7 steps for accelerating team performance

Does it feel like your team is just going through the motions? Do you wish there was a magic formula to get them focused and motivated?

While there isn’t an instant solution for increasing enthusiasm, focus and initiative, there are steps any leader can take to orchestrate success.

Step 1: Communicate the direction.

It’s hard for people to reach a destination if they don’t know what it is. Whether you call it a mission, a purpose or something else, employees need to have a solid understanding of the why, for the organization, the team and themselves. Leaders who promote engagement regularly connect day-to-day tasks and expectations with the bigger picture in mind.

Step 2: Delegate responsibility and authority.

Once people know the direction, good leaders give them responsibility and the tools they need to execute the plan. Will everything be done exactly as the leader would do it? Doubtful. However, great leaders know when to step in and when to stand back and let others own their work.

For example: “Maria, your job is to manage clients’ insurance forms. While I have guidelines for you to follow, you can decide and then let me know how you will organize your work.” 

Step 3: Recognize good work and the importance of others.

No matter their role or level in an organization, people like to be appreciated and recognized. Whether someone is a vice president or a temporary worker, leaders who engage their teams communicate the idea that everyone has an important role. Take the time to articulate how others contribute.

For example: “Eric, you are the face of the office. When people visit us, you are the person who sets the tone. Thank you for taking pride in the appearance of the reception area and talking with clients in a friendly way that shows we care.”

 Step 4: Support stumbles.

Slips, trips and falls will happen when people solve problems, and leaders who engage their teams to the full capacity have the good sense to support the stumbles employees will inevitably encounter. In other words, it’s about having the maturity to get beyond blame and focus on what to do differently in the future. Do you assume the best? Do you steer clear of blaming others? Do you treat errors as learning opportunities? If not, you’ve got some room to improve.

For example: “Joseph, the client meeting did not go as you had hoped, and now is the time to learn from the experience. In hindsight, what could have been done differently?”

Step 5: Instill a sense of calm and certainty.

Without a clear course, employees spend a lot of time worrying and focusing on what-ifs that may never happen. But with a sense of certainty, people’s shock absorbers function at maximum capacity. A leader with a plan reduces fear, uncertainty and stress. The plan can be short term and it can change, as long as it’s there and communicated.

Step 6: Promote a level playing field.

Fairness trumps favoritism every time, and people will stick with a leader through some horrible circumstances when that person is honest and doesn’t show favoritism. Stay mindful of what’s fair and think about how your team will perceive your actions.

Step 7: Address problems.

Engaged teams eschew mediocrity, and the people at the top have high standards for everyone. When problems occur, leaders who engage confront them head on. If there are conversations you’ve been avoiding, now is the time to reset and communicate what’s expected.

Leaders who engage don’t do so by accident or without work. If you want to jump-start or refocus your team, start with these seven steps. With deliberate effort on your part, you should start seeing results.

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works Inc., a talent development firm. She and her team provide soft-skills training courses and workshops to clients worldwide. For more information, visit businesstrainingworks.com.

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