“Great acts are made up of small deeds.”— Lao Tzu, ancient Chinese philosopher
Sometimes it’s hard enough just ensuring your own performance is up to snuff, much less implementing techniques to push it higher. But since few of us work alone (even I have a small entourage, virtual and otherwise), team performance is just as important. This is especially true if you happen to manage or otherwise lead your team.
Even if you lead other co-workers, you can do many things to help boost team productivity. During my career I’ve studied hundreds of workplace performance boosters, from silly games to solid concepts. Some are difficult, and others are a pain. As Warren Buffet once said (a bit crudely, perhaps, but vividly), “No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.”
Some performance boosters are so easy it’s surprising more people don’t try them. This blog focuses on five of my favorites.
- Routines for simple tasks. One easy way to increase productivity is to strip away all decision-making for a task, so you and your colleagues automatically know what to do. A common example: using one vendor for certain supplies, making life easier for you and the accountants alike. Documentation of your solution requires only that someone read it before it soon becomes automatic. Review the solution occasionally just in case something new may be more effective and realize the option isn’t always workable for complex tasks.
- Coaching and feedback. This option may prove the most difficult for you, but it need not be too time-intensive. If you’re the team leader, you’ll have to do it anyway, but provide additional coaching and support to team members as necessary to help maximize their performance. Follow this up with regular feedback at least quarterly. More frequent or just in time coaching is even better but take care not to edge over the line into micromanagement.
- Communication. Make sure your coworkers hear from you frequently, whether in meetings or in normal day-to-day interaction. They can’t know you need something, or need them to do something differently, if you don’t tell them. Don’t speak when unnecessary (they’ll really appreciate this in meetings), but interact with them socially. Keep the lines of communication open and respond reasonably quickly when they contact you about work issues. You can take time with other matters.
- Express gratitude. You can do this with individual team members, your team, or the world at large. For example, you must eat anyway, so you can regularly lunch together with individual team members or the whole team (ideally on the company’s tab, if you lead the team) to help maintain your morale and your teams. One caveat here: don’t share complaints about work! Just be a friend, or directly let them know you appreciate them. On a more general level, celebrate success and call out the people who made an endeavor successful.
- Act as an example. Here’s another item requiring some effort from you and your co-workers alike, but it works best if you’re a leader; otherwise, others may resent you. At the very least, make sure you arrive at work on time and leave at a reasonable hour. Primate researchers have observed that monkeys and apes continually look to their leaders to see what they’re doing. Humans are no different. If you come in at 10 AM and head off to the golf course at 4 PM every day, people will notice and emulate you. If you stick to your regular hours and put in a solid day’s work, they’re likely to do the same (within a certain level of flexibility). They expect to work a certain number of hours daily and weekly anyway, based on the requirements of the job and company regulations. Make sure you follow them, and most people will emulate you.
Dig a Little Deeper
Although things aren’t as tense as they were during and after the Great Recession, the business world has probably gotten you used to the idea of implementing hardcore productivity initiatives. But don’t forget that noticeable performance boosts can be the result of digging just a little deeper, too. They don’t have to take that much time or effort but can still add a noticeable bump to your productivity — and maybe even more, provided you’re willing to get a little creative.
© 2020 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored eight books, including FASTER TOGETHER: Accelerating Your Team’s Productivity (Berrett-Koehler 2018). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and a member of its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at an upcoming meeting or event, call 303-471-7401 or contact us online.