Want to Increase Team Throughput? Stop Being the Bottleneck

by Kelly Anthony

What’s the best way to stop your team from maximizing their potential? By unintentionally impeding progress. It’s time to ask yourself — have you turned into a bottleneck?

It’s all too easy to become a hindrance for progress, and little things that make it challenging for your team to move quickly add up to one big stop sign. Luckily there are a few ways to identify whether or not you’re the problem. Here are three signs that indicate you are a bottleneck – and what you can do to get out of your team’s way.

1. You’re Not Delegating


A man calmly points at a woman during a meeting

Find a successful leader and you’ll find someone who has mastered the art of delegation. Yet with ever-rising expectations (and still the same number of hours in each day), why is it such a challenge for some to evenly disperse the load?

“Most people will tell you they are too busy to delegate – that it’s more efficient for them to just do it themselves,” says Carol Walker, the president of Prepared to Lead, a consulting firm that focuses on developing young leaders. Walker suggests evaluating your hours in the workplace compared to the rest of your teams’ as one way to identify if you may have a problem delegating. Do you find yourself working longer and longer hours, and feeling increasingly indispensable? At the same time, is your team not quite as energized and still easily accomplishing their work within their regular nine to five? If so, it’s time to reconsider your workload and share responsibility.


How Siloed Teams Can Make Collaboration a Habit

Make the time to identify what is holding you back from delegating. Are you concerned about losing visibility into every workstream? Are there skills you need to develop within your team? Use this awareness to build out an action plan.

One way to confidently delegate is to employ a work management platform to maintain transparency to your team’s work. World Vision International chose Smartsheet to successfully delegate critical tasks and more successfully manage initiatives at a global scale. “We can see any changes at a glance, attach documents, and run reports for a quick snapshot of our progress,” explains the organization’s senior advisor of strategy. With real-time line of sight into individual specifics and an eye on the big picture, you can delegate without losing control or visibility.

2. Your Team Is Trapped Within Poorly Designed or Managed Processes


A work team looks over sticky notes on a visual management board

Workplace processes are intended to accelerate action, yet an overabundance of process, or broken processes, often actually hinders progress. In fact, a recent survey found that more than 40% of information workers spend at least a quarter of their work week on manual, repetitive tasks, many of which are tied to processes that could be automated.

To pull your team out of this cycle, evaluate everyday processes and the role you play in them. How many decisions and approvals are being routed across your desk – and how are they getting there in the first place?

Work that requires top-down approvals can be an easy way to spot processes ready for a little boost from automation. Rather than placing the onus on your employees to follow up with you on decisions awaiting your approval, work management automation can take on the reminder responsibilities and help you stay on top of approvals.

3. Goals and Expectations Are Unclear


A man wearing glasses presents to a diverse set of co-workers during a meeting

Even if you’ve delegated appropriately and streamlined processes, if your goals and expectations are not clearly communicated out to your team, you’ll continue to hinder productivity. While this is a well-known best practice, more than half of all managers surveyed by Towers Watson still fail to set effective employee goals.


Can Automation Improve Employee Engagement?

By clarifying goals and expectations, you empower your employees to act autonomously. This year, take this practice one step further and share progress made towards meeting goals and expectations with your entire team in real-time. This doesn’t have to include time intensive reporting or another weekly status meeting. Try turning to tools that can help you share the responsibility for updating progress with each member of your team.

Free Up Work For Your Team

While it can be easy to get your in team’s way without realizing it, with the right mindset and tools, you can just as easily remove yourself as a roadblock. Whether you need to approach delegating from a fresh perspective, re-think the way your processes are established, or clarify goals, now is a perfect time to take small steps that add up to significant change.