Five Steps to a More Productive Team as a B2B Leader with Nils Vinje

In this episode of the B2B Leadership podcast, best-selling author and leadership coach Nils Vinje discusses his experience of working with hundreds of B2B leaders and talks about what's working well right now in terms of building a more productive team. All this rolled into 5 simple steps.
In this episode...

0:47 - Confusion across the team -
Why this advice from Steve Jobs might not work for you.
1:26 - Step #1 - Set expectations - The first of five steps to a more productive team.
5:08 - Step #2 - Drive accountability - If your expectations are vague, how can you drive accountability?
7:18 - Step #3 - Coach your team - Here, Nils clears up some common misconceptions about coaches.
9:40 - Step #4 - Measure your team - As Peter Drucker famously said, "What gets measured gets managed."
11:43 - Step #5 - Communicate the value of your team - Communication is a broad term. What type of communication is Nils referring to here?
16:02 - Recap of the 5 steps - Nils quickly summarizes the 5 steps to a more productive team.

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Are you looking for ways how to improve the productivity of your team as a leader?

Nils shares his expertise and experience on how to make your team more productive through 5 simple steps.

Steve Jobs said...

Steve Jobs famously said, "I hire smart people and then get out of their way".

A lot of B2B leaders have followed this advice, but what ended up happening sometimes was that projects were not completed on time or at all in some cases. And there was a tremendous amount of confusion across the team because everyone seemed to be going in a different direction.

This advice from Steve Jobs might not work for you because...

1. You're making too many assumptions.
2. You're not driving enough accountability.
3. You're setting people up for failure rather than success.
4. You're not measuring or communicating the right things.

Nils shares 5 steps to a more productive team, steps that are actually working really well right now in terms of building a more productive team.

Step #1 - Set expectations

The number 1 mistake by most B2B leaders when it comes to setting expectations is that they are vague. This has happened so often that Nils created a saying "What happens in vagueness stays in vagueness."

When your expectations are vague, both you and the other party will have different expectations. And when it's deliverable time, you will be disappointed and your employee will be frustrated.

This all comes back to the fact that your expectations were not clear and each of you had a different idea of what you thought was required.

Nils shares one experience he had many years ago about setting an expectation with one of his team members about a presentation that he needed him to create. The end result was going to be something that they both presented to a group of executives including the CEO.

They discussed the topics for the presentation and when they sat down to review the deck the day before the presentation, it was nothing like what Nils had expected. It wasn't in a state that was ready to share with the executive team.

At that moment, Nils was so frustrated. His team member wasn't able to meet his unspoken expectations. And knowing that moving the meeting was not an option and knowing that they had less than 24 hours, Nils redid the entire presentation.

That made Nils realize that had he taken the time to set very clear expectations and get his team member's agreement on exactly what was expected, he could have avoided all of this extra work.

Step #2 - Drive accountability

If your expectations are vague, there's no possible way that you can drive accountability. And if you've ever tried to hold someone else accountable to a vague expectation, you know how frustrating it is. And you think to yourself, "We're all adults here and they committed to what needed to get done so shouldn't they just do it?"

You also don't want to be perceived as a micro-manager so you give them space. Unfortunately, this is the absolute wrong thing to do. You don't need to be a micro-manager but you do need to drive accountability to ensure that what was agreed to will be delivered on time according to the expectation that was set and agreed to.

If you're still not sure about how important of a role accountability will play for you as a leader, remember this: The people who have reached the highest level in sports, community, politics, and virtually any industry all have coaches that drive a massive amount of accountability for them.

They know that it is human nature to get distracted, to lose your way, forget what you committed to, and struggle to balance the urgent with the important.

These icons like Oprah Winfrey, Tony Robbins, Richard Branson, Hilary Clinton, Tiger Woods, and all employ coaches in part to hold them accountable.

Think of it this way, if personal accountability was easy, everyone would do everything they said they were going to do and nobody would ever miss a deadline. But, you know that's not the case which is why you need to drive accountability with your team to help them be more productive.

Step #3 - Coach your team

Contrary to what you might think, a coach is not someone who knows all the answers and tells his or her team exactly what to do. This is a common misconception about coaching as a result of some famous sports coaches who yell at their team members and are the center point of the group.

In fact, one of the most successful basketball coaches of all time is Phil Jackson who won 11 NBA championship titles with the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers. What made Phil so unique and successful was the way he brought his team together and facilitated each player getting to the answers that they needed. He didn't simply tell them what to do.

Sometimes, even in the most crucial moments of the game, he turned the huddle over to the team and empowered them to make the decision on which play to run to ultimately win the game.

As your team progresses with their projects and work, they are going to run into challenges where they don't know how to do something or don't know the right approach to take. As a coach, if you tell them the answer, you will be doing yourself and the other person a tremendous disservice.

Instead, you need to coach them like Phil Jackson does and help them discover the answer for themselves. When they discover the answer, they're gonna be 80% more likely to follow through with the solution they came up with.

The coaching tools Nils use are some of the most valuable leadership tools he has ever had. These are coaching tools like how to listen at level 2, how to ask powerful questions, how to make a strategic recommendation, how to help someone work through a problem where they are stuck, and how to empower your team members to discover answers for themselves.

If you don't know how to do those things or aren't sure of the steps to follow, Nils covered the 5 steps to coaching success inside of the B2B Leaders Academy.

Step #4 - Measure your team

Peter Drucker, the founder of modern management, famously said "What gets measured gets managed". And while this statement is as true today as when it was quoted, there is a lot of confusion around measurement.

Nils says the most common mistake that he sees is managers and directors focusing on the wrong metrics in the wrong way. It means that it's really easy to point out the high-level metrics and say you have a problem and that the team needs to fix it.

While it is easy to point out the high-level metric that is tied to a problem, it is far more difficult and important to break that metric down into something that is actionable that can be measured every day or every week.

When leaders do this, they are able to connect the dots for their employees so they understand how their work directly impacts what is most important to the team, the department, and the company. When this connection is made and everyone knows the value of their work, the team will be more productive.

Step #5 - Communicate the value of your team

Communication, in the context of a more productive team, is about the incredible work that you and your team are doing outside of your team.

This is a big part of your job as a leader and if you are not effectively communicating your and your team's value beyond your team, you are missing a huge opportunity for recognition and awareness of what it is that you do.

Simply doing the work as a leader or as a team is not enough. You must communicate your value and your team's value beyond your team. If you don't do this, doubts and concerns will begin to creep into the mind of other leaders about you and your team.

When you communicate your value, everyone knows who you are, what you do, and the value that you and your team provide. This way, you get to tell the story of yourself and your team instead of someone else making assumptions about you and your team.

And there is more visibility into the capabilities and as a result, there will be more opportunities for you and your team. But, if no one knows what it is that you do, they won't know what opportunities might be appropriate for you and your team. And a team that knows its value, and is communicated to the rest of the organization in an effective way, will be a more productive team.

Recap of the 5 steps to a more productive team

Nils summarizes the 5 steps to a more productive team that you as a B2B leader can follow. These are...

Step #1 - You need to set expectations.
Step #2 - You need to drive accountability.
Step #3 - You need to coach your team.
Step #4 - You need to measure your team.
Step #5 - You need to communicate the value of your team.

Being a great leader simply means that you have a toolbox full of leadership tools that you can pull out and use in any situation.

And there are a set of tools behind each one of the 5 steps that are broken down step by step so that you can put them into action and get immediate results.

These tools and the leadership coaching to support you in becoming the leader you have always wanted to be is part of the B2B Leaders Academy.

If you'd like to learn more and join the program, simply go to

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