There’s always a lot of talk about “culture” on tech teams. And that makes sense: managers generally hire people that will fit in well with the group they’ve assembled because they know there’s more to work than just doing the job. Being able to get along with your coworkers, being reliable, and looking the part are also important. A big part of building a solid company culture is about creating an environment which helps your employees be productive. Unfortunately, a lot of what we do in tech has the opposite effect.
What am I talking about here? Those weekly three-hour team meetings you could probably be finished within 45 minutes with just a bit more focused preparation. Alternatively, doing everything via Slack and never allowing your team to turn off notifications. I love foosball and a lush nap pod as much of the next person, really, but enticing potential hires with free housekeepers and dry cleaning also encourages them to stay longer and, as a result, not be as efficient.
There’s a middle ground here. You can give your employees great perks just for being a member of the team and those perks should boost productivity. Perks shouldn’t pressure your team to move into your office and never see their families. Highly productive teams all have three things in common, and they are easy to implement into your team’s routine.
The Meeting Culture
I’m always amazed when people tell me they spent their entire workday in meetings. How did they get anything done? Or is it their job to just be in meetings all day? This is a very interesting thing for me because I value meetings and because I’ve always freelanced, I actually look forward to them. Human interaction keeps us healthy by fighting depression and boosting creativity. Meetings also provide more opportunity for collaboration. As technology enables more and more companies to go global, the need is shifting towards team work. Meetings, therefore, are important. However, they only aid in productivity to a point.
The drawbacks of meetings are well known. The topic gets lost. They distract from real, paying work. And a lot of the time, the majority of people in the room don’t need to be there. It’s obvious how this absolutely murders team productivity. With that said, we can’t always be stuck in a corner staring at glowing screens. We occasionally need to talk to people. The solution here is to know the difference between when a meeting is necessary and when to take a different course of action.
This is a really great resource courtesy of Harvard Business Review on when to have that meeting, when to make a phone call, or do something else instead. Share this with your teammates and choose your meetings wisely.
They Know Their Roles
As job titles and descriptions get fuzzier (and in some cases, eliminated), it’s becoming more difficult to determine what people’s roles are in the office. People need to know their roles on teams for teams to perform well together and, as a result, be productive. Here’s the proof: individuals that know why they were hired and how to deliver on their talents contribute to high-impact teams. Individuals that know their roles are also better workplace decision makers. And, employees that know what is expected of them have an easier time meeting those expectations.
This all comes back to internal transparency. If your team members know what they are supposed to be doing on a day-to-day basis, they’ll be able to better assist their co-workers and better serve your customers. Aren’t those two things the most important part of managing people and building a great company?
They Trust Each Other
That’s the crux of having a wildly productive team: trust. Trust that your coworkers and managers are competent and committed. Knowing you can take any issue to any of your peers and get it resolved with minimal conflict. And being so comfortable communicating that empathy and vulnerability are inevitable. There is no better way to boost productivity on your team immediately, than instilling a culture of trust.
If you want to improve productivity on your team, start today. Delegate tasks to capable direct reports and trust them enough with the task that you don’t need to micromanage them through it. Spend an hour a week with one of your employees or coworkers and listen to their concerns about their role; focus on building a relationship with them and not just trying to solve a problem. Finally, instead of scheduling a meeting, just ask for help in a one-on-one conversation; people feel valued when they are allowed to show off their capabilities.
The main takeaway here is this: team productivity is the result of individuals committing to make the entire team look good, not just themselves. Employees that know their roles at work will work more efficiently with their team members, especially when they’re collaborating in meetings. Because of that, relationships will improve, and there will be a foundation of trust among your teams—even across teams. Give your team the chance to be truly productive, and the results will be immediate.
Sharon is an empathy consulting, public speaker and writer. She has over a decade of experience creating and managing content for businesses. A lifelong stutterer, she utilizes her experiences with her speech along with her background in marketing to help companies communicate more effectively both internally and with their target audience. She writes and speaks about improving communication through empathy. She lives in Pittsburgh.