandish in your approach but know that cash and noncash incentives will ramp up your team’s performance by as much as 80%!
4. Devise opportunities for team collaborations.
One of the best ways for employees to learn and upskill is through teamwork, i.e. working with team members to solve novel problems. These team collaborations don’t need to be restricted to within teams, they can be cross-functional as well, so long as both parties stand to gain incredible insights from the exercise.
In one of our sessions, a participant shared how he had asked his team members to set aside one hour every day where they would attempt to clear project roadblocks with another team member or any other esteemed peer. “My team’s morale shot up, and the transformation in the final output was phenomenal. It was one of the best projects I have delivered to date. The client was so impressed that we are now their go-to team to consult on any business solutions”, he added.
5. Encourage innovative problem-solving.
3M is renowned for its 15% Culture. What is the 15% Culture, you ask? The 15% Culture encourages 3M employees to “set aside a portion of their work time to proactively cultivate and pursue innovative ideas that excite them”. This has led the innovation powerhouse to file more than 3,000 patents and launch 1,000 new products every single year.
Think about it, as a mid-level manager, you are at a unique position where you know your team members’ strengths and weaknesses. Leveraging their strengths will ensure that your team is in the spotlight, driving the company’s profits to greater heights, while focusing on their weaknesses will expose your own inadequacies. So, play to your team’s strengths. Foster a learning environment and watch your team blossom.
What makes a great manager? It’s all about evolving with your team and creating a culture that fosters excellence. And it all starts with laying down ironclad rules that everyone first understands and then follows consistently. Have you tried any these strategies in the past? Let us know which one(s) worked for you!