As a leader, you’ve lived through it before — the final push at the end of the quarter or year. It’s all hands on deck to make the numbers in what seems like a wild frenzy to meet customer needs and financial commitments. And don’t forget, the regular work doesn’t stop during this time; you still have to keep up with it.
Your company’s success depends on every employee being “in the game.” How you approach this final push with your employees will greatly influence your chances of success, not only now, but also long term. It’s your chance to step up as a leader. Others will measure you not only by meeting goals but also by how you get there.
10 Critical Leadership Practices
Following are 10 ideas you can put into practice to help your employees be stars during any high-pressure period. These strategies represent some of the best practices from the world-class companies I work with and from my personal leadership experience.
- Be clear on your priorities and expectations. There are usually a number of priorities competing for your team’s time and attention, especially at closing. Don’t assume they know what your most important priorities are. Clearly communicate them, including why they are most important at this time, and set expectations around deadlines and deliverables.
- Help employees prioritize their to-do list. Even after you’ve communicated priorities, employees may need clarity on specific responsibilities on their to-do lists. Don’t assume they’ll read your mind. Offer to schedule time to work through prioritizing items on their personal lists.
- Set milestones and celebrate the achievements. Getting across the finish line can seem long and arduous. Break up goals into milestones so that the team experiences progress. Make reaching those milestones a time to celebrate. Recognize team members who have stepped up.
- Ask where they need support. Leaders often assume employees will ask for help if they need it. Put yourself in their shoes. Would you ask you? Schedule regular meetings where you can review their progress and find out if there are challenges or barriers they need your help with to move through. They may have resource needs. Or, they simply may need your verbal reinforcement that they are on the right path.
- Empower your team. Many decisions can be made without you. Empower your team to use their best judgment to make decisions. Provide clarity around situations in which you may need to be more involved. Your bandwidth will increase, and the efficiency with which your team gets things done will improve.
- Be an inspiration, not a nag. Have you ever worked for a manager who hardly said anything positive? Even though you may think employees are doing what they’re supposed to do, a pat on the back with a thank you can help keep them going when times are tough. Recognize the extra effort and accomplishments. Note specific examples of a job well done in your comments.
- Minimize the time killers. You sometimes have expectations of employees that take up precious time but aren’t necessarily that important. Are all those meetings really necessary? Is this inefficient process really the only way to do something? Does anybody read those reports anyway? Assess the time killers you create for your team. What can you minimize or eliminate so they have the bandwidth to focus on top priorities?
- Make yourself available. As the leader, you’re pulled in a hundred different directions. Employees can have a hard time getting to you when they need you. Work with your team to determine how they’ll communicate a more urgent need. You may even protect some “open office” time on your calendar reserved only for your team.
- Provide cover. Rarely is work accomplished without working across departments. Everybody thinks their project or request is the most important. You may need to set boundaries with other departments, letting them know your team won’t have the time for requests that aren’t tightly connected to the most important priorities right now.
- Infuse some fun. All work and no play creates stress and burnout. Take the time to infuse some fun during these crunch times. Everybody loves food. Schedule days for employees to bring in different types of foods — a potluck. Go out to lunch or happy hour. Take advantage of seasonal holidays. Taking time away from the grind as a team reduces stress, increases productivity, and strengthens working relationships.
In the hustle of getting the work done, leaders often forget about their greatest asset, their team members. Add these strategies to your leadership practices to make your team shine.