One of my clients has engaged me to manage his sales and marketing team and they have been really great to work with. Obviously we use HuntressPro and some customizations to help them manage their call back list, opportunities and capture sales history. However, I was reminded last week of another basic Outlook tool that can really make a huge difference in aligning team goals (especially for younger less experienced team members) – the Tasks folder.
The Tasks folder is a tool for prioritizing tasks to achieve goals that many of us take for granted and therefore, forget that not everyone on our team (especially newer members) may be familiar with it. Also, many team leaders are not aware that you can assign and track tasks – a feature that works especially well if you are on Exchange. And finally, many managers and supervisors think twice about assigning tasks in Outlook because they think it might be perceived as micro management. I caught myself identifying with this last group until I started reading It’s OKAY to Be the Boss by Bruce Tulgan last weekend.
Reading Bruce’s book has helped me reach a management epiphany – under-management can be just as big of a sin as micromanagement. Good team members want some direction and they also need to feel a sense of accomplishment – the Outlook Tasks folder provides a great venue for that.
Case in point, I sat down with one of the younger members of my client’s sales and marketing team last Monday and worked with him to help get all his tasks listed in Outlook. Now this particular team member may be young, but he is very sharp, has a great desire to learn and a great attitude in general and as a result he has been given responsibility beyond what someone with his experience would normally receive. But even the brightest employees can feel a little overwhelmed by a demanding work load. When I sat down with this team member and got his tasks loaded, he seemed relieved to have more control over his work load.
The next thing we did was set up a custom Today’s Task List View in his Tasks folder (see Arrow-Tip #28 Using Outlook to Help Achieve Your Personal and Business Goals Part III). This custom view allowed us to assign not only general importance (high, medium, low) to tasks, but also numerical priorities for each task – this was an especially good communication tool because it forced me to look at my team member’s work load and know that not everything could get done by the end of the week.
All week long I have received task updates (since we created the tasks in my Tasks folder and then assigned them) which has kept me updated on progress and made our interactions much for valuable since we were freed up to spend our limited time strategizing instead of updating.
Now, if the Tasks folder can be helpful for a high performer, just imagine what it can do to help average to low performers who really need your support! So the next time you are feeling a little disorganized as a manager, supervisor or team leader, consider using the Outlook Tasks folder not only as a great organizational tool, but as a great communication tool as well. And please feel free to leave some comments with examples of how you have used the Outlook Tasks folder to organize your team.
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