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My Puzzle Pieces are Melting!!

Job Details
Job ID:
Title:My Puzzle Pieces are Melting!!
Post Date:04/10/2019
Job Description
Ghiaccioli a forma di pezzi di puzzle

My Puzzle Pieces are Melting!!

If you are putting together a team, and you are a linear thinker like me, you may be looking at your organizational structure as though it is a puzzle. You’ve noted groupings of crucial responsibilities that you know your team needs to execute. You’ve identified which position titles will capture those responsibilities, and you know that if you hire, promote and fill those gaps with the corresponding puzzle pieces, you’ll be able to realize your vision.

Makes total sense. Except for one thing, which you already know. People are not puzzle pieces. Humans are fluid, ever changing, evolving, growing entities. Imagine a puzzle made of ice. The pieces keep melting at different rates based on how close they are to heat or the sun. You keep adding water so they get bigger, but then the shapes keep changing. In the meantime, you are under a deadline. Sounds like an actual nightmare, right? You would be working on that puzzle …. forever.

Yes, one arguably effective management approach is to FORCE your team to only do what their job description says they must do.  “Don’t melt! Don’t grow!” You may even think that people want that.  You would be 50% right…. as people do want explicit direction, but not at the cost of their own humanity or their own impetus.  Stifling enthusiasm for self-development will only and always limit your team’s productivity and their trust in you.

To adjust for the human condition, you as an owner or team leader must adjust by following these steps:

Define Crucial Responsibilities

Define Roles

Hire to Strengths and Interests

Allow for Collaboration

Manage Structure not Minutia

Let’s skip defining crucial responsibilities and defining roles, because if you are a team manager or an owner, you already know how to do that. You know what must be done to make the ship sail. You know, generally, what kind of roles are required to execute those roles (Captain, First Mate, etc..)

Hire to Strengths and Interests

If you only hire to someone’s existing strengths and not their interests, you will find their ‘puzzle edges’ quickly changing by either eroding (low enthusiasm) or expanding (overreaching beyond their explicit responsibilities). You must know what your team can do well on day one, but also keep in mind what each of them want to do on day 90, 180, 365. When you hire someone hire them for the life of the project, and projects beyond that project. Realize the benefit of embracing the humanity of your own managers and how their growth can be your’s as well.

Allow for Collaboration

The grass is always greener, right? That saying is just as relevant for job titles within your team as it is for the more popular albeit cynical metaphor for job hopping. There is a very high likelihood that there are going to be managers on your team who are at least curious about the work that their counterparts are doing in other disciplines. Allowing for collaboration not only addresses a human’s need to change, evolve, and continue to feel engaged and challenged, but it allows for the decompartmentalization of your team. The fluidity that such a dynamic will yield is particularly helpful when emergency coverage is required, or when any kind of structural change must occur due to external factors. Empowering those on your team to do more than their specific responsibilities allows them to understand the full cycle and full process. Global understanding of the project cycle allows them to see how their responsibilities interact and engage with other steps in the process, and it makes them more well rounded teammates. By encouraging collaboration and some sharing of responsibility you are minimizing risk and broadening the skill sets of your teammates which makes them happy too.

Manage Structure not Minutia

I don’t want to dismiss those who think that Micro-Management still works…but, well yes I guess I do. It doesn’t work. A management approach that balances explicit expectations with trust is really the ONLY WAY.  A good manager will create tangible and explicit job descriptions, ensure they’ve capture all crucial responsibilities, but will allow for autonomy within those structures. And, when the puzzle pieces’ edges begin to morph…., a strong manager will manage the structure of their team, not the minutia.

As a team leader, you must ensure that you are communicating the high level expectations you have of that team. Trust in your people to keep their teammates accountable by allowing for mentored collaboration, peer responsibility exchange, partnered growth, but make sure everyone is on the same page about what is changing and why it is changing.

A high performing team does not operate as simply as a hierarchy, it operates as humans working together as humans – respecting that we are not inanimate objects, and we do change. Your leadership requires that wisdom. And with that wisdom you and your team will prevail.

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