Ok so, I’ve been learning a lot lately about leadership. Specifically, the project management side – working with teams to get more stuff done faster.
So, I’d like to share what I’ve learned. Not only will they help you make better decisions about what to do next, but get them done faster.
I’ll touch on agile scrum techniques, prioritization, getting out of your team’s way, the 80/20 rule on learning new skills, and spending more time thinking than doing.
Let’s dive in…
Do Only What’s Important
There is no shortage of ideas or opportunities. You probably have no problem generating ideas.
But, which ones will create the biggest impact, with the least resources? You have to get efficient at answering this question. Or, you’ll keep getting distracted by every shiny new idea, and you won’t get anything meaningful done.
To help you get even better at prioritization, I highly recommend The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker, or Neil Patel’s Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking (great tidbits about analyzing what your “low hanging fruits” are).
So, start keeping a list – a backlog. Have a genius idea? Write it down. Someone else has a genius idea? Write it down.
I use Asana. I know people that use Evernote, too. Regardless of your tool, you have to find a way to get your ideas organized, so you can be objective about which ones are important.
It’s a great way to categorize your backlog by category (marketing ideas, innovation ideas, integration ideas, etc). Each category should have it’s own list of ideas, and each idea can list your research findings, requirements, ideas on execution, etc.
Then, at some point you can move items from your backlog to your “do now” list.
Here’s my to-do list “dashboard”…
All items with a “>>” have has its own sub-list, and sometimes there are sub-sub-lists. This gives a file folder-type structure to my to-do list, and it’s very effective.
Once you have your ideas organized, start thinking deeply about which ideas are important.
- Which idea will add the most value for our customers?
- Which ideas will get internal buy-in, because they’re so valuable?
- How can it be done? Which idea is most feasible?
- Who do I need to team up with, to get it done? What other leaders in the organization will help me champion this cause?
- What do I need to learn about the problem and its solutions, in order to make this project effective? Poke around. Ask your teammates. Ask your customers.
Once you think and feel that there is a project that, if done, would make a huge impact for your company and its customers, then do it. Do the most important things first.
It’s amazing how people will support you, if you are in the habit of doing what’s important. It will give you credibility, and influence.
Side note: Sometimes it is good to get the small things done first, so you can focus better on the big stuff. I do this a lot. Doing the small stuff first is like freeing up RAM on your computer. It just creates more space in your brain.
Measure the past, present, and future
When managing a team, it can be a little disheartening to see only a list of tasks you have yet to do. Will it ever end? It can be overwhelming.
So, in addition to having a To-do and Doing list, have a Done list.
It’s much more encouraging for your team (and you) to see an ever-growing list of stuff you’ve accomplished together. And it’s a good thing to show your higher-ups or clients what you’ve accomplished.
But, there is one thing you can do to take your Done list up a notch, even more. Which brings me to…
Relentless Team Learning
In every team meeting (people like Jeff Sutherland recommend a daily standup meeting), emphasize learning from each other.
Every team member has things they are learning, and things that are holding them back (impediments/waste).
Team meetings are a chance for everyone in the team, to help remove impediments for everyone else in the team. In fact, this is our primary job as project managers (or scrum masters). Our job is to facilitate – to help our team think more clearly, and propose alternate solutions. But mainly to remove impediments.
One key aspect to this, is discussing your Done list. Talk about what everyone learned, when accomplishing a certain task or feature. Gives yourselves a history lesson.
So, discuss both current impediments, and impediments encountered during past accomplishments. This is important because the better you can reduce impediments as a team, the faster you will go. And I mean really fast.
I found this to be true even for my small team (one in-house developer and one overseas developer). As soon as we emphasized learning, and removing impediments, we sped up dramatically.
The ideal solution is not always the best solution (for right now)
You’ve probably heard that your product doesn’t have to be perfect. You might have even read Lean Startup. But I want to reiterate this principle, because it’s so important and something I struggled with (But didn’t realize I struggled with it. “Yeah, build the MVP and deliver it. Got it.”). I didn’t actually get it.
Deliver the product. Even if it’s rough. Even if it’s not nearly as good of a user experience as you’d like it to be. Just get it out there.
- You get feedback quickly, so you can rebuild it into something that your customers will actually want, faster.
- Solves for the Innovator’s Dilemma. You get the cheap, possibly unpopular innovations out there, in all their rough-around-the-edges glory. That plants the seeds for a few years down the road when the market matures and more people want your innovation.
- It hooks in the customer quickly, and makes them feel important because they are a part of the process. If you wait for a more ideal MVP, you may lose the opportunity.
Get Out of the Way
You’d be surprised how little your team needs you. Give them guidance, freedom, and autonomy. Provide alternate solutions, clarify thinking, and remove impediments.
Other than that, get out of the way. Give them a chance to outdo themselves, and they usually will.
Think More About Doing Less
This is a purposely convoluted way of saying, spend your time thinking about what things are most important, how best to execute them, and what the results/effects might be.
Essentially, this is strategy. Make every move count, and your impact will increase.
It’s been said that leaders are generalists. They need to lead the big picture, and that means that are not a specialist in any one field.
There are definitely some exceptions and gray area to that – IT leaders can start out as programmers, Marketing Managers can start out as content specialists. A leader should have deep knowledge of one or two fields.
But, in general, a leader needs to be a generalist, as well as a specialist.
I like the v-shaped skills metaphor (where you’re sharp at one skill, and have a slope of broad, less sharp skills).
All that to say this – I believe there is a way for leaders to become more effective generalists. Being a generalist doesn’t mean you have to suck at everything other than your specialty.
So, use the 80/20 rule. 20% of every skill accounts for 80% of a skill’s effectiveness.
The key to this is the same as learning a language – immersion. You have to dig into books, podcasts, blog posts, and talk with influencers.
I spent a year or so immersing myself in the analytics world – reading Lean Analytics, Web Analytics 2.0, Marketing Analytics with Excel, etc. And I emailed questions to the authors – Alistair Croll, Avinash Kaushik, and Wayne Winston. There were also other books I read, and blog posts.
This is the best way to get really, really good at a broad range of skills.
Did this help you create breakthroughs in your team, your company, or your product? Shoot me an email, or hit me up on my social networks.