A winning team is easy to spot — it’s something about the way they get along with each other, the swagger they carry and the way they go about their business. But you can also spot a team that isn’t winning much. There’s bickering and infighting, dissatisfaction is everywhere, and most people are just surviving, out for themselves.
It’s a leader’s job to turn that around. Here are 10 things we can put into practice to keep our winning teams winning and turn around those teams in a decline.
- Get alignment. You, as the leader, need to make sure everyone on the team has goals that are aligned with the organization’s. Communicating any change for the organization’s directional course, focus, or priorities is also something you need to be able to articulate and communicate quickly and clearly. Monitor progress and make sure everyone arrives at the same place at the same time.
- Conduct employee performance reviews more than annually. Yes, some people still do them once per year, and some people do them, uh, never. But more frequent review sessions give the team member a chance to talk about what they’re doing well, gaps in performance, competency improvements, and so on. It also allows the leader some teaching moments with lower performers, giving them more chances to improve their skills and help the team.
- Provide ongoing feedback to maximize performance. Giving feedback is the one skill every leader needs to improve. It’s not something we do well. Giving feedback should happen daily, with plenty of interaction. Waiting to give feedback — even in more frequent performance reviews — is not enough. Feedback needs to happen in real-time “game situations” to let the team member know you’re listening, watching, and helping them get better.
- Invest in performance improvement and development. Yes, here’s my plug for people development. It’s like taking the right supplements with your diet; it helps in ways you cannot imagine before you try it. Investing in people development will help improve performance, increase awareness, build trust, and reinforce confidence.
- Identify and reward high performing employees. If you don’t clearly identify and reward someone who’s hitting the mark or going past it, what’s the incentive to grow? Also, knowing and being able to clearly identify who your high performing team members are is critical. These are the performers you can’t afford to lose as long as they’re living out your team values and hitting the marks. If they’re hitting the marks and not living the values, you can’t afford to keep them.
- Have a succession plan. It’s a fact: you will lose people. You must be able to replace critical people at all times. A vacant spot on your team, which represented essential skills, creates a gap that will cripple your organization. Keeping a talent pool freshly stocked and trained is an activity too many leaders avoid.
- Balance effectiveness and efficiency. Endeavor to balance the right things with doing things right — by that I mean make sure that you’re not very efficiently doing the wrong things. Start with making sure you’re doing the right things at the right time, and then focus on doing them as efficiently as possible.
- Tap into your most passionate team members. It’s too easy to forget about the people who consistently make things happen behind the scenes because they care and love what they do. Take the focus off the complainers and critics. Give these balls of energy the opportunity to release their passion.
- Practice amnesia on things you can’t control. Be an example of quickly putting things that are out of your control out of your mind. It’s frustrating for you and drains all the energy out of your team when you continually focus on issues you can’t affect. When something like this comes along, practice telling yourself, “NEXT!”
- Deal with negative people in private. Do not expose the whole team to corrective feedback when just one or two people are the culprits. The rest of your team will know you dealt with it and they will appreciate how you did it. We’re all subject to negativity at times and would like to be dealt with in the same manner: in private, not in public.
Tony Richards is an organizational and executive development expert and CEO of Clear Vision Development Group, a leadership and strategy firm in Columbia, Missouri. He is one of Inc. magazine’s top 100 leadership speakers and thinkers. His firm’s website is www.clearvisiondevelopment.com. Follow Tony on Twitter @tonyrichards4.