TOOLS: Providing all the Necessary Tools that your Team needs to Succeed!


Providing all the necessary Tools that your team needs to Succeed!

Do you ever try to get something done, and in the middle of it, you realize you’re missing a key item? I remember once putting together one of those build it yourself bookcases, and needing to get it done before guests arrived for dinner. And halfway into it, I realized I was missing a Philips screwdriver.

Smack! That just stopped me in my tracks! Why didn’t I know what kind of tools I needed ahead of time? I’d be lucky if I only needed to go to my toolbox, and find a Phillips. But I’d be running into major delays though if I needed to go to the hardware store to buy it! Reading the supplies list…now that was a tool too, but I didn’t use it.
The same thing happens to your staff, if they don’t have the right tools to do their job.

  • Can they be as effective as you need them to be?
  • Can they meet your time, budget and scope expectations?
  • Will you be able to provide the deliverables that you promised to your stakeholders?

Obviously, it depends on how critical the missing tool is. We’re all familiar with the Project Management techniques of Resource Allocation, and Critical Path. We all know that we should make sure to have the resources we need for the project lined up! It all seems so simple. And yet, so often, our staff doesn’t have every tool at their disposal.
I know…

you’re a really good Project Manager!

You always provide your staff with all the hardware and software tools they need to do their tasks. You have checklists and procedures in place. You’ve been using your system a long time – it works! Besides, there isn’t any room in the budget for anymore “stuff”.
It’s easy in today’s economic climate to blame a lack of proper tools on budget cuts.

“We’ll have to replace that server on next year’s budget.”

“Can we just add more RAM to that laptop and make it work for another year?”

“We can’t afford to hire another person this year. We’ll just have to pitch in, and get it all done”.

Ummmm…. Not so fast!

I bet there are some more tools we could provide our staff. And they don’t necessarily need to cost anything. Let me explain.

All the tools we mentioned above, are the obvious, tangible tools. The reality is that we don’t always get the physical tools that we want. But those aren’t the most important tools anyway. The most important tools we can provide to our team are the intangible tools of empowerment.

They are things like:

  • Providing judgment and guidance for your team
  • Providing a vision and direction towards a common goal
  • Making your time available to them when they need you
  • Being open to brainstorming and innovation
  • Having respect for their expertise
  • Allowing for Work/Life Balance
  • Remembering to show recognition, even for the small things

I’ll bet you can come up with a lot more intangible tools that will help your team do a better job! Just check out any article or blog on workplace motivation, or even hire a consultant to help you out!

Here’s another one, and this one’s a biggie… What kind of work atmosphere do you foster?

Do you:                                                      

  • Rule with an iron fist
  • Comment on how lucky they are to still have a job in today’s environment
  • Set ambiguous expectations
  • Act as if they should have no stress
  • Give off non-verbal cues that show disrespect

There’s a big difference between a closed authoritarian management style, and an open environment where:

  • Goals and visions are transparent to everyone on the team
  • Ideas are welcome, even if they don’t all pan out
  • Mistakes are looked at as ways to improve ourselves and our processes
  • Cross-functional Training is for creating opportunities and keeping interest and motivation alive
  • Open Communication is encouraged
  • Empowerment is an accepted practice

I’ve worked on teams of both kinds. For example, on a recent project having to do with Disaster Recovery Application testing, the SysAdmin/Networking team who had been building, implementing and testing the project, now wanted to bring in the IT HelpDesk team. They wanted to show them what they were doing, so that in the event of that disaster, there would be a greater pool of people who could help bring up critical systems. Great idea! Not only would this decrease the incidence of any Single Point of Failure, but it would provide much needed cross-functional training, and motivation for growth for the HelpDesk team.

There was only one hitch. The HelpDesk team’s manager wasn’t on board with this, and saw the cross-training as taking her team away from their duties. For months she stonewalled and made it uncomfortable for her team to even dare to step outside of their roles. Eventually, it became mandatory that she allow her staff to rotate into the training. When they did, they were ecstatic to work on something new, to be trusted with the “big toys”, and to take a break from their usual grind. They provided value immediately by pointing out flaws in the training manuals being developed, and by providing much sought after feedback. Both teams could have used this joint-effort so much earlier, and the experience helped reunify the two sides of the house!

I’ll tell you, I’m more than happy to provide excellent product and service, especially when I feel respected and empowered. If I’m stressed because there is a lot of work to do, that’s OK, as long as I’m not spending my energy being stressed about how my boss will react.

Power Tools:

So you see, even in tough economic times, we do have powerful tools at our disposal, regardless of the budget. Does it cost anything out of pocket to involve team members in the vision? No. What about letting them have a say in the decision making? Did this cost the project anything? No. It just cost you some thought process, self-adjustment, even change, and a willingness to step just a little bit outside the box. But it didn’t add any expense to the project. What are the opportunity costs to the project, if the team’s input is not included? How will it cost you in the long run if you can’t find team members for your next project?

What’s in it for you?

Well… You’ll get deliverables of some kind either way, right? But will you get them from a team that begrudgingly gets the bare minimum done? Or will you get your results from a team that is happy to work with you, and has gone the extra mile to deliver a product that exceeds expectations?

Here’s where you get a power tool too! You get the satisfaction of seeing the difference that those intangible tools made for your team. You get to see progress by measuring current against past performance. You get a team that feels loyalty towards you, and wants to do an extra good job for you. You get people who want to work for you again. You’ll have plentiful options when you do need to staff your next project.

Just like building that bookcase… if you use all the tools available, including those intangible power tools, it’ll be so much easier to build the next bookcase with confidence!


2 thoughts on “TOOLS: Providing all the Necessary Tools that your Team needs to Succeed!”

  1. User Avatar

    Thanks for your comments Kimberly!

    It’s unfortunate that I’ve recently had to hear that comment from a manager. And she wondered why her staff didn’t respect her.

    It amazes me how many smart, logical, technically adept people out there continue to look at this as “that touchy feely stuff”. It’s exactly because these tools are intangible and harder to grasp, that we should work harder to master them. Even Power Tools are worthless if you don’t put any energy into them!

  2. User Avatar

    Thanks for the interesting post, Athens! I laughed out loud at your question “Do you comment on how lucky they are to still have a job in today’s environment?” because I actually witnessed a senior manager at a Fortune 500 company doing exactly that during the last economic recession. I remember thinking “How inspiring! What a leader. . . . NOT!” And there are plenty of incredibly powerful tools mentioned here that unenlightened people continue to refer to as “the soft stuff”, as if somehow it’s not as important as “real work” of designing circuit boards, writing code, or creating a product launch plan. Last night I attended a presentation at IDEO Cafe where Dr. Bob Sutton, author of “Good Boss, Bad Boss”, shared the highlights from that book. He confirmed what many other studies have asserted, that ignoring “the soft stuff” can cost more than 30% in lost revenue. “Power Tools” is a much better way to refer to these high impact leadership behaviors.

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