We run a successful 4-day residential programme for a number of clients, called ‘Managing The Business’.  Over time, some top tips have developed for those on the course, which have general application to managers and teams.  They are:

1:  Decide, don’t drift: often the teams will discuss issues and options, then drift off to another topic or issue, without making a decision on the topic they’ve just been discussing.   This is a waste of their time and effort.  So make sure there is a decision at the end of your discussion

2:Don’t look where you fell, look where you slipped: this is an old African proverb, with real value in today’s world.  Often the teams would be very good at ‘fixing’ a problem once it had been identified, but tend to be less good at taking time to discuss why the problem occurred in the first place…

3: Maintain positive relationships with all stakeholders: often teams would become insular and inwardly focused, and forget to keep other key players, outside the team, warm….

4:  Challenge the default: this means question everything that seems fixed, if it isn’t working for you.  Ask the question ‘why are we doing this (or this way)?  Often organisational life happens like this because it has always happened ‘like this’ – and what may once have been a sensible decision or rule is no longer the case.

5: Ask: this follows on from 4 above.  Always ask for anything you want.  If the answer’s no, you are no worse off (and at least you are clearer about your options); if the answer is ‘yes’, then you’re better off – it’s a no brainer….

6: Consider the opportunity cost of any decision: at any moment in time, deciding to do A means you cannot (at the same time) do B.  So doing A will always have an opportunity cost of doing B (and C, D, etc).  So whatever you choose to do, ensure it is at least as valuable as what you are choosing to forego in order to do it – ie calculate the opportunity cost of any decision

7: Together or split: most teams eventually consider whether they should split or stay together: splitting means more can be achieved; staying together means everyone shares the same journey.  There is no obvious right or wrong, but two things to consider: firstly – consider the option of staying together or splitting; secondly, if you decide to split, someone has to still co-ordinate the overall team response….

8: Team leadership: often the best leader is the one who does not have any other task to do, but instead devotes their time to literally leading the group – which includes such things as looking ahead to anticipate and prevent problems; thinking on behalf of the team; providing feedback; checking progress against hte plan, etc.  All these valuable tasks are difficult to do if the leader also has a specialist task of their own…

9: Leadership as ’stepping up’: when times get trickly, teams often stall, and flounder.  This is when someone needs to ’step up’, to galvanise and re-energise the group, and provide focus and momentum.  This is a key leadership quality – and can come from anyone, at any time

10: Use time in proportion: often teams will spend a disproportionate amount of time on relatively insignificant tasks, then rush through tasks that should take more time to decide and action.  Allocate time according to the significance of the task; manage time, don’t let time manage you