Optimize Talent Using a Team Skills Matrix
When we work with a group of exceptionally talented people, it can be a challenge to figure out which projects we want to assign individuals to. We would like to have everyone contributing all of their unique skills and abilities to every project, but it's just not a good use of resources and can actually hinder our results. In order to optimize talent on our team we need to have a solid understanding of the individual strengths and weaknesses of everyone in our work area. Using a Team Skills Matrix to Optimize Talent on Our Team A simple tool that we can use to keep track of everyone's abilities is a Team Skills Matrix. The matrix lists out all the individuals on our team and the special skills and talents that they have. Once we've done an honest assessment of each person's skills, this tool tells us at a glance who might be a valuable contributor to an upcoming project. It also tells us where our team might be lacking in a certain skill and where we might have to some professional development to fill that gap. When we are getting ready to start a new project, using the matrix to list all of the skills needed on the team and then matching team members based on how their abilities contribute to the team requirements can help us optimize talent on our new project team before starting the project.

Optimize Talent Using a Team Skills Matrix

When we work with a group of exceptionally talented people, it can be a challenge to figure out which projects we want to assign individuals to. We would like to have everyone contributing all of their unique skills and abilities to every project, but it’s just not a good use of resources and can actually hinder our results. In order to optimize talent on our team we need to have a solid understanding of the individual strengths and weaknesses of everyone in our work area.

Using a Team Skills Matrix to Optimize Talent on Our Team

A simple tool that we can use to keep track of everyone’s abilities is a Team Skills Matrix. The matrix lists out all the individuals on our team and the special skills and talents that they have. Once we’ve done an honest assessment of each person’s skills, this tool tells us at a glance who might be a valuable contributor to an upcoming project. It also tells us where our team might be lacking in a certain skill and where we might have to some professional development to fill that gap. When we are getting ready to start a new project, using the matrix to list all of the skills needed on the team and then matching team members based on how their abilities contribute to the team requirements can help us optimize talent on our new project team before starting the project.

We often talk about setting priorities as a way to achieve work-life balance. A healthy approach to setting priorities and following through on them can help us achieve this balance. If we neglect certain areas of our lives when we are setting our priorities we can find ourselves out of balance very quickly. It’s important that we take into account all the aspects of our lives that are important to us when we are setting priorities. Here are 6 suggestions for areas to include in your list of priorities. They’re in no particular order, and it’s up to you to decide for yourself if these areas fall into a certain priority order for you.

Setting Priorities – 6 Areas to Achieve a Healthy Balance

We often talk about setting priorities as a way to achieve work-life balance.  A healthy approach to setting priorities and following through on them can help us achieve this balance. If we neglect certain areas of our lives when we are setting our priorities we can find ourselves out of balance very quickly. It’s important that we take into account all the aspects of our lives that are important to us when we are setting priorities. Here are 6 suggestions for areas to include in your list of priorities. They’re in no particular order, and it’s up to you to decide for yourself if these areas fall into a certain priority order for you.

Setting Priorities for Career

When it comes to the big picture of what we want out of life, career is usually in the #1 or #2 slot on our list of priorities. This makes a lot of sense because most of us will have to work for a living to pay our bills and we are all looking for a degree of fulfillment from our occupation. Recognizing that career is a place where spend a good deal of our waking hours, it only makes sense to include it in our list of priorities. Where we often come into conflict is where to place our professional life in relation to our other priorities. Consciously deciding how career fits into the rest of our priorities can help us make decisions each day about how to arrange our priorities.

Family and Friends

For most people this is the other priority that takes either the #1 or #2 spot depending on where that person places career in their priorities. The people that we enjoy spending time with are what makes life truly worth living and neglecting them or our need for that nourishment of human interaction can throw us out of balance over time. Setting priorities that include the people who are most important to us can actually make it easier to achieve our other priorities with the support of others. One really easy way to tell if we are out of balance in this area is if we are spending almost all of our time by ourselves or solely with people from work, school or one of our hobbies to the detriment of our other relationships. Maintaining contact with a good mix of people from the different areas of our life helps us keep balance and perspective.

Education

Investing in ourselves is an important aspect of leadership development. If we want to advance and grow as leaders we can’t let our skills and abilities remain stagnant, we always need to be learning. Education doesn’t have to be formal. We don’t all need to enroll in an MBA program to become better leaders or entrepreneurs. Education can come from seminars, workshops or just spending time talking with people who are knowledgeable about the areas we feel we need to learn about. There are an incredible amount of free resources online that we can take advantage of to further our knowledge as long as we invest the time.

Health and Fitness

Our health and fitness is often neglected for other priorities, but taking care of ourselves provides the foundation for being able to achieve our other important life goals. Making sure that we are eating right, exercising, drinking enough water and getting enough sleep are all important to make ourselves strong and healthy enough to have the energy to devote to achieving our other priorities. One of the great things about making our health and fitness a priority is that we can do this by spending time with our family and friends. Preparing meals together is a great way to get a variety of health foods into our lives. Working out together, hiking, biking or playing sports as a group also helps to build strong bonds with the other important people in our lives as well as meeting our own personal fitness needs.

Spirituality

While many people make their beliefs about their place in the universe and their role in it central to their lives, some neglect this aspect of life as they deal with more day-to-day concerns. No matter what your beliefs about a higher power, it is important make time to connect with yourself and what you believe. Even if we don’t have all the answers in life, taking time to explore our purpose and the way we live our lives each day to achieve that purpose can help us to interact better with others in the world and show some compassion and empathy when we face a difficult situation

Recreation and Hobbies

All work and no play…you know the rest. It’s important for us to have a recreational outlet that we enjoy in order to keep from getting burned out. Much like our health and fitness, this an aspect that we often neglect when things get busy in the other areas of our life. Also like health and fitness, we can further our priorities for friends and family by taking part in recreational activities together. No matter what activities or hobbies we enjoy, we need remember them when we are setting priorities and make time for them in our calendar to maintain that healthy balance.

Keeping these six aspects of life in mind when we are setting priorities can go a long way towards keeping a healthy balance between the areas of our lives and help us reduce stress, tension and conflict. By consciously writing down how all of these priorities fit into our lives we have a much better chance of ensuring that we don’t neglect any of them. Openly sharing our priorities with the important people in our lives helps us all understand each other better and deal with conflicts among priorities in a mature and healthy way.

Tell us in the comments what other aspects of life you include in your priorities.

Photo Credit: By Earl McGehee (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

While the idea of work-life balance is often debated, it is possible to achieve fulfillment in our work and personal lives at the same time by setting clear priorities and following through on them.

Work-Life Balance Through Setting Priorities

 

Holiday season is when most of us start thinking about spending more time with our families and friends and emphasizing our personal lives. Many leaders have a hard time balancing goals in our personal and professional lives and achieving a work-life balance that meets all of our needs. While the idea of work-life balance is often debated, it is possible to achieve fulfillment in our work and personal lives at the same time by setting clear priorities and following through on them.

Ways to Achieve Work-Life Balance

Many of us have a hard time following through on our priorities because we don’t take time to clearly define them. Taking a few minutes to sit down and think through what is really important to us and what we want out of life can bring clarity to help us make decisions and take actions that are aligned with our priorities. Being open about those priorities with the important people in our professional and personal lives can help us all understand each other better and have healthy responses when we need to make choices among priorities.

Once our priorities are set, it’s important to apply tools and systems to help us follow through on them. Thinking through how the actions we plan to take each day will advance each of our priorities can give us a solid game plan for meeting our goals and achieving that balance. Tools like reminders lists and calendars can be customized with tags or color codes to help us get a snapshot of how today’s activities are moving the ball forward on our most important priorities in life.

 

It can be a delicate balance between selling ourselves effectively and shameless self-promotion. Effectively persuading others to support our new ideas or initiatives is strongly based on the level of trust and rapport that we have built with them. We can learn a great deal about creating these kinds of connections by looking at the sales techniques presented by Byran Tracy in The Psychology of Selling. Join us on Blab December 4th, 2015 at 10 AM Pacific time to discuss how we can learn about selling ourselves and our unique abilities in a genuine and authentic way.

Selling Ourselves – Evil Genius Leadership Book Club December 4th, 2015

As we frequently talk about with our clients and in our posts, personal and professional development are key to growing into strong leaders ready for the challenges of tomorrow. Approaching development from the perspective of a student of leadership as an art and science is an effective way to absorb new ideas and incorporate them into your leadership philosophy and style.  This kind of development can be difficult to do on your own if you don’t have a group of other leaders to discuss and debate with. We want to help build a strong community of leaders who have a forum to discuss the ideas that are on their minds. This month we will be selling ourselves as leaders to build trust and connection on our teams.

Selling Ourselves – Applying the Psychology of Selling

It can be a delicate balance between selling ourselves effectively and shameless self-promotion. Effectively persuading others to support our new ideas or initiatives is strongly based on the level of trust and rapport that we have built with them. We can learn a great deal about creating these kinds of connections by looking at the sales techniques presented by Byran Tracy in The Psychology of Selling. Join us on Blab December 4th, 2015 at 10 AM Pacific time to discuss how we can learn about selling ourselves and our unique abilities in a genuine and authentic way.

We can’t do it all by ourselves. It’s true in leadership just as it is in life. Trying to achieve our goals without asking for help usually slows us down on our path. This is why human beings have learned to build teams and why good leadership is regarded so highly. When we build a team around us, it’s important to utilize those team members effectively to accomplish our mission and properly delegating authority is key to making that happen. Usually when we think about delegating a decision or task to someone on our team, we think about it in terms of something that we either don’t have the time or energy to handle, or it’s something we don’t want to deal with ourselves. An alternative way to consider this is using delegation and empowerment to develop the individual capabilities of our team members.

Delegation and Empowerment – Developing Your Team’s Potential

We can’t do it all by ourselves. It’s true in leadership just as it is in life. Trying to achieve our goals without asking for help usually slows us down on our path. This is why human beings have learned to build teams and why good leadership is regarded so highly. When we build a team around us, it’s important to utilize those team members effectively to accomplish our mission and properly delegating authority is key to making that happen. Usually when we think about delegating a decision or task to someone on our team, we think about it in terms of something that we either don’t have the time or energy to handle, or it’s something we don’t want to deal with ourselves. An alternative way to consider this is using delegation and empowerment to develop the individual capabilities of our team members.

Delegation and Empowerment – The Payoff

Delegating to our team members and empowering them to make decisions pays vast dividends beyond the immediate payoff of getting a task done or a decision made. Sending one of our team members off on a journey to develop their own decision-making process and engage in critical thinking will help them grow in a way that simply focusing on the technical aspects of their job can’t provide. Engaging in this kind of leadership development will help produce team members who understand our vision and can show initiative to take action to meet team goals without needing direct supervision.

How to Develop Leaders Using Delegation and Empowerment

It’s important to make a distinction between simply delegating tasks to our team members and empowering them to make decisions. While assigning tasks and managing work flow among the team is an important aspect of leadership, if we want to grow and develop our team members, we need to give them more than tasks to engage in. We should be striving to delegate not just actions, but to delegate the authority to solve problems and make decisions that support our goals. Not everyone is ready to jump right in and be a decision maker right away, so here a four ways that we can develop leaders on our teams by empowering them while guiding them at the same time.

  1. Challenge Them – Delegate a project that actually matters. Much like setting goals for ourselves, it should be achievable but challenging. Success shouldn’t be 100% guaranteed. Giving a team member a decision to make that is too easy or doesn’t have significant impact will result in limited growth.
  2. Push them out of their comfort zone – True leaders are comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty, or at least not afraid of it. We can help our team become more comfortable learning to act without perfect information by guiding and mentoring them through situations that expand the boundaries of their comfort zone. Since every team member is different, it will take some consideration to determine what each one is comfortable with. Assessing how to help each team member to expand their comfort zone can be a key factor in who we delegate a decision or project to.
  3. Let them struggle – It can be a very difficult balance between providing mentoring and advice and breaking the problem open for our team. We should strive to be coaches for them, not problem solvers. When they are struggling, we should ask questions, not provide answers. A little adversity is a good thing. It helps people bond and break down the barriers between them. If interpersonal barriers are part of the problem, allowing the team to solve these issues for themselves will provide them a better set of tools for interpersonal relationships in the future.
  4. Let there be potential to fail – We always need to assess the stakes of the decision we are delegating. If this is a “failure is not an option” situation, we may not want to delegate the whole decision, but maybe only pieces of it. Failure teaches our team to evaluate what they have already tried and adapt in order to succeed as well as building perseverance and determination. Your team will learn more about themselves and their leadership style by failing initially, then pivoting until they succeed than if they are immediately successful every time.

 

Applying these four considerations when you are trying to figure out who to delegate that important decision to will help develop strong leadership among the members of our team. Don’t forget that the one of the goals is to grow their capabilities as much as it is to distribute the work around the team. In some cases, the necessity to achieve the mission will drive that decision, but it always benefits us to look for opportunities to develop our team members while we achieve our goals. Delegation and empowerment, when considered thoughtfully, help us meet both of those needs.

 

Share your experiences with delegation and empowerment in the comments.

 

Photo Credit: By tableatny (originally posted to Flickr as BXP135677) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

We only have so much mental bandwidth at any given time and it can be challenging to put the focus where we need it most. Delegating decisions and tasks to others is one of the best tools we have as leaders to optimize our mental bandwidth.

Delegating Decisions – Tips to Optimize Your Mental Bandwidth

Leaders, business owners and other ambitious people always have a lot on their minds. We might have a new, exciting area that we want to lead our team into, an initiative to improve our current processes, or just finding ways to make quality of life better for the people in our personal and professional lives. We also have a lot of things that keep us occupied day-to-day that prevent us from really focusing on the strategic efforts that are most important to us. We only have so much mental bandwidth at any given time and it can be challenging to put the focus where we need it most. Delegating decisions and tasks to others is one of the best tools we have as leaders to optimize our mental bandwidth.

Achieve Focus Through Delegating Decisions

If you’re just starting out as a leader or manager, delegating authority to others can be an intimidating idea. In the video, Jason talks about how to use some deliberate, conscious actions and behaviors to alleviate these fears and offers three questions to ask ourselves before delegating decisions to others:

  1. Who on our team has the skill and ability to pull together all of the factors necessary to make the decision?
  2. Who on the team do we trust to represent our interests as the team leader?
  3. Who on the team has the maturity and dedication to see it through to the end?

In addition to these three questions, it’s important to ask ourselves if delegating a particular decision or task will help us free up some of that mental bandwidth to let us focus on more important priorities. Delegating decisions that are small or inconsequential is not as effective and building trust with our team and giving them ownership of decisions that have real meaning to the organization.

There are many keys to guiding a team to a successful outcome, but communicating expectations for them is one of the first and most important. Clearly outlining expectations isn’t a guarantee of a success, but NOT communicating expectations is almost guaranteed to PREVENT success. Once you’ve made the commitment to communicate your expectations, clarity and specificity are the goals that you’re going to want to shoot for. One good way to accomplish this is by applying the 5 W’s when you’re communicating expectations to your team. If you’re unfamiliar with the 5 W’s, you may have heard them described as Who, What, When, Where and Why.

Communicating Expectations – Applying the 5 W’s

If you’ve found your way to this post, it’s safe to say that you’re the kind of leader who wants your team to be successful. There are many keys to guiding a team to a successful outcome, but communicating expectations for them is one of the first and most important. Clearly outlining expectations isn’t a guarantee of a success, but NOT communicating expectations is almost guaranteed to PREVENT success. Once you’ve made the commitment to communicate your expectations, clarity and specificity are the goals that you’re going to want to shoot for. One good way to accomplish this is by applying the 5 W’s when you’re communicating expectations to your team. If you’re unfamiliar with the 5 W’s, you may have heard them described as Who, What, When, Where and Why.

Who – The First Step in Communicating Expectations

First get yourself in a frame of mind where you’re thinking about all of the people involved. Who are you setting expectation for? Is it a single team member or a group? Are the expectations all exactly the same for each team member or are they slightly different based on roles and responsibilities? Who else that is not a member of your team might need to be involved? Who does a successful outcome impact? Who does an unsuccessful outcome impact?

What

What is it exactly that you want your team to accomplish? What is the need that must be filled or the problem that must be solved? What does that end state look like to you? Can you picture what the successful outcome looks like for you, your team and other stakeholders?

When

When do you want the end state to be completed by? Are there intermediate milestones where you want your team to show their progress? Are there outside factors or agencies who are counting on your piece to be completed on a certain timeline? Are there impacts for not being done on time? What other processes or outcomes will this affect if it is not done on time?

Where

Where does the work need to be done? Where does the finished product need to show up? Does it need to be delivered to someone? Is it possible that the outcome or process is not location dependent and that the work can be done from anywhere?

Why

Why is this important to the organization? Why is the outcome important to other stakeholders? Why is it important to your company’s customers? Why is it important to society in general and why will it make the world a better place? Why is your team critical to getting it done? Do you have specific expertise to bring to the table? Why is it important that a particular team member be the one to accomplish a certain task?

You may remember from school that there was an H that went along with the 5 W’s and that H stood for how. I’ve left the “how” out of the discussion here with the assumption that you’ll want to allow your team members to figure out the “how” themselves without being told by you.

Asking these questions will help with communicating expectations to your team before getting started on your next endeavor. Coming up with really specific and detailed answers will help provide that clarity that your team needs to go off on their own and successfully achieve that outcome you’re asking them to get to!

What other questions do you ask yourself to help communicate clearly and specifically?

 

Photo Credit: By Tom Beazley, published by aussiejeff [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

If you've ever been frustrated because your team produced results that weren't exactly what you anticipated, you're not alone. It happens to all leaders now at then, the outcome is adequate but maybe could have turned out a little better or we just had a different idea of how it would turn out. It's not our team's fault, they worked hard and showed initiative but just didn't quite hit what we were after. Situations like this one can be avoided through consciously setting expectations with our teams about our desired end states. In fact, we can really upgrade team performance by working through a process to set clear, measurable and achievable goals followed with well-defined expectations for our team members.

Setting Expectations

If you’ve ever been frustrated because your team produced results that weren’t exactly what you anticipated, you’re not alone. It happens to all leaders now at then, the outcome is adequate but maybe could have turned out a little better or we just had a different idea of how it would turn out. It’s not our team’s fault, they worked hard and showed initiative but just didn’t quite hit what we were after. Situations like this one can be avoided through consciously setting expectations with our teams about our desired end states. In fact, we can really upgrade team performance by working through a process to set clear, measurable and achievable goals followed with well-defined expectations for our team members.

Increasing Team Performance by Setting Expectations

Next time you are ready to turn your team loose, try these five tips for setting expectations

  1. Communicate clear, measurable and achievable goals to your team
  2. Share your vision of how the end state looks and feels
  3. Clearly define products and processes
  4. Establish timelines and metrics
  5. Communicate frequently and effectively

By explicitly setting expectations with our team members, we can give share with them a clear vision of our desire end states and empower them to make choices on their own that support that outcome. This kind of minimizes the misunderstandings that can occur from different interpretations among the team about what the goals truly are. In addition to the empowerment and team building benefits, we can avoid costly rework in terms of dollars and time.