There’s a reason why one of the first words that come to mind when thinking about the term team is spirit. You would be hard-pressed to find a more elusive, amorphous and difficult term to define; and, yet, it is the essential element in regard to team performance. It reflects a cohesive structure, implies a positive vibe and is highly likely to reflect a well-orchestrated functioning group of people, working efficiently towards a common goal.
But willing a team to work well together, and enabling it to exhibit that elusive characteristic, is far more challenging than driving the performance of one single employee.
Yet, the success of most complex corporate tasks requires exactly that. Sales can require the involvement of several account-executives, sales-development reps and managers. Running a call-center like a well-oiled machine requires representatives to support each other, pick up each other’s slack and share knowledge.
So, what can you do to improve team performance and foster better team collaboration?
In this article, we lay down the most recent ideas, tips and proven best practices to improve team performance.
We humans are always searching for meaning
The best way to get your team members going is to assign meaning to their daily tasks, as mundane and routine as they may be. Acquiring a sense of meaning drives people to work together and to strive to help others. With this as your main guideline, the following tactics are recommended to facilitate improved team performance:
- Stress the big picture– Aligning call-to-actions and daily tasks with company business goals is a must, but always refer to core values and the company’s vision. If you haven’t done that so far, you will be surprised at to learn how much this will reflect on daily performance and work effectiveness. People work better when they know what they’re working for. It’s been proven.
- Be playful– as strange as this may sound, injecting an air of playfulness (while maintaining a distinct air of clarity and professionalism) can actually create a winning mix of attitudes that can boost team morale. It is no wonder that one of the fathers of psychoanalysis, Carl Gustav Jung, stressed the importance of games and playfulness for the mental wellbeing of adults.
- Foster innovation– A fun, playful environment is conducive to innovation. Innovation’s worst enemy is fear of failure. A playful environment would slowly but surely eradicate it. Gamification (i.e. the use of game elements) can also be used to foster innovation.
- Enable learning– Employees want to feel that they can grow in their current positions; they want to learn new skills as well as sharpen existing ones. Businesses need to constantly be pushing forward, evolving and adapting toward new realities. So do individuals. Stagnation is everybody’s common enemy.
- Delegate influence– Don’t be a “last stop” for decisions, but a “first stop” where people surrounding you can join in, be heard and make real contributions regarding meaningful issues. Responsibility can’t really be delegated, but, as a manager, allow yourself to be influenced, to learn and consider differing perspectives. Everybody can bring an interesting opinion to the table, and if they get to have an impact, it can mean the world to them.
- Be responsive– This is an integral part of delegating your capability to influence the organization. Gaining recognition from authority is a must if you want to assign meaning to tasks and goals. Explicitly acknowledging and celebrating team members’ contributions and achievements is a crucial element all managers must adopt.
In closing, here are two proven performance-improving best practices. These may seem trivial at first glance; however, they are often under-utilized or executed by-rote. Wise managers will acknowledge this situation and see to it that they strengthen these foundational leadership elements:
- Define everything– Every team member should know exactly what the KPIs and relevant metrics for success are. Straightforward communication with the team or teams you lead, will keep everybody on the same page regarding expectations, which should be expressed as explicitly as possible. An interesting, worth-while idea would be performing a SWOT (or at least an ‘SW’) regarding your employees, and then assign them tasks that fit their strengths. This creates a positive, reinforcing loop, that breeds satisfaction and positive team spirit.
- Set an example– holding yourself as accountable as possible will reflect on your employees. As a manager, improving your team’s performance is about being the best you can be. You are the inspiration; it is you who sets the team spirit and creates the team culture. As the saying goes: be the change you want to lead.