The 3/10s Approach: A Blueprint for Transformative Team Leadership

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By Jennifer Tanguay, PHR, SHRM-CP, Pacific Crest Group HR Consultant

Do you have the February blahs? Resolutions way past their sheen? Post-SuperBowl slump? Are you back to piles of work and the struggle to keep your team motivated and on task while responding to client and customer needs? Your team may feel the same.

Let’s take a few minutes to remember that the basics matter. Without a solid and consistently reinforced foundation, it’s hard to stay afloat.

Before I learned to swim, I learned to float. In my first attempts I kept sinking, and no way was I interested in that! That was too scary and out of control. When managing a team, or any group of people at work, it’s easy for managers to feel out of control. With never-ending competing demands, rapid changes in technology, and not enough time, how can you keep up? You give new hires a job description when they start and maybe even spend time reviewing it with them. Then you tell them what to do and complete those oh-so-fun annual performance reviews, but still you and the team struggle to finish work and projects.

One of the hardest things for many leaders and managers is giving honest, productive feedback and keeping employees and teams on track. Let’s stop avoiding what can feel like tough conversations and start getting clear about what needs to be done about their performance. Brene Brown, in Dare To Lead, found that many leaders struggle to be clear, and that leads to loss of trust and engagement, increased problematic behaviors like passive aggressiveness, backchannel communication, gossip, and a slow-down in work, all of which decrease performance due to lack of clarity.

Brene developed a simple shorthand – Clear is Kind; Unclear is Unkind. Being vague with your expectations, frequently adjusting deadlines without explanation or to avoid conflict, telling people what to do without showing them what specific results are needed, or understanding their roadblocks all lead to confusion, avoidance of tasks, and unmet goals. And honestly nobody feels good about this, even the employees you’re struggling with.
Let’s start with recommitting to a strong foundation.

Employees and teams need to be managed. Managing is directing work and resources, setting clear expectations, achievable company-aligned goals, assessing relevant inputs, data, and hurdles, and measuring performance against these goals. But when employees aren’t clear on any one of these, you don’t achieve the results you want.

Recommit to doing weekly 1:1 meetings with each team member and direct report. Use the easy “3/10s” approach:

  • 10 minutes on how are you doing? This continually builds trust, which increases employee motivation and engagement.

  • 10 minutes on how is the work going? Include collaborative problem-solving and make sure expectations on quality and timeliness are actually understood.

  • 10 minutes on clarifications, requests, and changes to keep everyone on track.

Document with simple notes – topics, decisions, agreements, and learnings. And don’t forget to regularly recognize good performance to reinforce what you want more of.

Once you’re back in a solidly consistent routine of meeting and managing your employees, you can start coaching for employee development.

There are different types and approaches to coaching (more on coaching soon). At its core, coaching is about unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. Helping people teach themselves by raising awareness of what stands in their way and how they can help themselves learn and grow.

Start with these three basics:

  • Co-create the development of a plan with your employees. Identify gaps in skills, knowledge, or abilities they want to change. Where are they now, and where do they want to be?

  • Ask open-ended questions – What’s happening now? How do you know that’s accurate? What other factors might be relevant? – to expand their point of view.

  • Practice active listening. Be present and focused on understanding the other person, giving them your undivided attention. Don’t get caught thinking ahead to how you want to respond or conducting your own analysis of their performance gap.

You need to manage before coaching to set clear ground rules. But once that’s in place, combine the two to increase your team’s and the company’s success. This improves retention (saving you 3-9 months of time recruiting, hiring, and training a new hire) and increases engagement.

Investing time in clear communication, structured management, and effective coaching not only strengthens your team’s foundation but also propels them toward higher levels of performance, engagement, and success.

Need help getting started? Our team is here for you. Contact us!