Andrew Freedman of SHIFT: “Here Are Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team”

At work or home, stress is unavoidable. The challenges your employees face come with long hours, pain, and building stress.To get through the tough times, always remind them of the purpose behind your business and why their work makes a difference. Staying positive can and will energize your people. As a part of our series […]

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At work or home, stress is unavoidable. The challenges your employees face come with long hours, pain, and building stress.

To get through the tough times, always remind them of the purpose behind your business and why their work makes a difference. Staying positive can and will energize your people.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a large team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Freedman, Managing Partner of SHIFT.

Andrew wakes up every day with a singular mission: to help people unlock the secrets to creating high-performance cultures. As managing partner of SHIFT’s consulting business, he drives the strategy development and execution, while also playing a key role in service delivery for client relationships. When he is not helping his clients grow regardless, he works as an Affiliate Professor for the University of Baltimore, teaching both undergraduate and graduate students the core elements of business strategy, organizational development, and company culture.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Andrew! What is your “backstory”?

Mymom always tells me that I asked nonstop questions as a child. I examined every piece of food before each meal, questioned every move she made, and much to her chagrin, relentlessly talked to strangers wherever we went. Looking back, I can see how my fascination with human connection shaped my career path.

My curiosity inspired me to study personal training to help individuals improve their mental, physical, and emotional health. This experience led me to further explore human behavior by building successful sales teams and ultimately a consulting business that focused on creating high-performing cultures.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I’ll tell you about the day that completely changed my outlook on life. During a leadership summit, I had the privilege of hearing from keynote speaker, Benjamin Zander, the famous Grammy-nominated conductor.

What he shared was transformative for me. His energy and perspective were contagious, and while I’ve always understood the power of having a positive mindset, he confirmed it’s the only way to lead and live.

The tactics in his book, The Art of Possibility, serve as great advice for any business leader. He suggested approaching every problem with a “how might we?” or “what if?” mindset, as opposed to dwelling on what is missing, what a person or situation lacks, or what has gone wrong before.

This lesson immediately became a hallmark of my leadership and personal style. I attribute much of my success today to always believing there is a solution. It’s just a matter of asking the right questions instead of jumping to conclusions.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

While not funny at the time, it has to be when I was running health clubs in New Jersey. The club opened at 5am sharp every day, and I had a few bad hires who weren’t exactly “morning people”.

Within two months, the club opened late at least 10 times, which was a terrible experience for our early bird members. After that pitiful track record, the club owner called me into his office and told me that until I fixed the issue, I was responsible for opening the club bright and early each morning.

Needless to say, I quickly changed my hiring strategy.

The lesson? Hiring takes time and effort. If you don’t get the people-part of your company right, everything else goes to heck. I look back at that time and laugh at myself for making it so much harder than it had to be.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Most times when people quit their jobs they actually “quit their managers”. What are your thoughts on the best way to retain great talent today?

Most importantly, be human. It sounds simple, but many struggles with this.

Leaders have built up so much armor and psychological calluses based on unfounded fear. As a result, I hear leaders make excuses like “I can’t socialize with my people”, or “I can’t show weakness; leaders are strong”. This is outdated thinking that prevents positive relationships.

People quit their managers when they don’t feel like their managers know them or truly have their backs. When this trust doesn’t exist, it’s only a matter of time before a person leaves the company.

To stop this from happening, start with clarity. Layout the goals and purpose of your organization, what winning looks like for the company, and what winning looks like in individual roles. Ensure every person understands how their work fits into the bigger picture.

After you’ve set the stage, really get to know your people, their dreams, what motivates them to take action, how they like to be recognized, what takes the wind out of their sails, and what puts them in a position to do their best work.

As you continue to add more team members, use data and science to improve hiring precision. This can include assessments and case-based interviews to understand if a candidate will be able to do the work needed and operate productively in the company culture you’ve established.

How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?

The elements needed to keep a team in sync are fairly straightforward, but leaders have a tough time with the change management process.

Here’s what works for our clients:

Get Clear on Goals

  • Define what success looks like for the team and organization. These must link together so everyone is working towards common goals that fuel the business strategies. If the overarching definition of success changes, leaders must ensure the team is aware.

Host Productive Quality Time

  • Performance accelerates when team members trust each other. This can only occur when team members spend intentional time together which can include dedicated reflection time, sharing personal stories, non-work-related activities, or journaling together.

Define Team Norms and Guiding Principles

  • It doesn’t matter how long people have worked together in an organization. It’s always good to review:
  • How will decisions be made?
  • How will disagreements be settled?
  • What are the meeting best practices?
  • How can we ensure all voices/perspectives are heard?
  • How will we evaluate individual and collective performance?
  • What does the organization need from us?

Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your personal experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team”. (Please share a story or example for each, Ideally an example from your experience)

Master the Onboarding Routine

For organizations to thrive, leaders must hire smart, set clear expectations, and provide effective feedback. These areas are where I see many leaders get sloppy. Hiring is done based on gut instinct and onboarding programs, if they exist at all, are ineffective. Performance reviews are rushed and provide no value to the individual performer.

A more effective approach includes:

  • Hosting interviews that provide a realistic job preview so new hires can manage their expectations.
  • Focusing onboarding on:
  • Culture initiatives
  • Mentorship opportunities
  • Performance expectations
  • Training within the first 90 days
  • Conducting weekly one-on-one meetings that foster performance acceleration and career progression.

Define high performance

For individuals or teams to consistently perform at high levels, leaders must define standards of excellence. This success starts with explaining the critical strategies to achieve individual and broad organizational goals.

From there, determine what your team needs to produce. Is it:

  • Specific strategies that advance business performance?
  • A customer experience that increases Lifetime Value of a customer?
  • An employee experience that reduces regrettable attrition?

Value Accountability

To create a culture of accountability, leaders need to ensure people have clarity on performance expectations — for themselves, colleagues, and supervisors.

By having regular one-on-one and group performance meetings, it will help your team see where they need to improve or step it up.

Equally important is accountability for yourself to bring organizational values to life. For example, rewarding employees who produce at high levels, but are disrespectful towards colleagues, will kill morale and productivity. When leaders allow that behavior to exist, they lack authority and respect, which negatively trickles through the rest of the company.

Be Vulnerable

Simply put, leaders need to be the example of the mindset, behavior, and performance they want to see in others. This includes leading with vulnerability, asking for help, resolving customer issues candidly, and never gossiping about colleagues.

If you show your employees you have no fear of asking questions or being wrong, they will respect you, and feel more comfortable disclosing their concerns and own their mistakes.

Nobody’s perfect — don’t pretend you are!

Lead with Passion, Positivity, and Humor

At work or home, stress is unavoidable. The challenges your employees face come with long hours, pain, and building stress.

To get through the tough times, always remind them of the purpose behind your business and why their work makes a difference. Staying positive can and will energize your people.

This practice can be as simple as reminding people what is going well, even when a goal is missed, or a mistake is made. This isn’t about minimizing responsibility or tolerating poor performance. This is about maintaining a healthy perspective and showing others how to do the same.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Get to the front lines. Many executives spend more than 60% of their time in meetings, and easily become far removed from what work in their companies actually looks and feels like. They become detached from what employees and customers are saying and experiencing. Understanding precedes action, so executives need to know what’s really going on to create a sustainable workplace.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The education system seems out of whack to me. While I can see seeds of change happening in pockets across the country, our system is largely broken. We need to effectively prepare people to think and thrive in our changing environment. Many of the jobs that will exist 10 years from now don’t exist today. Technology is changing at a blistering pace, and human capabilities aren’t progressing nearly as fast. We need to align our educational system to handle these realities. Our CEO hosts a great podcast with HRCI called ‘Inevitable: The Future of Work’ that dives into this topic a bit more.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Treat others better than you expect to be treated. That’s how I manage my team at SHIFT, spend time with my family at home, and support my friends throughout their lives.

Thank you for these great insights!

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