The quality of a team can make or break a project. In an ideal situation, members of a team work well together, have complimentary skills, and maintain a clear focus on the end goal. However, it is most likely that you will be working with a team that has its challenges. Whether your team is already performing well, or your team is self-destructing and needs help, these strategies will help increase team performance.
The most important step to increase team performance is to clarify the team’s job. What is the goal? What do you need to achieve? This will usually come directly from management. The team is given a task they must fulfill. Take the time to make sure every team member understands the goal. The most efficient teams know to focus on the goal and not get sidetracked.
It is also important to establish what the completed goal looks like. How do you know when it has been achieved? Teams perform best when they know what is required of them, and what success looks like. They can focus on the destination and are less likely to take detours that cost time and results.
Look for steps and plans that have already been done in other contexts and utilize them for the current goal. Ask team members what they have done in the past, and make good use of this material. Team performance suffers when the same tasks are repeated unnecessarily. Avoid ‘make work’ projects that bring no new benefits. Instead, use the expertise, effort, and knowledge that is already in place to increase team performance.
Most employees agree they spend countless hours in pointless meetings that are tiring, boring, and frustrating. Do not schedule meetings without a clear need and purpose. Eliminating unproductive meetings will increase team performance.
When it is necessary to hold a meeting, give a clear and tight time limit and stick to it. Use a facilitator who is able to keep the meeting on task. Ask all team members to only contribute information and suggestions that are directly applicable to the meeting’s purpose.
Celebrate successes—especially the small ones. Teams need to know when they are doing a good job, and they need to be thanked sincerely for their hard work. As you work towards your goal, highlight the positive things team members are doing together and individually. Take the opportunity to point out how the work they are doing benefits the team and brings you closer to your goal. Teams that are appreciated and valued perform better.
On rare occasions, it may be necessary to work long hours to meet a deadline. However, for most projects team performance improves when the team takes breaks—both from the work and from each other. Insist on a cut-off time each day for emails, as well as a firm morning start time (nothing earlier). Team members need time away from work to unwind, connect with the important people in their lives, and recharge their creative juices. Late night and early morning emails are disruptive. Individuals can always compose a draft if they are inspired outside of work hours, and fine-tune it during work time.
Team performance is also significantly improved when everyone commits to taking one day off each week to do absolutely nothing work-related. This is a simple strategy that leads to increased productivity and better team connections.
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