August 20th, 2009 20:00 EST
High-Performing Teams Accomplish Out of Reach Challenges
When we look at motivating our direct reports and when we think about ways we can keep our team moving in the right direction to accomplish those goals that are set by the organization and by us; the manager, we tend to sort of hit a dead end sometimes when all of our ideas to keep our team motivated have been exhausted and we feel we have hit every goal there is to accomplish in the organization.
Wrong! As Managers and when we are leading and motivating teams of people we tend to sort of become stagnant sometimes when we feel we have used every method there is to keep the team happy and your people wanting more. There really is no How to " book on managing and being able to manage effectively in every organization and every environment. It is sort of a trial and error challenge where you see what works and what does not. It is definitely not an easy job to motivate and keep your high-performing team performing and wanting more.
From my experience and where I have learned to sort of kick butt " as a manager and accomplish every challenging goal and keep my direct reports hungry for more challenges is to manage per personality and lead by example. Also, you have to empower your people to let them know their ideas are valued and the organization does care about them as employees. If you have ever managed for any length of time then you know that most of your ideas come from your direct reports, so you never run out of ideas or ways to motivate your team and keep the team moving forward.
Everyone is different in which the way you manage one employee will not motivate the other and so on. Managing per personality is the key to connecting with the person and earning their trust in you as their manager. You have to earn everyone of your direct reports trust before they will respect you and listen to you as you bark commands at them or direct them as their manager.
When you lead by example, you always do what you say and work in the trenches next to your employees. I have worked for and have seen so many managers that just sit behind their desk everyday and shoot out E-mails without ever lifting a finger on the production floor, warehouse, or whatever the work environment is to help their people and their team. And I have worked for past managers that say they are going to do something in whatever context and end up just blowing smoke and not doing what they said they were. This is the fastest way to lose your trust with your direct reports and create problems on getting the mission or job done. You have to work with your people daily and if you say you are going to do something as a manager, you need to follow through and do it.
When I was an Operations Manager, I not only followed through and did everything I said I was going to do as the team`s manager but I also would go out with my warehouse team and pull orders, operate the forklift, load and unload trucks, schedule shipments and do paperwork just like they did every day. It not only gave me a chance to see the daily operation and be able to manage it by being there physically on the floor but to manage each of my warehouse team members individually. And the team seemed to work harder because I was working on the floor side by side and out there with them. Make sure that you don`t let your people pass all the work to you while they slack off but do create that work environment where they know they have a hard working manager that works side by side with them to get the job done. This is another way to create motivation in your team and respect.
When you work side by side with your people you are also making sure you are learning their job and know how to do their job in case that person quits, walks out of the position, or gets hit by a bus and cannot come to work for a while. The operation of the organization does not stop it has to keep moving and the job has to keep getting done.
Also, hold meetings with your team. I have seen managers never hold a meeting. This creates a loose work environment where your team feels like all they have to do is just show up, collect their paycheck and go home. No, hold a meeting once a day or once a week. If you hold the meeting once a day, hold it early in the morning where all your employees know they have to make it to work on-time because there is a meeting scheduled. You will also more than likely ensure none of your people are ever late doing it this way.
Reward your people and give praise. One element when I was a front line employee or even a front line manager that made me upset or mad was when I or my team and I worked on a project and hit an impossible goal, accomplished work in record time or performed excessively above what was expected by upper management and never received at least a thank you from upper management on a job well done. This will make your team feel unappreciated and will kill any motivation they may have. I am not saying to give praise to them every second of the day because if you praise too much it will become old after a while and have no meaning to it. At least praise or give a thank you to your team when deserved.
I also used to hold a monthly luncheon for my employees where they could order anything they wanted from their favorite restaurant for lunch. You only do this if all work and all goals have been met and all performance by the entire team not just a few on the team have been met and is up to standards set by you. When I did this, just this little bit of an incentive to the team made them look forward to this and hit every goal and challenge that was sent their way.
I have even taken my team out for bowling night or to a football game. This in itself will create team building and motivate your people to perform above standards and what is expected of them in their daily job. It will also let you and your team members bond with you and one another.
These little bit of common sense management ideas will lead into a larger piece of the puzzle " creating the high-performance team. You have to portray the complete team environment and portray that everyone on the team is empowered and held accountable for their job and their actions. Once you get past the team building concept which is a concept that still needs to be managed and evaluated daily, then your people will start to develop the courage to take responsibility for ideas and making decisions that affect the team as a whole and that will start to instill confidence in each one of your team members.
Creating a high-performance team or any team for that matter is a step by step process. You have to start from stage one and keep building until you have the team performing at peak level performance. Then, you have to continuously manage and monitor the entire team and each piece of the puzzle and each team member to make sure the performance of the team keeps growing and moving forward.
One idea that has always worked for me is to create a fun work environment. When I have taken over operations or created new ones, most of my people would come to work in sort of a tense and quiet fashion because they were now under and being managed by a new manager they did not know yet.
Your new direct reports may not know what to expect from you and be sort of in a mode where they are feeling uncomfortable until you talk to each one of them individually.
As I talked to each one of the team as their new manager, I portrayed a fun image but yet an image that the work will get done and my standards will be met. Then, as the action started or the daily operations, we had fun doing the work by joking around, talking to everyone and not ignoring anyone, and letting the team loosen up a little as they realized I was not going to be a hard manager to work for but also a manager that will expect the job to get done. I don`t care if there is fun in doing the job, but as long as the job gets done.
If you create a tense work environment, it will create a miserable environment and create extensively high turnover which will ultimately cost your organization lots of money in the long run with the excessive hiring, training of new employees and time spent trying to recruit more people to fill the vacant positions that continuously keep opening up. You have to have fun while doing the job, or else this will happen.
When new people enter the company as you hire them and they see that the work environment is enjoyable and fun and the work gets done, all goals and challenges are met, and they are valued and feel like their place in the organization matters, they become happy to come to work, motivated immensely, and come up with tons of ideas to improve the work, improve the process, and make life easier for everyone when doing their job. I have had some of my past direct reports that were salaried employees come to work two-hours or more early than normal because they loved their job and work environment.
If you look at the above steps to creating a high-performance team of people, you see that all of these ideas to creating a high-performance team are basically simple to do as a manager and are the things a manager should do everyday anyway.
You, as a manager are held accountable for your team`s performance and getting the job done. You need to do every step in creating a high-performing team and every step in assuring your team is completely trained, know who their leader is without confusion or question, what the chain of command is in the department and organization, and what your expectations are and that each team member know your expectations like the back of their hand. Once this is accomplished, have a little fun and create a great work environment for not only you but your employees and have fun while the job is getting done. Use the "Have Fun and Get `er Done" approach.