“The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.” — Tom Peters, American business author.
Teamwork rules in the corporate environment. As the leader of your team—whether it consists of a small group, a division, or an entire corporation—the team’s success ultimately rests on your shoulders. While the stress of maintaining high productivity may “roll down the hill,” so to speak, you can divest yourself of only so much responsibility for your team’s performance.
Guaranteeing high performance may seem a daunting task, but it basically boils down to prevention and maintenance. Maintenance takes place when you have to jump in and fix something when it goes wrong. Preventive measures are put in place in the beginning to prevent breakdowns from happening in the first place. Try these tips to maximize day-to-day team performance:
1. Make accountability a watchword. While you do have the ultimate responsibility for your team’s performance, you can’t do the work yourself. So you must parcel out the tasks and hold your people responsible for getting them done on schedule and to correct standards. If accountability breaks down, deal with it right away, rather than allowing it to fester like an infected sore, or more problems will spread.
2. Follow up. When you delegate a project to a team member, trust that person to get it done—but verify. People appreciate being left alone to do the work, but don’t leave them alone. Follow up occasionally at set milestones to ensure everything is progressing on schedule and encourage them to reach out to you any time with challenges. It’s counterproductive to have things done incorrectly, so make sure you’re both on the same page.
3. Don’t micromanage. Checking up on people repeatedly, day after day, or standing over them watching them work does not fall under the heading of “following up”—that’s micromanagement. You’re wasting their time and yours, and it makes people nervous and less productive. Your title is “Manager,” not “Dictator.” You facilitate the business of the team; you don’t do it all yourself or waste time watching other people do it.
4. Encourage teamwork. Remind your team that you’re all part of the same organization and share the same basic goals and objectives. Emphasize each person’s place within the teamwork structure. Show team members how their work, in combination with everyone else’s, moves the whole structure forward. While no one wants to feel like a cog in some big corporate machine, we all still depend on each other to get our work done. We can do very few jobs without input from others, whether from above, below, or laterally. Remember the old sayings “two heads are better than one” and “many hands make light work”? Putting our heads together results in greater collective innovation and progress.
5. Motivate. Give people reasons to contribute discretionary time to the team. Offer them prizes when they excel, such as team lunches to vacations or gift certificates. Empower them to shine, and recognize them for it, so they’ll be more willing to take ownership of their work and pour their hearts and souls into it.
Reaching for the Moon
No matter what advice I or any other expert may offer, there’s no guarantee you’ll win Team of the Year in the annual Office Olympics. But I can guarantee that if you put these strategies in place and keep them well-tuned, you and your team will enjoy awesome productivity. Needless to say, what I’ve outlined here represents just a basic high-performance framework. Your job is to flesh out this skeleton with additional strategies and your own magic touches that tweak productivity higher with each passing quarter.