8 Keys to Unlock Your Team’s Performance

 In career devleopment, Employee engagement, Employee Satisfaction, Employees, Rick Conlow

Want to learn the keys to unlock your team’s performance this year? Consider these questions first:

  • What do your employees say at the bar or coffee cafe about you (the boss) or the company?
  • How about at tailgating before a football game or before and after a social event at Orchestra Hall?
  • Or at the kitchen table with their family? At work, employees may say one thing but how they talk about it outside of work is the true story.

8 Keys to Unlock Your Team's PerformanceWith employee engagement dismal in so many places, there could be hidden morale problems in your organization which lead to unproductive work habits. Besides, bad news travels fast and it could inhibit your company’s reputation.

How organizational talent is treated and leveraged can make or break a company. Let’s clear up one thing first: most experts agree that there is much more to creating a highly motivated and productive team than money. Yet one thing is obviously true–people have to be paid. In addition, have the potential to be paid more and earn other perks: bonuses, 401 K, profit-sharing, comprehensive benefits, career advancement opportunities, pay adjustments above and beyond the cost of living.

The best companies tend to pay better or offer other perks that make up for it. For example, Costco pays upscale for a retail organization, and their results are consistently better than others. If the pay isn’t fair a company isn’t even in the game for the best talent, let alone having highly productive people.

Research shows that companies with a comprehensive talent management focus outperform others by 18% in profit. That certainly can add up quickly and give one company an edge over another. So, what can you do about it? Here are seven ways to unlock and unleash your team’s performance.

8 Keys to Unlock Your Team’s Performance

8 Keys to Unlock Your Team's PerformanceFrederick Herzberg’s research found that advancement, learning, growth, pride, the work itself, responsibility, and recognition are the keys to employee performance. The eight keys below take these principles into consideration.

  1. Transform your managers into leaders. It all starts here. For employees to be their best a company must create a culture that values doing business right and engaging employees as partners. This needs to be communicated in many ways throughout an organization. Once stated and shared, the management team must learn to lead to back it up. The single biggest impact on an employee’s performance is their direct supervisor. I believe leadership training and coaching should be done several times every year. The title of ‘manager’ doesn’t earn the term ‘leadership’ without genuine and proven management practices. This involves a whole series of behaviors that engender higher performance. See the next keys.
  2. Make training and development part of your culture, not an add-on if business is great. The point is that nobody can afford unproductive employees because it’s too costly. An Accenture study showed that only 21% of employees attended a company-sponsored training program in the last five years. That’s pathetic. Can you imagine sending your country’s best athletes to the Olympics without extensive training? Poorly developed talent leads to disengaged, under-performing employees. Most companies and managers have a lot of work to do here!
  3. Apply the employee engagement road-map.(see the above pic) This involves regularly asking for and listening to your team’s input, continuously working to improve, involving employees in teams to get things done, and interacting with them consistently. I have had manager’s employees say to me, “Get that guy out of the office and into the field to see what’s going on!” Employee engagement isn’t an action plan–it’s a partnership and value.
  4. Do the team thing–really! For example, one company we consulted with had serious competition and competitive disadvantages in customer loyalty. Through 22 action teams, they transformed their business and results. They also implemented most of the seven keys in this post. Specifically, leaders and employees alike were trained on how to make it all work. Notice that they didn’t have the CEO give a speech about TEAM (“Together Everyone Achieves More”) and just hope things would get better.
  5. Do more than performance management. Few employees like the current performance management systems. While every company will have a system of some sort, they need an add-on. See this post: Performance Management Sings the Blues. In summary, managers need to engage their teams with consistent positive coaching strategies. This improves communication, prevents problems, promotes development and increases results.
  6. Communicate strategically and consistently. On most of my consulting engagements, I hear horror stories about the lack of communication in organizations. I have found four simple steps that most managers can implement immediately to improve their results: conduct weekly team meetings (To learn to do good meetings, see this: The Top Ten Meeting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them), do regular one-on-one coaching sessions, informally engage with employees throughout any given day or week, and send out only positive emails or texts. Any critical info should be in-person unless you are separated by distance; then use the phone.
  7. Work hard, have some fun! The best manager I had also set the highest standards. Our department worked hard and achieved some really remarkable things. This manager also went body surfing with us in the ocean. He rewarded us with nice dinners, comedy club night, and a day at the zoo. We had a lot of fun working hard and playing together. Too many organizations buy into what I heard Tom Peters say once: “The entrance to Harvard Business school says, ‘He who comes here will never smile again’ “.
  8. Recognize and reward your team genuinely but lavishly. I shouldn’t have to put this in here but it is important. I notice that during my consulting projects, I do more recognition for employees and managers than their managers or the company do. It seems the attitude is mostly “What have you done for me recently?”. I have found that with good coaching, honest group 8 Keys to Unlock Your Team's Performanceor individual recognition and praise are motivators. This a a crucial ingredient to unlock better team performance.

They Didn’t Unlock it…A Quick Case Study in Futility

Let’s identify the challenge for any of the above to be applied. Just for kicks and giggles, I picked a Fortune 500 “Company X” which has $33B in revenue. Its Indeed/Glassdoor rating is averaged at 3.5 and its American Customer Satisfaction Rating is 73.These ratings are lower than its larger major competitors. Both of these numbers are mediocre at best. The sales trends have declined in the last five years, with the company losing over $2B in revenue as well as being unprofitable each year. Whatever Company X is doing isn’t working. They haven’t unleashed anybody. I am sure they have many smart managers working there but they are not focused on people.

Company X has significant employee productivity and engagement problems as well as customer service issues. The leadership lacks positive influence. Its future doesn’t look bright unless it makes serious changes. Certainly, financial management and marketing improvements are needed. In addition, the above eight principles could revolutionize the employee effectiveness of Company X. They haven’t learned how to unlock employee potential or creativity, and continue a downward spiral. My question is why haven’t they already implemented all of the above and more?

Pulling it all Together

8 Keys to Unlock Your Team's PerformanceI believe that if you want your team to be better you have to be a better leader. All of the above approaches go together. They are like a recipe. If you leave out something, it won’t taste too good.  Many companies and managers seem oblivious to this. For example, one company I communicated with this year has over 100 new initiatives for their divisions. It’s ridiculous! You know that most will fail or fall short. They want more and more from their teams but seemingly unwilling to invest in them to help them become winners. When I consult with a company or coach a leader and we apply these seven keys, we unlock team performance. Results are transformed.

Commander Chris Hadfield was the first Canadian astronaut to walk in space. He said this: “Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It’s about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high and the consequences really matter. It is about laying the groundwork for others’ success, and then standing back and letting them shine.”

8 Keys to Unlock Your Team's PerformanceFor accelerated individual online leadership training, go here: RCI Online Leadership Training.

Want to accelerate your career and leadership skills? Check out my Superstar Leadership book or one of the others in the Superstar Book Series for a boost!

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Rick Conlow
Rick Conlow is the CEO & Founder of Rick Conlow International, a consulting, training and coaching firm. He has helped over 200 companies such as Target, Costco, Andersen Windows, Spectrum, Northern Power, Meijer, Carpet King, International Truck, John Deere, Lowes Financial, and Canadian Linen improve customer loyalty, increase sales and add profits. Rick has been a general manager, vice president, training director, program director, and national sales trainer. He has authored 22 books, and regularly speaks at conferences and to audiences of all sizes.
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