The End of the Financial Year is normally a very busy period for all organisations. There is the pressure of a deadline and the push for the business goals; this adds additional stress to managers responsible for delivering results.
Every organisation and team is different, and busy periods come at different times. Effective managers face challenges in achieving results, keeping the teams engaged, and reducing any frictions. In a recent Senior Leadership Management strategy session, our CEO, Lee Seymour provided three great tips to his Senior Management team.
- Ask for help
- Plan ahead for deadlines
- Hold people accountable
Let’s discuss these points in more detail.
1. Delegate and Ask for Help
It is important to remember that you are never alone. Lee recommends looking at the task and considering delegating up and down. Team members can take ownership of certain tasks, or challenging situations can be handled by Senior Managers who can seek assistance from the team.
Delegating tasks is a habit, and it requires self-training and practice.
If there is someone in the team who can take on and complete a task faster than you, it’s a good idea to reach out for assistance or re-assign the task.
2. Dates are Always Closer than they Appear
There is always so much to do when working on a deadline, and time seems to vanish. It is ideal to allocate additional time for any unexpected, related tasks that may come up. Leaving everything until the last minute is never a good idea.
3. Hold People Accountable
Being responsible for a team doesn’t mean that individual contributors are not responsible for their tasks.
As the Marketing Lead, I empower team members to complete their tasks autonomously, with periodic check-ins to ensure the team stays on-brand and on-track. We act on the principle that everybody is responsible for their areas of expertise, whilst maintaining a clear understanding that we are a collaborative team. If we need help, we try to reach out early, but we have clear owners for tasks.
Defining clear ownership of responsibilities makes the work easier. This also helps to build trust amongst the team. Each member knows who to turn to for support in that particular marketing channel. The Xref Marketing team also have daily stand-ups where the team can have conversations with each other and flag any issues, delays or priorities that require attention.
In my opinion, the key to reducing friction and being successful at delivering results during stressful periods, is to practice the three points above in less chaotic circumstances.
People become more reactive when working under pressure, and it is more difficult to think. Deadline sprints are normally very operational. My recommendation is to practice the skills of successful performing teams when you are not under strict time constraints.
Things that we do in the Marketing team at Xref that may help with effective team management:
- Define deadlines early
- Review priorities
- Develop a culture of ‘asking for help’
- Saying ‘no’ or ‘not now’ when appropriate
- Have clear owners of tasks
The points above reduce stress and produce better results. Let’s review them; I guarantee that if practiced regularly this can help build better rapport in the team and trust that you will all get through busy periods, completing tasks successfully, on time, together.
1. Clear Deadlines
They allow us to prepare and estimate resources so we can be confident that the deadlines are achievable.
2. Constant Prioritisation or Reprioritisation
This allows us to ensure that we are dedicating time and resources to the tasks that offer value and are more relevant to the organisation, not just the team.
3. Ask for Help and Delegate
This empowers different team members to learn new skills, so when we are under pressure, we have multi-skilled colleagues who can help and do not require additional training.
4. A Culture that Saying ‘No’ is ok
We consult internally and externally on the value of certain tasks. Again, this is linked to priorities, and we try to free up time for the most valuable tasks. Sometimes we have to say ‘not now’ and we review priorities when there is bandwidth in the team.
5. Giving Ownership of a Task is Empowering
Every single person in the team has ownership over their space of expertise. For example, our Graphic Designer leads the creative direction of our brand on all channels and our Communications Specialist owns our content and social media calendars. This strategy is great for goal completion; a channel-based marketing team makes it easy to delineate who leads what tasks and also allows for easy delegation across team members too.
These points are principles followed in project management. Good managers need to be smart at measuring goals and developing team leaders.
Having a high performing team that collaborates effectively towards a targeted task to complete it in a stressful period is not easy. It takes practice and constant adjustment to circumstances to adapt to the best high performing mode. It is also important to note that each team comes with it’s own dynamic. If any member of that team changes, the dynamic may shift.
With different areas of expertise in a team, it is important to consider the different points of view and understand that all team members should be comfortable with the process. When this point in the team journey is reached, it becomes easier to go back to basics during stressful circumstances and remind yourself that you can;
- Always ask for help
- Check if someone else can take some workload from you
- Confirm that they will take ownership of the successful completion of the task.
Team managers are responsible for successful goal completion. In my role as a Team Lead, I do the following three things that have helped me develop my team management skills and accomplish results repeatedly over the years:
- Monitor how tasks are tracking to ensure they are progressing according to expectations
- Provide guidance when needed or when team members are unsure of the next steps
- Review and negotiate the scope of work when the tasks seem unachievable
Busy times are challenging, but also enjoyable because they are a time for us to prove ourselves and develop new skills.
I asked three valuable members of the Xref Marketing team to comment on how they manage multiple projects, prioritise tasks during stressful periods and effectively delegate tasks. Here’s what they had to say.
Shieanne Dcruz, Global Marketing Specialist shared her secret to managing multiple projects ensuring successful completion.
You can miss out on things when you’re juggling multiple projects at the same time. Make a to-do list and be on top of it. Define the absolutely critical tasks for the day and make them your top priority and then let the others follow. Put your full attention towards one task at a time. If you’re used to stopping one task halfway through because a random thought about another project, try to push it away and stay where you are. And lastly, name one task (there could be more) that you’ll complete everyday.
Sorrel Hanemann-Fayers discussed how she prioritises tasks during stressful periods as our in-house Graphic Designer
When prioritising tasks during a busy period, it’s important to remember the big picture end goal. This could be anything from building brand awareness or growing sales, to launching a new product. Keeping a clear view of this helps guide how you should be allocating your time, and stops you from getting lost in your own little bubble. At the end of the day, the tasks that are going to make a real impact on the success of your business should always be front and centre.
Annalise Richardson, Senior Communications Specialist opens up about the fine balance of delegation without direct reporting lines. I asked her, “How do you delegate tasks effectively to other members of your team that may not necessarily report to you?”
To me, delegation during busy periods is about seeking support. When I have a lot on my plate, there will be tasks that I know I’m not as strong at or I know someone on the team has a particular passion for or experience with that type of task. By asking that person if they can take the lead frees me up and gives them ownership of the task, fuelling confidence that they can successfully complete it.
Ultimately, creating habits is the best way to get through stressful periods, because people tend to fall back on processes they know well and that come easy to them. Making deadlines a habit - creating them and achieving them and re-prioritising where necessary are two easy ways to successfully manage busy periods. Empowering your team to ask for help or say ‘not now’ is a simple way to reduce or avoid burnout.
Encouraging your team to take ownership of tasks that fall into their wheelhouse makes task management easier and gives your team alternate points of contact to achieve goals. As a leader, when you are busy it may be hard for your team to reach you, but by creating task managers or task leads, you can shift some of the onus away from yourself so you don’t become a roadblock.
I hope you have found these tips helpful to set your team up for the busy periods ahead. To implement, consider a team workshop where you can find tangible ways to create goals and set up the foundation for good habits, for future success.