How to accelerate team performance

Diane Coolican provides her top tips on how to accelerate a team’s performance to enhance profitability

A business cannot be successful without strong leadership and team work. Team performance is one of the most common things that needs to be addressed in business and there are often simple, but effective, measures that can be taken to unite a team towards one common strategy and to get the best out of all members.

Do you feel that there are fundamental issues within your team? Has performance slipped or are profits not what they were? You’re not alone. Many businesses have performance related issues, often attributed to demotivation, changes in organisational structure and generally a lack of awareness of the company’s strategy and goals.

Many sectors have suffered extensively over the last five years and we are now typically seeing many businesses in the sector that have lost their middle management level, meaning that there are crucial leadership skills missing from the team. This has also had a big impact on team structure and morale. We are also seeing teams that are stretched due to continued hesitation to recruit and loss of core skills from teams which means that they are ill-equipped to handle the increase in customer demand. We also cannot disregard the impact of a new generation of workers entering the workforce, with new ideals and motivations. All of these aspects have changed the dynamic within many businesses.

It is inevitable that there will be underlying team issues that have been left to fester and become embedded behaviours due to L&D budgets being cut and disruption through staff and resource cuts. As we now return to growth, businesses need to analyse where there are teams that would benefit from unification or development to help accelerate their business performance, and ultimately return the company to growth.

Identifying that there is an issue is the easy part, but getting to the heart of what that issue is and how you can tackle it in order to see a return on investment is more challenging. Here are my top tips for accelerating your team’s performance.

  1. Involve the team in strategy – empower the team by including them in discussions around strategy and vision. Don’t assume that they know where the company is going and what is happening in the wider market place. Educate them around what the business is trying to achieve and how their role has an impact. Particularly for the new generation of workers entering the workplace, employees need to understand the bigger picture and how they can play their part so double loop learning can be really useful for this.


  1. Give clear direction – all team members should have clear, measureable goals and separate teams should have targets. Both should feed into individual interests and motivations, as well as business performance. By understanding what needs to be achieved as an individual and as a team, you can keep the team focused on the task in hand and avoid people going off on tangents.


  1. Identify the obstacles…and tackle them – what are the barriers to success? Discuss this as a team and find ways to overcome them. If time management is an issue, find ways to streamline activity and focus on priorities or invest in training for the team.


  1. Focus on strengths – identify the strengths of individuals within the team and use them. If someone is good at sales, put on the shop floor so that they have the most interaction with customers. If someone is good with people, have them available for meetings with new and potential clients. Put your most organised person in charge of creating a timescale for the job at hand and give them ownership for ensuring prompt delivery to make the team more efficient.


  1. Recruit to balance skills – when you do recruit, ensure that you look specifically for skills that are missing in your team. It is important to have a balance of personalities and skill sets and these can all then be harnessed to achieve success.


  1. Give ownership – ensure your team have the ability to own projects or tasks within projects and give them the authority to implement ideas. Ownership allows teams to become passionate about what they are delivering, which ultimately leads to more creative thinking to reach goals and, in the long term, better results.


  1. Feedback – give regular feedback on progress. Make sure that you make time for regular team briefs and meetings where you can regroup and reprioritise and allow two way honest and open engagements. It is also important that there is a forum for discussing issues so that they can be tackled head on and not left to develop into something bigger.


  1. Team Building – many organisations hear team building and think of an expensive ‘jolly’ away, but there are some techniques and workshops that you can implement that are directly aimed at your business goals and strategy. It is essential for success that you have a happy, communicative team working towards one common goal and a team building programme can really aid this.


  1. Review processes – in order to achieve success, ensure that your systems are fit for purpose. Don’t just do things because ‘that’s the way they have always been done’. There are always ways you can streamline processes and changes in personnel, the wider market and company circumstances may mean that the way you have always done something becomes outdated or obsolete. Consider whether new technology can help develop new processes.


  1. Understand team motivations – getting the best out of your team means playing to personal motivations. Understanding these at a deeper level can allow you to unleash new ideas and enhance team performance. For example, giving a team member that is ambitious and competitive specific sales targets to meet will resonate well and is likely to deliver strong results.


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