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6 Ways to Improve Team Effectiveness and Performance

If you’re a leader in your organization, you likely spend a lot of time trying to come up with or implement ways to improve team performance or team effectiveness.

Team improvement ideas abound, but we think we have some valuable suggestions based on proven tools such as The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™ and Everything DiSC® that can help you and your team maximize your potential to achieve the results you need.

Teacher helping a young student with an assignment on the computer, possibly learning ways to improve team effectiveness.

Defining Your Goals: Set the Action Plan for Improving Team Effectiveness

As a leader, establishing and clearly defining what success will look like for a given project is of paramount importance. Second to that is successfully communicating the idea of success you’ve developed to your team in a way that clarifies both goals and expectations.

When the members of an effective team know what is expected of them, they are much more likely to perform to their full potential. When that understanding spreads across the team, you have set yourself on the path to success.

Setting the Stage for Effectiveness: Clarifying Goals, Roles, and Responsibilities

Your next step is to determine who’s responsible for what tasks and responsibilities. Some of those duties will be decided by the team leader, and some will need to be decided as a group.

When fleshing out tasks and roles, everyone is going to need an established foundation of trust and understanding that will allow your team to engage in healthy conflict and help you assign work to be done.

Spirited discussion, or at least the opportunity for everyone to feel they have been given the opportunity to weigh in, is necessary to ensure everyone buys into the project. In order to buy in, those who have to produce the work need to know that everyone is on the same page and is behaving in the organization’s best interests.

This foundation, which is based on The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team, will foster a positive environment that is more immune to many of common workplace distractions:

  • Jealousy
  • Claims of unfairness
  • Gossip
  • Skepticism
  • Interpersonal conflicts over territory
  • Fear of personal attack

The increase in engagement you’ll get from teammates who trust each other and have honestly bought in will set the wheels in motion for greater productivity and creativity, which leads to increases in both quantity and quality of work produced — a win for everyone.

Recognize When It’s Good Enough to Start: Productivity Requires Action

Once everyone knows what the project is trying to accomplish, what success looks like, and what everyone’s roles are, strike while the iron is hot.

Going back again and again to further clarify or give ever greater detail can, in some cases, drastically reduce people’s ability to utilize their training, creativity, and other natural attributes (which are likely the reasons you hired them in the first place).

Hesitation and doubt can cripple an individual or team, and too much planning or too great a delay between decision and implementation can lead to insecurity and paralysis.

It’s time to have faith in your team and the process.

Conduct Meetings With a Clear Objective in Mind

It’s important to remember that meetings cost resources: time, money, and energy. Meetings can propel a team forward, or they can distract from the primary objective of getting the work done. Unfortunately, too many organizations fall into the second category.

Be specific about what needs to be accomplished during this valuable time. Whatever type of work your organization does, it’s likely that time in meetings is time away from getting the actual work done.

Remember to allow for a healthy exchange of ideas and necessary conflict, but keep it directly related to the goal of the meeting.

Place time limits to keep everyone focused on accomplishing the meeting objective. Side conversations and offshoots can be taken care of in email exchanges, quick one-on-one conversations, or at the coffee station.

Exchanging Feedback Fosters Accountability

Communication allows everyone to know where everyone else is at in terms of fulfilling their responsibilities, and that provides a serious layer of accountability. Valuable employees don’t want to be the person holding the team back.

Sufficient feedback from the boss and from other team members also allows for course correction if any one task or role has gotten out of sync with the others, saving valuable time and resources before things go awry.

(When it comes to giving feedback and holding each other accountable, understanding each other’s personality style is helpful — read about personality styles here.)

Guide Without Micromanaging: Don’t Get in the Way of Your Team’s Effectiveness

As the leader, it can be tough to not interject yourself too much and begin micromanaging teams and individuals as they produce the work their duties and roles require.

A little advice or course correction could go a long way, but too many starts and stops that focus on tiny details can break momentum and cause people to become hesitant and overly cautious.

In simpler terms, an excessive amount of direct involvement by the leader can gum up the gears of production and stifle the creativity and inspiration your amazing team members bring to the table. (Again, that’s why you have them on the team.) Be judicious with your direct involvement, so that it has the necessary impact needed to enhance your team’s performance, but doesn’t become counterproductive.

There are dozens of tricks, tips, and hacks out there, but focus on the big things that matter most and make an overall difference. In other words, focus on the overall mission, and let your teams work out the smaller details.

Practicing the judicious use of your involvement will require some patience and a willingness to lean on the foundation of The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team that you’ve established:

  • Vulnerability-based trust
  • Your team’s buy in or investment in the direction of the project
  • Team members’ ability to hold each other accountable.

You’ve crafted and invested in this foundation of effective team behaviors. Now it’s time to let the process work for you and pay dividends.

Monitor Your Team’s Communication

One way you can utilize your role as the boss to impact productivity is to monitor the communication between teams and amongst the individuals on a team.

If you want to measure your team’s effectiveness, you should be:

  • Measuring interactions
  • Observing conflict
  • Demonstrating understanding

(Click here to learn more about measuring team effectiveness.)

Providing coaching or support in areas of communication that need improvement will result in increased employee engagement, meaning that:

  • Work gets done with fewer unnecessary interpersonal interruptions
  • Team efficiency improves
  • Quality goes up
  • Absenteeism and turnover goes down

Learn More About Ways to Improve Team Performance Through Superior Engagement

Leaders are always coming up with ideas and strategies to improve team performance.

At Integris, we’re confident these suggestions can help you get the most from your team’s potential. Your team is filled with talented individuals who can produce amazing work when allowed to engage fully and given proper guidance.

Learn more about how to improve your team’s performance in our comprehensive guide on the subject — click to get started.

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Brett Cooper

Brett is the visionary President of Integris Performance Advisors, a professional development firm he co-founded to expand the existence of healthy organizations and great places to work. By creatively bringing together concepts from The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (by Patrick Lencioni), The Leadership Challenge (by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner), and Lean Six Sigma, Brett and his team have influenced thousands of people in government, non-profits and corporate America to work together in more productive, more effective and more human ways. Outside of his role at Integris, Brett dedicates time to serving others in need. He is a volunteer coordinator for the East Bay Stand Down and Stand Down on the Delta, two non-profits serving the needs of San Francisco’s homeless Veteran population. He is also board member and financial sponsor for Partners in Sustainable Learning, whose mission is to bring early childhood education to marginalized communities in the developing world (current projects are underway in Nepal).