Team Productivity

How to Score Big Team Wins by Leading Lean

Laura LaPrad
October 1, 2018
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Ever feel like you landed in leadership without having all the answers yet? We’ve been there too.

When Nathan Gilmore and John Correlli cofounded TeamGantt in 2009, leadership was the last thing on their mind. They were simply 2 guys in a basement trying to build TeamGantt in the margins of their time, with no investor funding.

But bootstrapping a company taught them the power of doing more with less, and those early lessons to have shaped the way they lead our team today.

See how using a lean approach to leadership can help your team reach their full potential so you can all enjoy bigger wins.   

Make sure your team knows what’s #1

Accomplishing one important thing each day has been part of our company culture since TeamGantt was a Saturday-morning gig for Nathan and John. Back then, figuring out what to focus on first was a no-brainer.

“It was easy when it was just the two of us because we were always on the same page. We didn’t have to communicate—we just knew where we were going and what our goals were,” Nathan says. “But when you get more people involved, you’ve got to make sure everyone’s aligned with the same mission and vision.”

So how do we keep 20 people on the same page these days? Most of it happens through a combination of sprint planning and team meetups.

  • Sprint planning: This enables smaller teams within TeamGantt to set their sights on shared goals. Each team has its own rhythm. For example, our dev team holds biweekly sprint planning sessions to map out the work and identify priorities, while our marketing team runs on a 6-week sprint cycle. Here's a glimpse of a 6-week plan that's in progress for one of our marketing projects.
6-week plan for marketing project
  • Team meetups: As a remote team, team meetups offer much-needed face time and help ensure we’re all pulling in the same direction. We get the whole company together annually for food, fun, and company goal-setting, while smaller teams gather quarterly (or as needed) to focus on strategic planning and/or special projects.

Cultivate a sense of ownership

Most leaders know they’ve got to delegate the work. But delegation without trust leads to micromanagement. That can make it hard for your team to make decisions without your approval or to feel truly invested in the work they’ve been tasked to do.

John Correlli, TeamGantt cofounder
John Correlli, cofounder

It may sound counterintuitive, but staying out of people’s way is a good thing. If your team has a goal, let them find the best way to hit it, and make sure they know their voice matters too.

“Give people space to bring their experience and knowledge to the table,” John says. “Asking questions and getting your team involved creates a sense of ownership.”

You hired your team for a reason, right? Trust them to do their job. Be open to ideas that are different from your own. You might be surprised just how far your team can go.

Make it safe to fail

Playing it safe may protect your team from the sting of failure. But it can also keep them from experiencing some pretty awesome wins along the way.

That’s why we prioritize learning over perfection.

When you set out to build a business on your own with no big investors to back you up, you have to get comfortable with risk. After all, putting yourself out there is the only way you’ll ever see what you’re capable of.

The trick is keeping failures small. “It’s a misconception that people who start companies are big risk-takers,” Nathan says. “We don’t make big bets that risk the company.”

Giving your team the freedom to experiment in increments—without the fear of failure—breeds more creativity and enables you to find new and better ways of moving the needle. Even the projects that don’t go as planned bring valuable lessons to the table.

Be open to iteration

It’s easy to get stuck in patterns where no one considers the cost or even knows why it’s done that way anymore. Don’t be afraid to shift to find efficiencies or make trade-offs to grow. Improving things for your team pays off for your customers and company too.

Here’s an example of how we iterate at TeamGantt:

“Back in the day when people started feeling disconnected, we had the team write a quick status update in a shared project at the end of each day. This took the place of daily standup meetings because we had team members spread across different time zones and didn’t want to interrupt people in the middle of their morning,” Nathan explains.

Recently, however, Nathan and John went back to the drawing board to determine whether these daily updates still worked for the team. Since most smaller teams have their own regular touchpoints now, they decided to shake up the status quo.

“Now instead of spending 15 minutes a day reading and writing status updates, we have a monthly show-and-tell that enables team members to share recent project wins or show off new and exciting work,” Nathan says. “That gives us more time each week to focus on making a product our customers love.”

Up next: A quick list of our favorite leadership resources

Now that you’ve got the tools to set your team up for success, it’s time to focus on you. Check out this list of books, podcasts, and learning opportunities that have helped us grow as individuals and leaders.

Want to help your team work smarter?

TeamGantt makes it easy to eliminate confusion, streamline communication, and beat project deadlines. Even better, you’ll save time and energy on project setup so you can focus on doing the work that matters most.

Of course, don’t just take our word for it. Try TeamGantt for free try to see for yourself!

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