Katie Robbert of Trust Insights, Inc., appears on episode 7 of Appfire Presents: The BEST Work Management Show by Appfire.

“What are some leadership tips for enhancing my team’s productivity?” Find out on this episode of Appfire Presents: The BEST Work Management Show by Appfire.

Get valuable advice on this episode of Appfire Presents: The BEST Work Management Show by Appfire. Katie Robbert, co-founder and CEO at Trust Insights, Inc., shares tips for leading your team to maximize productivity. (And she would know! In a previous role, Katie and her Trust Insights co-founder Christopher Penn doubled headcount and tripled revenue in just 18 months.)

About the guest

Katie Robbert is an authority on compliance, governance, change management, Agile methodologies, and dealing with high-stakes, “no mistakes” data. As CEO of Trust Insights, she oversees the growth of the company, manages operations and product commercialization, and sets overall strategy.

Her expertise includes strategic planning, marketing operations management, organizational behavior and market research and analysis. Prior to co-founding Trust Insights, Katie built and grew multi-million dollar lines of business in the marketing technology, pharmaceutical, and healthcare industries.

About the show

The BEST Work Management Show by Appfire features smart leaders sharing their secrets for optimizing business processes and increasing productivity. Get the goods on how they handle everything from setting up workflows to automating processes. Every episode is 10 minutes or less, packed with insights you can use right away to supercharge your team’s productivity.

For your convenience, here is the transcript of this episode:

What are some leadership tips for enhancing my team’s productivity?

Kerry:  Today we’re going to address the question what are some leadership tips for enhancing my team’s productivity. To help us with that is one of the best leaders and managers I know, Katie Robbert, co-founder and CEO of the data firm Trust Insights. Stick around for a valuable, action packed 10 minutes.

Katie, let’s get right to the good stuff. 

Katie:  Absolutely. One of the first questions that I always get is how do I delegate more, how do I give my team more to do and help them be productive. Then the flip side of that is how do I not feel like I have to micro-manage everything. 

The answer to both of those questions is by having consistent and well-documented processes for your team to follow, because then you as the leader don’t need to micro-manage what they’re doing as long as they’re following the process and getting the consistent outcome that is expected. You set the expectations of what it is you want them to do, you’ve set the expectations of what it is they need to do to be successful, and then they have that plan to follow, which should also give them more time for professional development, for taking on new and exciting projects.

Kerry:  New anyway. 

Katie:  Theoretically. That would be my first piece of advice for any leader is make sure your expectations are clear. If you’re someone who is struggling to delegate because, “Nobody can do it the way I want to do it,” you’re the problem. You need to be explicitly clear about what it is that you’re after and how it’s done so that somebody can follow that recipe and say, “Okay, now I can do it.” 

Then you as the leader have more free time to actually do leadership-type things. Then the team can produce and scale. You can bring on more people to scale the team because everything is consistent.

It doesn’t work for everything. There are obviously going to be some projects, so then you just look at opportunities within the different projects that you do, some stuff that you do internally, what can be automated, what is a consistent process. 

That’s sort of the big non-secret secret to productivity is consistency and repeatability. By knowing what is expected to happen, and not just making it up as you go every day, that’s how you get the team to be more productive. They have their set of expectations, you have your set of expectations, and everybody can just get the work done without it being confusing.

Kerry:  If we’re taking a fresh look, if a leader wants to take a fresh look at their team today and what they’re doing, and it doesn’t necessarily seem like they’re underperforming, but you suspect maybe you could do more, the first step is what? Figure out what everybody is doing?

Katie:  Well, sure. Figure out what everybody is doing. It’s interesting, there are a lot of tools. When I say document what you’re doing, I don’t mean you necessarily have to sit there with a piece of paper and a pencil and write down step one, step two, step three. There are a lot of tools on the market that will record what you’re doing and how long things are taking. They will create that standard operating procedure for you while you’re doing the thing. 

Then you as the leader can go back and review and say, “It looks like this is where someone is getting caught up. Is there a way to make this part of the process more efficient?” or, “It looks like I have five people doing the same thing, and not a single one of these people does it the same way.” Is that an opportunity to tighten up a little bit more of what the team does, so that there are more consistent processes across what everybody is doing?

Again, it sort of goes back to if I know what I’m supposed to do, I can just go ahead and do it and it’s not going to take me that long. But if I’m spending my time researching and figuring it out and asking questions, which is all valid, that’s also part of the learning, that’s going to take more time to do the thing. If you have someone on your team who has been doing the same role, the same task for a while, but they’re still getting caught up in asking questions and things are confusing, that’s a really good opportunity to take a look at how it’s being done. 

You can get, I think Tango is an example of a piece of software that will just record (with your permission) what you’re doing on your computer and put together that documentation for you.

Kerry:  We at Appfire have many amazing apps that can do similar things. 

Katie:  I would be surprised if you didn’t. 

Kerry:  Check out Appfire.com/solutions. The first step is you figure out what people are doing, document what’s happening currently, look for opportunities or repeat tasks, things that can be automated or at least maybe centralized. 

Katie:  Yes.

Kerry:  What’s next? You’ve kind of figured out the landscape of the way it is right now. How do you figure out where the opportunities are to get bigger, better things done?

Katie:  Once you have that repeatability and consistency, then you can start to do more of that thing. For example, if you’re a firm like mine and you do a lot of Google Analytics implementation. When we first started a few years back, it was we think that this is the best way to do it. After we’ve done it a few times, we have it down to a system where we know how long it’s expected to take, we know all of the different gotchas that might happen or issues that might come up, we’ve done our work to troubleshoot those. 

So, now we can say we know that this from start to finish, just for the sake of argument, takes one hour to do, so in one hour we can do it complete. How many hours do we have free, therefore how many more of these projects can we bring in and have it be repeatable and consistent and profitable? I have five extra hours in my schedule. Great. I can take on five more of these projects and bring in another X dollars of revenue.

Kerry:  Another way that I’ve heard you talk about it in the past, your kind of philosophy has to do with rewarding individual contributors. Not necessarily with a promotion to management, but some other way. I have to think that would keep your team productive because you’re keeping those key players performing.

Katie:  That’s exactly it. I think one of the mistakes I’ve seen companies that I’ve worked at and companies that have been clients of mine is the only path of upward mobility for some of their team members is to step into a management role. Not everybody is meant to be a manager. 

My best friend’s husband has been a software engineer for 20-some-odd years, and they keep telling him, “In order to move up you have to be a manager,” and he keeps pushing back saying, “I don’t want to be a manager. I don’t want to lose the ability to be in the weeds with the work that I’m doing. I don’t want to have to take on the responsibility of being responsible for everybody else’s success.” 

It’s not for everybody, and that’s not a bad thing. Don’t force someone into a management role who doesn’t want to be there, because they will not be a good manager and you are not setting them up for success. 

Back to your question about productivity. It’s finding the strengths and weaknesses within each person on your team and yourself to say, “Is this person moving in the correct direction, or am I forcing them to go down a road that they don’t want to go down?” I am better as a team manager than I am as an individual contributor. Mostly because I’m bossy and nosy and I can’t stay out of everybody’s business, so I’m better suited in that role.

Kerry:  But you’re not a micro-manager.

Katie:  Because of all of the processes and consistency. I know when my co-founder, when my data science team is doing things, I know what they’re doing, and they’ve been doing it the same way. So, if I start to get a different result, I know that somebody deviated from the script or couldn’t find the process and was just sort of making it up. 

That’s an opportunity for me as the manager to intervene and say, “What’s not working here?” It’s never, “What did you do wrong?” It’s always, “What’s not working? What expectation did I not set for you?” 

It’s interesting. A simple tip in terms of team productivity, take away the blame, give people the benefit of the doubt, and just try to understand where they’re coming from before you go marching in and saying, “You’re doing it wrong,” because you as the manager are part of the equation, you’re part of why it went wrong.

Kerry:  We have core values at Appfire, and one of them is getting it right is more important than being right. You see it played out every single day the same way. 

If you had one single piece of advice that you could give that would help leaders get the best from their teams, what would it be?

Katie:  It would be to first look at yourself and make sure that you as the leader are setting appropriate expectations. 

If I turn to you and say, “I need you to do this thing. I don’t have time to explain it to you,” I’m not setting you up for success and you’re likely going to struggle to do the thing, and then I’m going to get frustrated and say, “You didn’t do it exactly the way that I wanted you to, you obviously can’t do it.” I’m the problem in that situation, not you. 

Leaders need to look at themselves first and then look at what the team is doing.

Kerry:  TrustInsights.ai if you want to get more insights into what your team is doing and where there are opportunities for automation that might potentially help you and other things you can do to get more productivity. 

Thanks, Katie, for joining. Thanks, everybody, for joining us on The Best Work Management Show by Appfire. You can find more episodes at Hub.Appfire.com and plenty of very fine time-tracking apps as well, among other things, at Appfire.com.

Last updated: 2022-11-22

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