Top Tips to make Operational Leadership Easier and More Powerful

There you are, you’ve decided now is the time to change roles and you are excited but at the same time nervous as hell. You’ve taken on the role of the Operational Lead.  How are you going to make the right impression but at the same time make the changes needed?

Let’s start with what is operational leadership.

This is about ensuring the business processes are effectively and efficiently completed daily. It involves monitoring performance (and not just on a yearly basis) and addressing any issues that are getting in the way of performance.  It is also about making sure employees understand the tasks at hand, how to do them and being provided with knowledge, skills, and empowerment to do them.

So where to begin? 

Here are some tips to help you based on my personal experience from my operational days.

Your Values

If the business has values implemented, are they being followed?  If there are no shared values, then get a team from the employees to develop the values for the business working alongside some of the leads.   Facilitate as the lead to start building how they see you and to contribute and show you are willing to listen.

Even if there are values and standards, do they need re-emphasising? The buy-in that will follow from the involvement is always high and sets the scene for what your expectations and the business are.

The Business Culture

What is the culture like? Are anonymous people surveys carried out or do you need to implement a survey? There are free online ones that can be set up. An interactive one that can be used in meetings is Slido or there is Survey Monkey to set your own up.

What are you observing when the Manager is not around? I used to stay late at night, sat in a corner and people would forget I was there, and I discovered so much about the business just from listening. Use this as an opportunity to understand any issues and implement changes for the better.  Win your people over by showing them you will make the workplace better and that you care.

Equip Your Managers With the Skills Needed

 Look at, are the Managers equipped to deal with HR issues including Managing performance, dealing with sickness absence, managing conflict and change? Is there more support needed?

If more support is needed, try case surgeries where the Managers can pop at specified times and days and have an informal chat. Advertise often to the Managers and make it a session where there is confidentiality and the opportunity to share thoughts freely. Once you have set the standard you could let an experienced Manager lead the way.  Working remotely, then these can still be set up.  Make it informal so people feel as if they can open up. 

Another alternative is to set up a centrally stored document where Managers highlight what they are struggling with.  You can then use this to set up interactive teach-ins virtually or face-to-face. These workshops don’t have to be run by you but can be another team member or Manager who has the strength in the area.  For several years I was the Sick absence Lead, supporting managers in dealing with long-term or frequent cases, simply because that was one of my strengths.  So, tap into the strengths around you. 

Make Sure the Right Conversations are Taking Place

Look at whether managers are holding the conversations needed with their team members.  Sometimes conversations can seem very difficult and overwhelming for a manager and giving them support by coaching them through how to hold the conversation will pay dividends.  Why not share my free eBook – 15 Ways to Manage Difficult People. 

And remember the power of stories.  If you have stories to share, then use them.  Encourage others to share theirs too.   Often, we learn from the stories of where things went wrong or the impact it made, just from listening. 

Use Coaching and Mentoring

Use coaching and mentoring methodology to encourage your Managers and employees to find things out themselves. Instead of giving them the answers, ask questions, such as where could you look for the answer? Who in the business has dealt with a case like this before?  You want your people to grow and develop.  Encouraging them to go and find out themselves will mean you won’t have to worry if you are off because any problems will still be taken forward.

Look at bringing in a simple skills matrix and include soft skills. Use this to pair Managers up – experienced with new Managers.  Encourage people to want to develop and show your appreciation that they do.

Struggling with where to begin?

Feeling overwhelmed and uptight.

Sometimes just having some outside support, which is removed from the situation can give you fresh insight, put situations into perspective and create a sense of relief.

Want to build confidence while learning tips and tools to help develop you and your team, then book a mentoring session and make your blues go away.

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