Virtually every executive I know is focused on improving the performance of their team. And while there are many ways to gain some improvement, the greatest increases arise from five key foundational strategies – trust, respect, autonomy, purpose, and opportunity.
At first consideration these may seem simplistic, but just as with a winning sports team, the secret to great success is executing the basics extraordinarily well. Here is a breakdown of each strategy including some ideas about how to improve them.
The importance of earning the trust of the people you lead is generally well-accepted, yet it still remains an issue. Trust is earned by doing what you say you will do and by being the kind of person you say you are. It’s not demonstrated by how you act during major events, but rather in how you act in everyday situations. For example, regularly being late to meetings demonstrates a lack of integrity. Everyone may accept it, but it confirms to them that you can’t always be trusted to show up.
If you want to emphasize your integrity and earn a high level of trust, go out of your way to hold yourself to a higher standard. The impression it creates will be notable.
Earning respect is one of those things that no one argues with and yet, some leaders don’t have much respect from their team. The reason is that you earn respect by showing respect and you demonstrate respect by how you interact with others. And therein lies the problem. So much of the way we interact with people is done out of habit. For the most part, we act and react on autopilot. Consider our previous example of arriving late to a meeting. Most people don’t do it consciously and in fact, probably don’t give the act of arriving late much thought at all. But think of the message it sends to those people sitting and waiting for their arrival – it communicates a complete lack of respect for their time and their value.
Since much of how we act is habitual, it’s difficult to catch our own missteps. A good way to make a change is to enlist the help of others (who you trust) to point out instances when you act in ways you’d rather not.
One of the best ways to drive down performance is to tell people what to do, how to do it and when to do it. When a leader micromanages, he/she communicates that they don’t value, respect, or trust the people that report to them. It undermines creativity, initiative and engagement. Conversely, one of the best ways to drive up performance is to give people greater autonomy. Basically, when you give people the freedom to do their work in their own way, you’re treating adult professionals like adults and professionals. Additionally, giving more autonomy allows for greater accountability. It’s the best of all worlds.
A key to providing greater autonomy is to have great clarity as to what needs to be accomplished and in what timeframe. Become clear about what the outcome should be and then release your attachment as to how it should get done.
It’s nice to think about having some grand and meaningful purpose, but in fact, few people do. So rather than hope that everyone wants to change the world, a key to driving performance is to give people a sense of purpose to their work – in other words, a “why”. In the absence of a reason, people will simply go through the motions. An initiative devoid of a “why” is simply a goal, and no one will get excited and engaged about something like “doubling sales”.
If you are serious about improving the performance of your team, you need to provide them with a sense of purpose. “Why what you’re doing matters.” People are always more motivated when they feel they are making a difference.
In all of nature, things are either growing or dying. It’s hard for someone to throw themselves into a dead-end job. If a job lacks opportunity for personal growth or career growth, the drive to excel diminishes.
In times of economic challenge and slow business growth, the opportunities for growth are more limited, but they’re certainly not absent. A couple of excellent strategies for creating growth opportunities are delegation and cross-training. When you delegate effectively, not only do you improve productivity and make that person more valuable, but you demonstrate that you value them. The same goes for cross-training – it adds value to the individual, the team, and the organization.
In summary, by focusing on the basics of strong leadership and executing those strategies well, any leader can elevate the performance of their team. If getting outside perspective and unbiased insights on this would help, please give me a call.