The Secret to an Efficient Process

by  Sonia Di Maulo  |  Self Leadership

Incubation Helps Self-Reflection

In September 2011 I finally identified the root cause. The incubation period was long but finally I understand the real reason why I had such a hard time completing a project in 2010. It was an extraordinary project that provided a great learning opportunity.

This self-reflection has helped increase my level of self-awareness. I love it when that happens.

Focus on People

I realized something I always really knew: The secret to an efficient process is a deep genuine focus on people.

• When the process breaks down, do the people on your team feel empowered and justified to speak up?
• As leaders do we provide our team with the responsibility and reward to bring up team issues that eventually bog down the process?
• Are we ready to hear and tackle these people issues with passion and are we committed to finding solutions that focus on people *and* improve the process?

In the project I was involved in, I didn’t speak up when I should have. I was focused on the process and I believed that the person issue was my responsibility to deal with on my own. I believed the leader would look upon my person issue as an insignificant block in a critical project. I believed that a focus on the process was more important. I was wrong.

As leaders, we may believe that if people have issues, they will tell us. But with so much at stake (reputation, jobs, relationships), sometimes they don’t. They try to deal on their own for the good of the project. This creates unnecessary stress, a dive in motivation, blocked team energy that is certainly felt by all, and a broken process.

Here are two potential solutions leaders can try to integrate into their routines: (1) setting expectations collaboratively and (2) schedule one-on-ones.

Setting Expectations Collaboratively

Project launch is a great time to set expectations and to create a common understanding of the difference between process challenges and challenges between the people that enable the process. Collaborative discussions help create awareness, responsibility and commitment.

As a project team, develop a set of guiding principles that will help set the tone for team interactions and beliefs. These principles help each person on the team make decisions during critical times. Here are some examples of team guiding principles:

1. We focus on the person to enable process and results.
2. We work hard, are dedicated, and take pride in our lives and work.
3. We act with good intention.
4. We make decisions carefully without intention to hurt. If something is said/done that is perceived as hurtful, seek to understand, validate and clarify first.
5. We appreciate positive reinforcement and feedback that will make our work better.

If these don’t exist for your team, try scheduling a team meeting to get them in place.

Schedule One-on-Ones

Another solution to help you focus on people to enable process is to schedule frequent one-on-ones with each member of your team. Quick 15-minute conversations on a weekly basis will help you connect, understand and demonstrate presence. If this process is new for you, begin by setting these up three weeks from today (generally your calendar will be less full in three weeks). Keep the appointment and keep to the time.

Develop a strategy that works for you and your team or connect with me to try my 3+1 feedback strategy which is based on the Four Common Performance Management Routines of Great Managers (Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, First Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently):

• The routine is simple
• The routine forces frequent interaction
• The routine is future-focused
• The routine allows for self-assessment & documentation

Developing an engaged and empowered team is a difficult and rewarding task. It is also a critical leadership responsibility. As one member of the team, I lost sight of my focus on people to enable process and all I saw was process – I believed that was our team focus.

I would like to thank Michelle Holliday (@michellehollida ) and Geneviève Emond for facilitating this insight during Michelle’s Thrivibility Montreal (thrivabilitymontreal.blogspot.com/) monthly conversation series to explore new ways of leading and working in organizations.

What’s Next? Please leave a comment below to join the conversation…

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What People Are Saying

Mike Henry  |  12 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Sonia, thanks for the great post and openly sharing about what you learned. I agree with you, but want to emphasize the need to set expectations collaboratively. Shared expectations are key to successful teams. When everyone understands the goal, and each individual’s expected contribution, teamwork becomes much less complex and much more enjoyable. Thanks for a great post. Mike…

Sonia Di Maulo  |  16 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Thanks for your comment, Mike!

I agree about the importance of setting expectations collaboratively. I believe it allows everyone a chance to speak up and have impact on the next steps, process, and final results. It builds responsibility in a unique way and allows the leader to build rapport immediately. And, yes, gets everyone to relax and enjoy the rest of the process.

I appreciate the opportunity to collaborate and share with the Lead Change Group.

Fanny Korman  |  18 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Thank you yet again for your insights and for sharing so openly. You lead by example! Being self-aware is such an important quality of a great leader and being able to openly share what we learn about ourselves creates trust and respect so critical to a team’s success. I like your suggestion of collaboratively creating guiding principles that can serve to stay on track as the team moves forward on any given project. I fully agree that once you have a clear idea of the process, the true measure of success is how well we integrate our understanding of the people involved. The process is only as good as the people who implement the process and keeping each team member fully engaged is the key to success.
Great discussion!

Shawn Murphy  |  12 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Good observation. In our efforts to complete a project on time, in scope, and within budget we flex the schedule and process muscle too often. Building into the DNA of a project are supporting processes to ensure people are heard and supported when breakdowns occur.

I would add-on to your first item this: revisit the principles with pulse checks throughout the project. Have a conversation, albeit brief, on how we doing upholding the principals. Where area we falling down? And what do we need to do about it?

I also think the project manager needs to keep a keen eye on personality or approach conflicts and establish an expectation that they need to be addressed. A conversation as to how that should happen is good to have upfront.

Good topic.


Sonia Di Maulo  |  16 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Hi Shawn,

I love your add-on! 100% agree. I also appreciate the suggestion for discussing how to have difficult conversations should they arise.

Thanks for dropping by and sharing your insight. I appreciate it!


Patricia Lotich  |  13 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Great revelation about the difference between process and people. Steps in a process are only as efficient as those people responsible for making those steps happen. When those people are not comfortable speaking up when they encounter barriers it can slow or even stall the process to complete a project. Consistent, open and honest conversations are the best way to deal with this. I like the 3+1 feedback strategy! Great article!

Sonia Di Maulo  |  16 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Hi Patricia!

Thank you for your comment and positive feedback. I am glad we are aligned… you have now joined the Feedback Enthusiast club! Welcome.

Hoping to stay in touch.

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