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Improving Team Performance

I recently read a blog post from Kevin Graff, a great speaker and coach. He was talking about 6 great tips to improve your team's performance. This goes along with the Organizational Health focus we have in the crosshairs for HTG. It is important that we focus on getting our company's healthy. And that means really one thing, and only one thing - that we focus on the people. You see, companies are made up of people. Nothing more, nothing less. Without them, there is no company. Without them, we won't have to worry about organizational health because there will be no organization.

As we prepare to move into 2013, it is important that we begin to understand the keys that help us get healthy. Lencioni says it is about four key things:

1.  Build a cohesive leadership team

2.  Create clarity

3.  Over communicate clarity

4.  Reinforce clarity

And as I've worked with dozens of companies the past few years, there are five key areas that we must focus on to be sure we cover all the important bases in our company.

1.  Ownership

2.  Leadership

3.  Management

4.  Teams

5.  Individuals

Far too many organizations spend all their time on the middle one - management. That is where the chaos takes place. That is where the noise comes from. That is what many seminars and speakers focus on. But there is far more that is required to have an organization that is healthy. It has to be holistic and there must be someone or somebody that is paying attention to each and every one of these areas. It is critical - failure to do so can not only impact the company today, but its legacy as well. This stuff matters!

So here are 6 tips for helping drive a team's performance. It is a great little check list that focuses on the teams/individual layers that we need to pay attention to. I've added my color commentary to the six points made.

1.  Set clear expectations about performance and behavior, and never let anyone forget about those expectations. Reinforce them in every decision you make and everything you do. This means clear job descriptions (individuals) and KPI's (teams) so there is never any surprises in how they are performing. An employee or team should never be surprised at their review. People want feedback - often and truthful - so they know if they are meeting expectations. That is something we owe each person who works for us - the way they will be measured for success and how they are doing on that journey.

2.  Give your staff the ongoing training they need to be successful. Surveys show that as many as 80% of employees state they have not been given the training they need to do the job they've been given. They're being set up for failure...and it's not their fault. We need to create career and training roadmaps for each person on our staff so they know what they can look forward to in their career, and also what investment we will make to train them for success. That also will require them to make some commitments to learning and growing as they are trained.

3.  Give them opportunities to grow, to earn more, and be recognized for their efforts. Everyone loves to have their name mentioned in a meeting or in the company newsletter. Help people grow and succeed, and then tell the world, and especially the team about that success. You need to be the cheerleader for your people. Be their PR agent and let those in your patch know how well they are doing. Find ways to recognize and reward them. Money can be one motivator, but often other things, particularly time off for family and friends, carries more weight. Each person is motivated differently so understand your people and encourage them that way.

4.  Spend more time talking with, mentoring and coaching them. It's tough to feel engaged in the business when you feel isolated from your boss. People don't work for companies...they work for people. And they will work for a long time if they are able to spend time with the leaders they are following. Find ways to come alongside them in their work roles and offer ideas and suggestions on things they should read or learn. Be quick to suggest ideas from your experience about not only their job at work, but the other things they are involved with like marriage, family and the community. Invest time - that is the key to making a difference with people.

5.  Truly involve your team in your business. They know stuff, and they hate it when you don't ask. Good people want to know how the business is doing and that they make a difference. Share results regularly. Many are cautious about open book management, but my experience is that the more transparent we are, the better it is for our company. It requires that we train them on what the numbers mean as we share them because most don't truly understand. But that makes them better employees and enables them with information to help us achieve the company goals openly and together.

6.  Raise the bar on performance and applaud as people step up. Don't just keep raising the bar and expecting more without giving credit where it is due. Too often we just expect things, and we don't take time to say thank you. Even worse, we don't stop and celebrate the big wins but just move on to the next thing. Are you continually pushing your team without any effort to say thanks and celebrate the success they bring. We have to change how we lead - and part of that is to set the example of celebrating the wins!

It's all about the people.  Focus on them.  Take care of them.  And they will serve you well.  Happy Thanksgiving!

About the Author

Arlin Sorensen serves as the CEO and Founder of the Heartland Companies which includes HTG Peer Groups. When he is not traveling to speak and consult, he is home on his farm in Iowa with his wife Nancy. He is a proud “Pop” to four precocious grandchildren who serve as daily reminders of why he is intentionally living to leave a strong legacy of faith and integrity. He loves making a difference in the lives and businesses of small business owners. You can reach him at or on Twitter @asorensen.

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