How to contract and govern for success with each team member.

The following blog post has been upgraded and incorporated into an enhanced interactive, digital workbook called Manage to Lead: Seven Truths to Help You Change the World. IntelliVen visitors are invited to click here to view the updated and improved content on Inkling.
One of the leader’s most important jobs is to get and stay clear about what it is that he or she is counting on from each team member.  Once the leader is clear, the message must be communicated to the team member.  Often, the leader fails to engage in a rich communication apparently in favor of assuming that team members are somehow supposed to figure out for themselves exactly what is expected of them.

Click the photo below to watch a five-minute video of a supervisor and team member making many common mistakes that make it  tough for things to come out right:

How many poor supervisory actions do you see in  this video?

The steps detailed in this post make explicit a conversation that otherwise plays-out inside of the heads of those involved.  When the conversation is explicit the leader and team member get on the same page and dramatically increase the odds of high-performance and fulfilled expectations.

Contract: Get clear about what you want from each person.  For each team member, set up a one-on-one conversation to tell them exactly what you are counting on from them.  Be sure you really want it from them and that you think they are able do it; ask them to tell you what you told them to be sure they have it right and then ask to verify they also really do want to do it and that they believe they can do it.

Once they agree they want to do what you have asked of them, then you have essentially constructed a verbal contract for them to do it.  Give them the resources (time, training, people, money, texts, advisers, etc.) they need in order to be successful.  Make it worth their while to succeed (praise, bonus, promotion, trip, present, etc.).

These steps are outlined below in a bit more detail for easy reference:

• Make clear what you want done
    • Tell each person and team what you count on them to do; do not assume that because you say it they “get it”, instead
    • Ask them to repeat back what they heard to verify it is indeed what you intended
    • Express your confidence that they can do what you ask and
    • Verify that they too believe they can do what you ask.  There is no point in asking someone to do something that they do not believe they can do.  The reason is that, paraphrasing Henry Ford: “if they think they can or if they think they can’t…they are probably right!”
    • Tell them that you really want them to do what you ask and
    • Verify that they indeed want to do it.  A lot of times people want to do something  other than what they like doing and what they are good at doing because they think others value something other than what they are good at and like doing. The leader’s job is to make clear that what the team member is good at and likes is indeed what is wanted!

Close out this step by writing down in a performance plan complete with what you will track to know how things are going and to know when what is to be done is indeed done.

• Provide any resources necessary to ensure success, such as
    • Time
    • Space
    • Training
    • Experience
    • Money
    • People
    • Advice
    • Feedback
    • etc.
• Make it worth their while to succeed; such as:
    • Recognition
    • Admiration
    • Praise
    • Prominence
    • Attention
    • Bonus
    • Award
    • Dinner
    • Raise
    • Promotion
    • etc.

The following is a way to visualize the steps outlined above:

Supervisor-Team Member Contracting

Pay Attention: Remember that delegation is not the same thing as abdication and that the number one reason things go wrong is lack of management attention.  It pays to pay attention and the wise leader checks in from time to time to be sure front-line action is proceeding as expected (see Note on How to Connect The Top of the House to the Front Line).

Build capacity: To further increase the odds of high-performance leaders need to
• Find, attract, recruit, hire and nurture the best and most capable people you possibly can,    to develop into the next generation of leaders.
    • Without good people the leaders own capacity is more than likely to be the constraint to growth
    • Don’t be afraid to bring in some who may turn out to be better than you and/or who are quite different than you are in key areas of competence needed for success.  No one can do much alone.
    • Build a team of three to seven top players, each with key and complementary strengths and who are aligned to get on track to success.  Seek those with different skills, views, and orientations to provide a rich environment of diverse thinking and who have great affinity and affection for each other such that they are compatible and enjoy spending time with each other.
• Regularly speak with team members about what they are doing; make it a habit to give
    • Feedback, coaching, advice, ideas
    • Help assess, problem-solve, plan, and act
to make clear what you want done.  In so doing, go out of your way to make it clear that you are on their team and that your only interest is to help them be successful. Give them something tangible to manifest your commitment such as your best thinking in the form of notes or drawings, key insights or ideas, etc. and invite them to pick these up and use them to take them further as though they were their own.


• Look for high-stakes opportunities to personally show what you want done in order to produce important results and to allow future leaders to learn from you;
• Constantly and continuously debrief with them in order to consolidate insights based on results and help them see:
    • What works
    • What does not work
    • What you want done next time
• Set regular (weekly, bi-weekly) time to talk for 90 minutes one-on-one with each direct  report.
    • Schedule in a time-slot in the day and week that is easy to keep; e.g., 7:30 on Monday am
    • Keep the time more often than not.  Move if necessary.  Get committed to it.  Ok if takes less…will be found time.
    • No other agenda and not over lunch (though lunches are good).
• Team member prepares and presents to you (in up to one hour)
    • Last week’s priorities and progress with metrics to support claims of progress (your mindset is: how is it going, how do you know?)
    • List and talk through top 3 (- 5  but no more) priority items fully.  What is going on, how is it going, go out of your way to be supportive, on their team and help (provide resources, training, head start, other people, etc.)
    • Agree on top items, next steps, what is to be done next and what you will do to help.
• You prepare and present to the team member (in less than 15 minutes)
    • Your top 3-5 priorities to keep you honest; to let them in on  something special about you and what you are doing for the good of the team; and it will be good for you.
    • Discuss until you know they are clear and solicit their input and advice
    • Commit to follow up as appropriate to keep them engaged on what you are doing if you so desire
• Review items for upcoming team leader meeting (10 minutes)
• Recap and wrap-up (5 minutes)


The following is a way to visualize the steps outlined above:

How many poor governance moves do you see in this video?

Failure to follow the governing steps above can lead to calamity as suggested by the leader who is reviewing a team-member’s work in the video you can see by clicking  the following photo:

Download and review the slides at this link for a summary of the above.


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