dr carl robinson
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The Currency of Success - Interpersonal Intelligence™

Improving Your Team’s Performance: 10 Tips That Work…even in a pandemic

In difficult times it is easy for some bosses to regress. Leadership morphs from inspiring and leading the way, to “demanding” higher levels of performance. These regressive leaders stop thinking about motivating and slip into “command and control” mode, often beating up on people.  “Just do it or you’re out of here.” 

The fact that you are reading this briefing suggests you are not one of those types. Nevertheless, I don’t know any executive who doesn’t want to maximize the effectiveness of their teams on all levels: executive, mid-management, and workgroups.

How do you get talented people to work well together at optimum effectiveness? We’ll explore 10 tips that will help you focus your efforts on maintaining and advancing the performance of your team, even in the toughest of times. There are two key themes to ensuring team performance:

  • Establishing the right team, with the best frameworks, and
  • Facilitating maximum effectiveness of the team.

 “Gettin’ good players is easy, getting’ ’em to play together is the hard part.”
Casey Stengel, fabled baseball coach

No matter the industry, all have the same basic concerns… getting people to play well together for maximum effect. Some of these tips may seem obvious, but in stressful times even the basics slip.

Establishing the right team – ‘Getting’ Good Players’

  1. Hire right

Find individual team members who want to work well together.

Superstars with oversized egos who are used to working on their own and furthering their own agendas, no matter how smart, will invariably subvert the needs of the group to advance their own agenda and desires.
Therefore, you really must hire well and choose people who not only like working in a team, but also have a track record of doing it well.

As Jim Collins discovered from his research for the book, “Good to Great,” half the battle is getting the “right people on the bus.” (More on this in another executive briefing: 11 Steps for Selecting Top Management Talent.)

If a team member is not a team player, and can’t be coached to become one, either move him/her into a solo contributor role or move them out of the organization and find a better player.

  1. Set clear goals

Establish clear enough goals with the team.

I say, “clear enough,” because goals can change in a rapidly changing economy. However, the most frequent complaint I hear from executives is: “We’re all over the map. I need more clarity about my priorities.” Without goal clarity, it’s difficult to galvanize the attention and direct the energy of a team.

Interestingly, one mistake that many chief executives make is to think that they personally must come up with the goals for a team. In fact, I’ve found that if an executive enlists the aid of his or her direct reports in goal setting and prioritization, there will be much more buy-in and enthusiasm.

  1. Set standards

Establish group norms or a code of conduct.

Once again, engaging in a conversation about the behaviors and attitudes team members want to abide by, helps corral and focus their energy and builds trust. By establishing a group code of conduct, you can proactively plan for how people should and can behave when conflict happens.

When people know the rules of the road and, most importantly, abide by them, they learn to trust each other and they’re more inclined to take risks.

In addition, it’s important to recognize and accept that conflict will happen and that it’s not necessarily a sign of something going wrong. However, conflict must be managed effectively.

  1. Commit to the outcome

Once the team decides on a plan of action, everyone must support it.

Debate the issues beforehand and once the team decides to go with a plan… no one should passive aggressively or overtly subvert the plan.
One executive team I coached came up with the following code of conduct:

“We will agree or disagree about directions, issues and opportunities. And, after having been heard, we will each fully commit to the outcome!”

  1. Ensure accountability

Hold team members accountable

If you don’t enforce the code of conduct and hold people accountable, individuals will ignore the rules when it suits their purposes. Executives need to know that they will lose their job if they transgress too much.

Facilitating maximum effectiveness – ‘Getting’ ’em to play together’

  1. Expect leaders

All team members should, and will, act like a leader.

On high performing teams, team members don’t wait for their boss or for others to speak up. People offer their opinions, challenge each other, hold each other accountable, and, most importantly, praise each other.

  1. Enable risk

Ensure the team can take risks, fail, figure out what went wrong, learn, and try other options until things go right.

People need to be able to fail and make mistakes in front of others in order to take risks. One executive who headed up a research organization of a bio-tech company rightly noted that if you want to be creative you must allow for failure.

As I’ve noted in previous briefings, the research on creative thinking has found that highly creative people come up with many, many ideas, but only a few are useful. The trick is to seek cause rather than to assign blame when things go wrong.

  1. Celebrate success

Celebrate incremental successes.

Virtually every executive team I’ve ever worked with has put on their list, “We don’t celebrate enough.” They get so busy just doing, that they overlook this important human need. No matter how experienced you are you’re still human. As one very seasoned highly successful executive said, “We all need an occasional ‘atta boy’.”

  1. Strive to improve

Top teams don’t rest on their laurels; there is always room for growth.

Strive for continuous improvement. Periodically convene the team and ask, “What do we need to be doing more of, differently and stop doing to close the gap from where we are to where we want to be?”

  1. Laugh together

High performing teams enjoy and trust each other.

Laugh together. This happens most often in teams where the team members have trust in each other, can be vulnerable and generally like each other.

If you’re not enjoying yourself being a part of a team, why do it? Choose to work with people you respect and have a chance of enjoying. If you’re not happy… don’t make others miserable by burdening them with your unhappiness. Either change your attitude or strive to improve the situation or move on.