When a leader of a team or an organisation ‘gets’ GTD® for themselves, there is a desire – often felt as a burning need – to offer it to their wider team.
The desire to pass it on can be altruistic (“this has been great for me, would be good if others had it too”), and the need to pass it on is often driven by what happens when someone really starts moving fast at the top of the team. All of a sudden what was once a bottleneck for the team (the leader) has become a firehose of ideas, projects, and random ‘stuff’ that is now flowing through to the team.
When a team has been offered GTD as a coping mechanism for the new dynamic, there are some very interesting synergies available. Over the years I’ve collected some best practices for leaders to leverage the methodologies of GTD, to get the most out of their investment. Simple things that are part of GTD, but might not be obvious initially.
I was talking these through with Spencer Hanlon of Lufhansa Airplus – someone who has been leading with GTD for the past five years (see our case study video here) – and together we pulled up a list of things we’ve seen work over time.
So, for those of you leading teams big and small, here are some relatively simple things you can be doing to communicate your intent about the new way of working, and to maximise your investment in offering GTD to your team:
· Publicly carry paper to every meeting and demonstrate capturing every activity as it comes to you. As a leader you cast a long shadow in terms of working culture, and people will notice and copy what they see.
· Ask your PA to protect at least one hour of each day for clarifying, and one hour per week for your Weekly Review® – and be seen to be doing those things by the rest of the team. In a spirit of helping your PA to help you, you might suggest they make those 30 minute blocks so that they can move in your calendar but not cancel. There will be days when you get no time for clarifying, but the blocks can be moved to after the event.
· Maintain complete @Agenda lists for when you meet with members of your team one to one.
· As an extension of that idea, use an “@Townhall” agenda list for all of the topics you want to communicate publicly in wider fora, so that you can capture them as they come up during the intervening period.
· Maintain complete @Waiting For lists, and use them to follow up on things you are waiting for. It is important that this NOT be a tool to beat them up with, but simply a way of letting everyone know that you know what they have committed to, and that you’ll follow up if necessary. Interestingly, the need to do this drops off dramatically once everyone understands that there is no place to hide.
· Schedule 15 minutes with your assistant every day and go through all of the “@ Agenda” and “@ Waiting For” topics which you have for him/her, to keep this most vital of admin relationships current and rapid.
· Give them 24 hour response times on emails that you get. Sometimes that might only be to say “I’ll get back to you”, but it will indicate that you are serious about people staying on top of their inboxes.
· Integrate useful GTD ideas and terminology to team discussions. For instance, take first 5 minutes of each meeting to clarify what the ‘desired outcome’ is for the meeting, and the last 10 minutes of each of your meetings to get clear on who has the ‘projects’, and/or ‘next actions’ at the end of your meetings. After delegating something, you can also let people know that you have a ‘waiting for’, or a ‘project delegated’. That language can be helpful to signal that this is a new way of working with each other
· Be visible with your Weekly Review. You can’t force people to do their own, but you could encourage it by saying something like, “From 2-3pm on Friday, I’d like all of us to give each other the space to do a Weekly Review. You don’t have to do it at that time if you don’t want to, but please don’t disturb others who are doing it.” Critical will be that you are seen to do it yourself at that time (or some reasonably consistent time, at least when you are in the office). That said, the main thing is that you do it at all, as that will keep you on top of things in a way that makes it harder for them to avoid doing it.
· If space permits, provide a quiet room/coffee with Wifi, and desks for staff to pull away from their desks and undertake their Weekly Review away from the immediate pull of ‘drop-bys’ or calls (especially important in open office environments).
· In the aftermath of the team seminar, hold internal refresher sessions where internal GTD enthusiasts can share their own systems and exchange ideas on tips, tricks, and tech.
· GTD is not about being tidy, but your people will be watching for clues on what to do with new eyes. Maintain a clean and clear office – and inbox – example is everything here.
· Optional extra for bonus points: break down your goals into the goals of your team. In theory at least (and in practice for a number of leaders that I have coached over the years), the sum of all of your ‘Projects’ and your ‘Projects Delegated’ (to your directs) should equal what you have been asked to do by the organisation in any given year.
I hope those are helpful. If you have developed any others that help support the implementation across the team I’d love to hear about them. Just shoot me a quick mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.