Encouraging Productive Team Behavior

“In motivating people, you’ve got to engage their minds and their hearts. I motivate people, I hope, by example—and perhaps by excitement, by having productive ideas to make others feel involved.” — Rupert Murdock, Australian-American media mogul.

“Productive achievement is a consequence and an expression of health and self-esteem, not its cause.” — Nathaniel Branden, Canadian psychotherapist and author.

Encouraging Productive Team Behavior by Laura Stack #Productivity
One of the best things about being a leader is being responsible for the productivity of an entire team. That’s also one of the scariest things about being a leader.

Your team’s accomplishments (or lack thereof) reflect upon you, so you have to run a tight team. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to channel a military commander. My father, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, taught me that such behavior backfires as often as not. Oh, a tyrant definitely gets things done—but well-trained workers, like good jet pilots, have their own ideas about how to do their jobs. Unlike the military, your crew can just up and quit. While you don’t want them to perceive you as a pushover, your “fighter jocks” do need some leeway to do their jobs.

You face a delicate balance here, so consider these factors while trying to achieve a healthy, productive equilibrium.


1. Keep Talking. Honest communication may not cure all ills, but it certainly promotes healthy teams. Express clearly what you expect in terms of behavior and hold your people to it. Meanwhile, listen to their ideas on how to better align team performance with corporate strategy.

2. Lead from the front. No one respects a leader who tells everyone to arrive by 8:00, then regularly shows up at 9:30. Nor will they bother to buckle down if you head for the golf course every afternoon. Lead by example. While there may be exceptions to this rule (e.g., strategic military officers probably shouldn’t lead from the front), in most cases living the rules you demand of everyone else will drive them toward greater productivity and respect for you.

3. React instantly. Never ignore unproductive behavior. As soon as such a pattern develops, step in and address it, no matter how busy you are. Just as I correct my children instantly, you must connect feedback to behavior right away for it to be impactful. Otherwise habits may become so entrenched that it’ll be impossible to pry loose without overhauling the whole system.

4. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. If you can’t appreciate what someone brings to the team, you shouldn’t have hired them. If you lose respect for them later, it’s best for you both to let them go. Strive to treat each person fairly, and keep this always in mind: reward publically, but criticize privately.

Here’s an example of what not to do, based on a true story. One day, “Dwight” reported to his boss, “Fred,” that all the edits he’d made the day before to a shared document had disappeared. Fred basically called him a liar in front of the entire department. Later, Fred called Dwight to apologize; an IT tech had partially overwritten the department’s files from an old backup the night before. Clearly, Fred should have confronted Dwight privately in the first place; but having failed to do so, he should have apologized publically. The episode destroyed Dwight’s interest in maintaining productive behavior. He rapidly disengaged and quit a few weeks later.

When you step up to leadership, you suddenly have at least partial responsibility for the fates of others; and to some extent, your employees control you as well, because their behavior reflects on you. So avoid micromanaging, but do encourage productive behavior from your employees at all times. Clearly outline what you expect of them, practice what you preach, and hold them to your expectations.



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