Over the last few years the philosophies behind running a business, department or team has developed away from one of a stringent and linear way of ensuring rules and responsibilities are met to one that is designed around the growth of the individual, be that a team member, external (to your own team) colleague and yourself.
The ‘warden of the rules’ managerial approach neglects the colleagues own identity and has been shown to harm the opportunities available to a business from a team of confident, trusted and ‘free’ colleagues.
When we say ‘free’ we don’t of course mean free to do what you or your colleagues feel like on any given day, come-and-go as they please or do as much or as little work during their shift. We mean free to make mistakes, free to know that with mistakes comes support and development, not insults and blame. In the same way as to allow freedom it is important to ensure your team takes responsibility. One without the other leads to your managerial/leadership role becoming one of being a hammock for your team when the ideal is to be a safety-net. Your role is not to carry your team through a day with as much ease to them as possible and limited responsibility, but to give them the opportunity to develop, climb and grow by allowing your team to take responsibility for their requirements in safety.
As with all industries, many of the points we look at below with regards to leadership in events are transferrable to other industries.
Within the events industry it is more likely you will have a team of differing levels of skills and abilities with equally differing levels of experience. It is important when taking on a team with this diversity of knowledge to utilise these skills and abilities while almost paradoxically ensuring everyone is pulling in the same direction with a standard but flexible degree of operating principles as a basis to achieve that end result.
One such way of doing this is to create a matrix of the necessary operating principles to act in accordance with, these can include health and safety requirements, operational builds and venue/room set-ups, equipment usage, and the different areas of event delivery. These should be carefully defined by what you, as their leader, expect from the team and what your teams responsibilities are within these areas. This can then be crossed by 3 to 4 differing levels of expertise within that area; bronze (for low level knowledge or experience) to gold or platinum (for an expert level of knowledge or experience).
After spending time with your team learning what their current skills levels are, both as individuals and groups and informing them off the departments operating standards, what your expectations are and what their responsibilities are, have your individual team members self-assess themselves with the above matrix, while they do this you should also complete this matrix for the individual as to your understanding of their abilities and knowledge. Once both parties have completed these matrixes, review both your answers together. Within this exchange you can appraise where you both agree the team member is performing to a high stand, where you both agree there needs to be more training and development, and also where, and why, there are disagreements on the level they are currently at.
Both Agree on a High Level
When you both agree the individual is perform at a high/acceptable level there is little need for extensive training and development. This does not mean their abilities here should be ignored. There abilities should be encouraged, noted and praised to avoid complacency and if it is appropriate, team members performing at a lower level in this ability can be partnered up with them to improve the limited individual within a structured development and training system.
Both Agree on a Low Level
Encourage feedback from the individual on why these requirements were not achieved and what support they feel they would require to achieve a higher level in the future. Work with the team member in providing this support and guidance either directly by yourself or through partnering them up with a team member who operates at a higher level to them and agree a process through which to measure and ascertain their development within these areas.
Disagreements on Their Level
When conducting these matrixes, disagreements are sure to follow along different lines and these areas are where you can gain a better understanding of the personality of the individual. If they feel they are performing at lower levels than you believe they are, it may be that they lack confidence in these areas, or they feel, possibly from their own previous experience that there are more efficient and effective ways to perform this role than the one demonstrated within the matrix. Engage with the individual and discuss with them their reasons for their self-assessment, acknowledge their efforts and explain your reasoning for believing they are performing to a higher level than they are. Encourage further growth and offer continued support to allow them to grow in confidence within this area. If they feel they have performed this standard elsewhere and were more comfortable using a different technique to attain the same outcome, and provided this method is able to be utilised as a synergetic element of the overall goal allow them to perform it.
If they believe they are performing at a higher level than you do once again be specific in explaining why you feel their level is able to be improved on. If they are health and safety issues, point out specific examples of failing to meet the standards and legal requirements, if it is in room set-ups or event builds give examples of mistakes that were made or requirements not met, if it is in the operational delivery give specific examples of itinerary elements not met, be it in the way of timings or required elements not delivered on. Ensure that the team member understands the expectations, feels supported in their development and is open towards communicating their struggles within the role.
Depending on the size of the team and the need for improvement these matrixes could be compled every 3 to 6 months. The information obtained from these can then be used to put together tailored individual training programmes that allow you to specialise in the areas that are lacking within an individuals specific abilities. This in turn stops you from having to train everyone in every area, gives you a greater understanding of your teams abilities and allows you to proportion tasks to the teams specific strengths, and minimises the need to waste time teaching people what they already know.
Allowing a team to self-assess themselves gives them a responsibility (to a degree) to develop themselves. They acknowledge where their abilities are lacking, understanding why they are lacking and take responsibility, with the support and guidance being there, for their development of these abilities.
Insecurity within your team will have far reaching and negative consequences. It can create apathy towards the objective, disillusionment towards the company/department and will limit the potential for growth both for the department and all for the team members by creating a toxic working environment.
Removing this insecurity, building growth and trust, removing the fear of failure and developing a confident team creates an environment of progress. Micromanaging a competent team can be as destructive as carrying an incompetent one, and may exacerbate that destruction even quicker. Team members have an expectation that should mirror their managers. They have an expectation to be supported and developed. Their exceptions do not, or at least should not, be to have others do the work for them. They do not have all the answers, all the knowledge or experience, the manager’s role in leading the team should be to provide those answers, knowledge and experience. A team should have confidence that their manager supports them, that their manager cares about their development as individuals and seeks the best opportunities for them. This creates a confidence in the team to push themselves out of their comfort zones and into new environments of growth and progress.
As mentioned above, a team requires their own level of confidence to be able to succeed. Alongside your team a manager should feel confident in the abilities of the team. This includes both the abilities they currently have and the belief that as their manager you will be able to help them improve on the abilities that require development. Having confidence in your team and your ability to lead and develop them gives everyone greater freedom to excel. Restraining micro-managerial policies and structures limits freedom and expressive growth.
Any doubts you have about the teams current and future ability should be assessed. Do you, as their manager, not have confidence in your teams ability, not only current ability but also ability to learn and develop, do you feel restricted by other internal structures within the working environment i.e. beurocratic processes that limit your own development and training processes, time constraints or payroll restriction that limit the amount of time you are able to spend with your team within their development. As with any company ‘time’ (particularly when it comes to payroll) is an extremely valuable and protected asset, but most companies understand the importance of creating and developing an effective and efficient team. Not only does it create medium to long term gains in having a highly trained, organised and focused team, delivering events with a common purpose, it also creates a positive working environment that reduces staff turnover, negating the additional expense and time, through multiple departments, that inevitably comes from increased recruitment.
Additionally, the methods and processes expressed above are primarily focused on hands-on training and development. There are the self-assessment reviews that come through one-on-one meetings, health and safety registration and authorisations are necessary to be completed as an external part fo the typical work day, but outside of those the development process is conditioned to be part of the working day.
Operational leadership is not a back-office task, it comes from working side-by-side with your team, gaining trust and confidence through being there for your team. Understanding their struggles and personalities through engagement and having a clear line of open communication that adds value to the team throughout.