MT Expert's Ten Top Tips: Improve your team's performance

Team spirit gone awry? Learn how to get your employees functioning like a well-oiled machine again...

by Ken Way
Last Updated: 21 Apr 2011
With the launch this week of a Coalition task force to 'improve employee motivation', it seems workforce apathy has become a Government matter. With spending cuts, rising inflation and taxes taking their toll, everywhere you look, people are beginning to feel increasingly disillusioned.

For managers, that's bad news. So we asked performance coach Ken Way for his tips on keeping your workforce going against the odds.

1. Build confidence
Without confidence, performance is limited or restricted. Confidence fluctuates greatly – so make sure you assess it regularly and make provision to train it in.

2. Learn to get along
The most productive teams pay more attention to ‘task-cohesion’. In other words, team members don’t have to like one another to do an excellent job. In fact, sometimes it’s the grain of sand that produces the pearl in the oyster. There are benefits from having a greater focus on social cohesion - but task-cohesion still rules.

3. Learn how much is too much
It seems obvious that giving team members similar amounts of positive and negative feedback means they’ll see you as fair. Not so. Aim for a minimum of 3:1 (positive : negative) - then you’ll be seen as fair. Want to be seen as positive? Target at least 4 or 5 to 1.

4. Think ‘through’ the goal  
The brain is hungry for the ‘longer journey’ – so feed it. The ‘next step’ must always be clear – work-wise, project-wise, career-wise, development-wise.

5. Look ahead
When setting a task for a team, do more than simply defining the objectives – create a mental picture of what will be happening and how things will have changed and the impact it will have on each person in the team.

6.  Set obstacles to your goals
If you set goals without describing all perceived obstacles and hurdles the team may encounter, don’t be surprised if their motivation takes a dip when they first meet any kind of difficulty. Teams need to have mentally been through the process of overcoming all such difficulties to maintain a 100% belief in their ability to reach the goal.

7.  Not all anxiety is bad
Recognise anxiety for what it is: a reflection of a desire to perform to their best. Without such focus there wouldn’t be any anxiety to deal with. To interrupt anxiety (for example, before difficult meetings or presentations), take a few moments to seriously imagine being someone who didn’t have that desire, and then imagine how good it will feel having completed, performed well and learnt from the experience. This not only interrupts the negative pattern of thinking, it momentarily alleviates the bodily response.

8. Don’t be so focused, it’s counter-productive
Focusing exclusively on winning can be counter-productive. Motivation can drop when a team merely thinks about the end result without spending sufficient time thinking through the process they need to take to get there.

9. All goals have three essentials
Set three types of goals for your team: the outcome goal (what you want to achieve – the result); performance goal (measures that ensure you’re on track to achieve your outcome), and process goal (how you want your team to proceed). Keeping your team focused requires regular reminders of all three types of goal – especially the Process goals.

10. Beat both sides of the drum
Focusing on ‘all things positive’ fails to recognise the inherent motivational value of playing to the genetic blueprint of our fight-flight mechanism. For some people, a positive spin will produce different levels of motivations – ranging from complete disinterest to a somewhat fatalistic ‘can’t do’ interpretation. Team motivation therefore very often requires beating both sides of the drum – the positive and negative - but always present the negative first, then the positive.

- Sports performance coach Ken Way has worked with British, commonwealth and world champions, as well as premiership, championship and international football teams. He’s the author of Mental Mastery - Tried & Tested Techniques for exceptional sports performance (January 2011, £24.99)

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