How to Improve the Effectiveness and Performance of Your Team, No Matter What Field They’re in
Improving individual or team performance in an organisation from where they are now and get better results, certain things are required before implementing any action plans. It wouldn’t make much sense to start off without having some idea of what lay ahead, what you were aiming to do and what you were aiming to achieve.
Is the first step. Simply looking to improve team performance doesn’t really mean much without greater clarity. Improvement could be something that is insignificant and doesn’t really have a bearing on the desired outcome. Work out and get really clear on what you are looking to achieve is critical in order to succeed .
Now that may seem logical, but over the years I’ve worked with and for enough teams and organisations that didn’t always look at things that way and simply ‘did what we always do’ and simply expected things to happen, rather than being intentional about exactly what they wanted and making them happen.
These days we’re more used to the term ‘vision’.
Without it, you may well end up having something that resembles Morecambe, when you really wanted Mauritius.
Here in this short video is an example of what I believe is a truly inspiring vision statement.
Start by Asking These Questions?
What does it look like?
What does it feel like?
Who is in it?
If you can’t see it or you can’t feel it, how do you know what it going to be like when you actually achieve it?
Simply you, won’t. You may have an idea about it but you won’t know for sure, unless it’s purely numerical.
Forget the How
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’. The problem I’ve seen is often a case of having too detailed a plan; hours and hours of planning, preparation and what seems like endless meetings, with everything planned out in the finest detail before ever contemplating, who will fulfil the roles and actually getting started.
This works in certain situations, such as building a modern sports stadium like the space age new Tottenham Hotspur stadium in North London, which is a magnificent example of modern design, technology and engineering.
It wouldn’t be such a good idea to round up a group of electricians, builders and fitters and let them get on with it before the architect puts pencil to paper. But even before that, someone had a vision of what the new stadium was going to look like.
You always see it twice; first in the mind and then in reality.
It doesn’t quite work that way with people, teams and organisations.
Get the Right People Onboard
The tricky part to improving team performance is getting people to buy into what you’re looking to achieve, as without it, you’ve got no chance.
It has to be nurtured and you have to get others onboard to buy into the idea. If you’re simply wanting to hire cheap labour for a call centre, then that’s a different story.
But building a world class team of people who will make all the difference to your organisation and getting them to gel is another story. It means investing in your most prized asset….. your people.
Over the years I’ve seen many boards and business owners wanting to have incredibly successful teams and profits, but all too often they wanted it done on a shoestring and see it as an expense rather than investment, which is one of the biggest mistakes decision makers make.
A powerful question to ask is “Why am I/we in business?”.
This usually helps determine what action you will take and your thinking behind it.
Focus on the Who (not the band)
Good teams have a mixture of people, but great teams have a mixture of people who gel, who think differently and who act differently, whether that’s in sport or in business.
Improving team performance means having the right people, and I believe is more important than the how at this stage. The right people will find a way, the wrong people won’t.
You just have to know who you’re looking for.
A number of years ago, I ran a team of energetic young guys who were hungry for success. One of the guys was going to spend some time in a client’s office overseas as part of his training and it had been arranged for the team to get together over a lunch at the end of the week to wish him well, discuss any challenges he may have or the team may have in his absence and to send him off feeling valued and feel confident in his role representing the company.
However, at the restaurant, we realised one of the team members was missing and we discovered he had decided he would go off to pick up his costume for a fancy dress party for the weekend to save him time instead of doing it after work on his way home!.
What message was he sending out to his colleague? The team?
The real problem was the guy didn’t think he had done anything wrong.
If it had been bonus time, I’m sure the costume would have waited.
What Makes the Difference in a Successful Team?
I’ve worked in different organisations from very small boutique to large organisations and the one thing that stood out above everything else was who. Who was in the team, made all the difference in the overall team performance and the results.
It came down to their thinking.
Developing the Right Mindset
How we think about something and our perception will determine how we feel about it and thereafter, what action we take. Really successful people and teams think differently, act differently and of course, get better results.
The quality of a team’s thinking affects the team’s performance and also brings the following into the equation….
Having the Desire to Succeed
Everyone wants to have the good things and the success, but simply wanting isn’t enough when it comes to making a difference and going from ordinary to extraordinary in a team or organisation. In the book ‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill, one of, if not the foremost books on success, he talks about having to have a ‘burning desire’ in order to achieve success.
From personal experience, I know those who were really successful were those who had a greater drive and desire to achieve than most. They simply had the burning desire Napoleon Hill wrote about.
Attitude Makes All the Difference
It doesn’t matter if you’re selling ice creams, cars, cakes or U.S. Dollars, attitude makes the difference between an average salesman and a top salesman, so-so customer service and extraordinary customer experience.
Working with different teams over the years, it wasn’t difficult to notice who started to rise quicker than anyone else. They had a different attitude.
It was those who stayed after everyone else had left, so they were one or two steps ahead of the markets and their competition. It was their attitude that made the difference.
It’s not something you can physically hold but something that is very evident for anyone to see.
Getting the team members to actually be aware of their attitude and recognising when it falls below a standard expected by the team or organisation. It means developing the self-awareness to realise each individual is responsible for their attitude towards their colleagues, customers, the team and organisation as well as themselves. No one else.
Developing an attitude of constant improvemen means doing so intentionally. There will always be challenges along the way, but it’s how you and the team handle them that really matters.
Having People Who Value Each Other
Most teams or organisations have a superstar or two but in order to really improve the performance of your team or building a successful team means having superstars who value other people not just themselves. Valuing other people’s skills, their time and who they are as people.
I’ve worked with some world class people in business who were incredibly successful financially but did nothing for the team or organisation as they only valued themselves.
What they really want to know is ‘Can you help me?’.
Developing Team Engagement
One of the problems many teams or organisations face is having teams who engage with each other. The main issues in this respect are: Trust, ego and being self-centred.
Developing trust in the leader and each other is paramount to the success of the team, without it, it’s difficult to reach the targets or goals along the way and nigh on impossible for any group or team to reach their potential. If they do manage to reach their targets and goals, there’s usually some fallout or someone who feels begrudged in the process.
Trust can take years to gain and takes second to lose, often never to be regained. It is the glue that holds people together.
You’ve heard it before, that people do business with people they know, like and trust. But in a team or organisation, that often goes out of the window with negative results. Just because you work with someone, doesn’t mean you trust them. And vice versa.
What they want to know is ‘Can I really trust you?’.
I’m not a fan of ‘team building’ days running around fields and over obstacles, as from my experience that’s not where the trust is really built and the teams are often put together and ‘told’ what to do rather than forming a group of people who naturally gel, who can develop together as a unit and want to be part of the team and the vision.
No one likes to be told and that’s where the skill of coaching comes in; asking powerful and meaningful questions, that help people develop and engage with each other.
Asking questions that start with “How do we…. or how can we” yield greater results than telling someone what or how to do something.
My Team Members Don’t Understand Me
We all want to be understood but don’t always go out of our way to understand other people. I remember a guy who worked at a golf club and when asked how he was, would always say ‘I’m ok, it’s all the others’.
He was half joking, but there was also some feeling to his comment. Very often people don’t really understand others. It’s about empathy; understanding how they feel, their needs, their frustrations and their emotional states especially when performing under pressure.
We’re all different and the better we understand others, their needs in both the good and challenging times, the more likely a team will be engaged and perform to their potential.
What they want to know is ‘Do you really care about me?’.
Communication is Important but Connecting is Critical
Courtesy of the BBC
Very few things can be as frustrating as trying to make a point and not being understood. It’s like the scenes in Fawlty Towers, where Basil was forever trying to get Manuel to understand what he was talking about, but failed miserably and it all goes very wrong.
In John Maxwell’s book ‘Everyone Communicates but Few Connect’, he refers to studies that say as much as 84 percent of executives in the US put their success and that of their organisation down to being able to communicate effectively…. i.e. connecting.
Connecting is communicating and understanding at a deeper level and involves empathy, already covered elsewhere in this article. Really successful teams and organisations communicate far more effectively than average ones.
In this modern era of a multitude of different communication tools and platforms, it’s easy to see how it’s so easy to be misunderstood or to misread a text or email.
It’s not just these forms of communication that cause a problem. Body language, a roll of the eyes, a frown or a curled lip can cause just as much offence as a derisory or curt email.
Communication isn’t just about getting your two cents in or being heard, one of the greatest factors is listening. Listening is an art form, when done well makes all the difference to the members of any team or organisation.
What Hampers Talent Development?
Insecurity. Leaders who are insecure and afraid to hire ‘superstars’ or people who are more skilled or more effective than themselves. A real leader isn’t afraid to develop others around him; in fact, they go out of their way to do so, for the good of the team and the organisation, because they have bought into the vision from the beginning and can see the benefit for everyone concerned.
Fixed mindset. A lack of growth opportunities and having people at the top who don’t value personal and professional development. It’s natural for people to develop and grow to their potential but if it’s not encouraged, it stifles talent development.
I love the quote by Richard Branson who said :
“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to”.
What Hampers Team Performance?
Gossip. It’s difficult to stress how damaging gossip really is to the effectiveness and overall happiness and development of a team. Once gossip starts, it’s difficult to control and can destroy the foundations of any team or organisation. It destroys trust, morale, confidence and discourages an environment where people feel they can thrive, as they feel they’re never quite sure if they are the subject of the gossip or Chinese whispers.
How good or productive is it when people are focused on listening out for what may be said or not said about them or who may or may not be losing their jobs?
Undue Pressure. As I’ve already mentioned, there will always be pressure at some point along the way to achieving your desired outcome, but undue pressure threatens not only the performance of the team but also the success of your endeavours if it’s not looked at in time.
Undue pressure can come in the form of feedback. Feedback is required to understand where we need to adjust, which is the way planes fly when on autopilot. They are constantly adjusting to keep the plane on track and headed towards it’s destination.
Simple enough, but they are machines. In humans too much feedback or the wrong type of feedback isn’t healthy or performance enhancing. In fact, it can have quite the opposite effect.
In this article in Psychology today, co-written by Professor Richard Boyatzis of the Cape Western University, they share an insight into how too much feedback can be construed as negative and in fact demoralising for the car workers at a plant in Ohio back in the 1970’s.
The workers had minute by minute performance goals flashing up on screens in front of them as a way of motivation, but the reality was the workers felt too pressurised and ultimately demoralised.
Finding the balance is the key.
Finally, the thing that makes it all happen
We can have all the good intentions in the world but the reality is that unless we have the belief in what we’re trying to achieve, then it is likely to all be in vain.
Belief drives behaviour from a subconscious level. No amount of geeing up from a well-intentioned leader or team mate will get the results you desire if the underlying belief is not there.
It gives rise to doubt, fear and insecurity, especially when performing under pressure.
Whether it’s in the boardroom, in front of your annual conference delivering a keynote or on the sports field, belief is the one thing that will all make the difference.
Belief in yourself. Belief in others, and when others really believe in you.
If you or your organisation would like to know more about how I can help you improve your performance and start to cultivate a mindset for success, contact me on : email@example.com