Every employer expects team members to be self-motivated. “If everyone just did their job, motivation would be irrelevant,” is the old adage. The problem is people are not machines. Their productivity and creative capacity waxes and wanes. Energy levels are different throughout any given day, week, and month. It is not enough to just say do it. The more enlightened, leadership-based approach calls on leaders to take an active responsibility in team performance.
Here are three tips to improve team performance:
- Start with why
In his book, The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy tells a story that illustrates an important point about the important effect of intrinsic motivation. Imagine there is a 6” wide wooden plank on the floor. If you were offered $20 to walk across it, chances are you would. It is an easy $20 bucks. Now what if the plank was stretched between two buildings, 50 stories up? Would you be willing to walk across it now? What if the building across from you was on fire and your kids were trapped, and you could only save them by walking across the plank and leading them to safety? More likely than not, you would make the crossing and save your children. The differences are the reasons compelling you to act and workplace activities are no different than the plank.
The reasons behind a task, project, or just about any endeavor matter, and they are immensely important to your team. Make sure to review the reason behind any project at the beginning and again periodically throughout the project. By understanding how it fits into the bigger picture and how others are effected, it will help your team stay focused and motivated. It will also help them do their best work and strive to find answers when they encounter the inevitable obstacles.
- Let them know their needed
Humans are tribal in nature. It is an essential part of human nature to want to feel needed and to belong to a group. As the leader of a team, taking the time to let each individual know what their unique contribution to a project is, will be helpful to the overall project. Show them they are needed and valued. By helping them understand the value they bring, it is far more likely that they will try their hardest to do their best work on the project. Bonds of trust will help immensely when something goes wrong. The entire team will be more able to focus on finding solutions rather than wondering if anything they say or do matters.
- Let them do their jobs
Micromanagement is pervasive in the workplace because it feels safe for the leader. The leaders most likely feel that by controlling all of the details of the team’s work, they will increase the chances of success. Micromanagement comes from a place of weak leadership and not strength and contains unintended consequences. Team members who are micromanaged often begin to shut down and stop thinking for themselves. They will do what they are told and nothing more.
Daniel Pink in his book, “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” details the deep need individuals have for some autonomy in their work lives. They want to control their own destiny and when challenged they will do their best work, if they are responsible for their own results. It doesn’t mean as a leader you don’t monitor progress and provide feedback, but rather you let them lead the planning and execution of the work related to their contribution to the team’s overall project.
By starting each project with why, letting team members know they are valued and then letting them do their jobs, you will greatly improve project and team performance. Motivation is both intrinsic and extrinsic and a good leader recognizes that the leader’s success will depend on the individual contribution of the team members doing their best and most creative work.