My first introduction to leadership happened at 19 years of age when I wound up as a branch manager for one of Australia’s biggest banks. I had no experience in leadership or management, so I can only assume it was my extensive 12 month career as a teller which landed me the job! (I hope you can sense my sarcasm). I had a team of five people, all of whom were old enough to be my parents, or my grandparents!

So what do you do when you’re a bank manager with no experience in the industry, no experience in leadership or management and certainly no idea of how to run a bank? Well, you definitely don’t try and run it completely alone. Instead, you call on your team, and inspire them to drive it forward. You become unbelievably productive because you are blissfully unaware of all the unimportant stuff which normally absorbs your day.

I have found that consciously exercising this ‘unknowingness’ is the key to not drowning in ‘busy-ness’. This is not to be careless but it is to be very, very selective with how you spend your time. I’ve also found that if you can help your team to find their critically important tasks, the collective output will sky rocket. I have found this to be true for all teams, whether that be a team of 5, 10, 20 or even 200 – the principles are the same. People will fill their days with unimportant and uninspiring tasks unless they are compelled to move forward by an inspiring leader with a crystal clear message.

So what steps can you take to cut through the ‘stuff’ and focus on the critically important? How do you get your team to do the same? Here are 8 principles you can implement today which have helped me convert groups of under-performing individuals into highly productive, cohesive teams.

1. Set goals.
Know where you are going and show your team they are part of something meaningful. No one can achieve anything if they don’t know where they are going. Celebrate anything and everything that takes you closer to this, even the small stuff.

2. Get the right people & get out of their way.
Whether you’re building a team from scratch or inheriting an existing team, find out who’s on board and who’s not. There is no room for passengers. Good people who are aligned with you and your goals will give you discretionary effort. They will also naturally produce more if you give them some breathing space, some room to create.

3. Identify the top 20% of critically important tasks for each person.
Think Pareto Principle, more commonly known as the 80/20 rule. We know that 80% of our output stems from 20% of our activities. Put another way this means that 8 out of every 10 tasks your team members are currently doing are adding little or no value to achieving the goal. Find the critically important activities and replicate these instead.

4. Set yourself and your team unrealistic timeframes.
Parkinson’s Law suggests that any given task will fill the amount of time which is allocated for it. Think about a time when you have had to meet a deadline, and you have left everything to the last minute – you still manage to get the job done! Simply allow you and your team less time to achieve the important tasks, you will find you don’t have to compromise on quality.

5. Catch people doing the right thing. 
Highly productive teams are also working incredibly hard. It’s important to recognise people when they do the right thing. Whether it’s a hand shake, a public acknowledgment or a gift. Recognition goes a long way!

6. Speak to people like people.
The business world is filled with ‘fakeness’. Most people on your team have probably been the victims of ‘fake’ leadership at some point in their career. That is, the leader saying and doing things because they have to, even when they don’t believe it. Talk to and treat people like people and you will inspire people to want to work with you.

7. Measure success daily, hourly, always.
Break your goal into smaller chunks, weekly and daily for every person in your team. Brief the team at the beginning of the week and debrief them at the end. This is an opportunity to highlight success and share best practice. It will also allow you to prioritise who you need to spend your time with for coaching purposes.

8. Team building activities. 
If people resent coming to work, they will resent doing the work. The opposite is also true. Take the time to organise team building activities and make them genuinely exciting for the team – this means going further than playing hangman on a Friday morning! Don’t view this as an expense. The value you will build through building your team will be worth much more than the dollars attributed to organising the event.

Remember, ‘busy-ness’ is really just a form of laziness. Reduce your workload and achieve more.