3 Ways You Might Be Holding Back Your Team's Performance

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Whether managers like it or not, they set the tone for how their teams work. 

They are the gatekeepers to creating high performance.

The problem is, managers are in a complicated position with pressures and stakeholders coming from all angles. 

They manage:

  • up to leadership
  • across their organization
  • external customer expectations
  • within their team
  • inside themselves (their ways of thinking and being)

And this list does not even include the expectations from their personal relationships, including friends, family and community.

Adding to the pressure, we know that one of the top reasons why employees leave their companies is due to having a bad manager. In fact, 1 out of 2 people currently on the market for a new job left for this very reason. 

And, at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores can be attributed to poor management. Gallup goes so far as to say that only 1 in 10 managers actually have the talent for it. 

Combine the fact that technology, business, the workplace and career roles are constantly shifting and evolving, with a lack of useful, actionable learning and development programs, and you've got a perfect storm: ill-equipped managers leading under performing, disengaged teams. 

To put this problem into context, "bad" managers cost the U.S. economy an estimated $398 billion annually (via Gallup). Imagine the impact worldwide! 

But without solving the complex, underlying organizational issues, how can managers improve the performance of their teams? 

If you happen to be a manager, here are three ways you might be holding back your team without realizing it...and some ideas on how to improve performance.

3 Ways You Might Be Holding Back Your Team's Performance

1. You're a work martyr

Whether you're aware or not, your habits become the model for your team.

If you're stressed and overwhelmed, it's likely that this feeling will rub off.

If you're constantly running late, not getting enough sleep, frequently working late, chained to your desk, on your phone during meetings, skipping lunch, not taking your vacation, quick to emotionally react, have no friends at work...then it is likely that your team members will engage in similar behaviors. 

If you sacrifice your own wellbeing, fulfillment and relationships, then it is likely that your teammates will follow your lead. They'll sacrifice self-care, seemingly in service to their work. 

The problem is, this approach is unsustainable. The things we sacrifice in service of our work are, ironically, the very things that fuel performance: our health, happiness and security. 

Suggestion: Be a model for self-care and positive habits as a means to improve your relationships and boost your cognitive function, decision making, stamina, will-power and performance. 

Make your self-care conspicuous and encourage your team to do the same. In fact, invite them to do it with you!

2. You lack self-awareness

Creativity and speed require a sense of safety, trust and understanding. Teams waste a lot of time when people do not feel that they fully understand each other, or that they are not being heard. 

When teams lack this understanding, it reduces clarity and alignment, limits creative confidence and ability to solve problems, reduces experimentation and risk taking, slows speed, entrenches the status quo, inhibits communication and accountability, and decreases overall performance. 

Some poor, but pervasive practices to avoid include: information hoarding, exclusionary behavior, lack of communication and not providing clear expectations. 

Suggestion: Improve your own self-awareness and give your team the tools to do the same. At Habits at Work, we use the Enneagram as a tool for understanding our default behavior patterns.

Being able to understand your own emotions and behaviors can help when relating to your team. You will be better prepared to avoid miscommunication and misjudgment of the behaviors and intentions of others. 

For example, you might perceive a response as angry or snarky, when someone is simply being direct. Or, you might assume a team member is disengaged during meetings when they are actually being reflective and wish to have more time before forming their opinions.

With this clearer view, you are able to consider what you and your team need to do your best work, collectively and individually.

3. You don't connect your team's work to your organization's purpose

Clarity and alignment are critical elements for team performance. Everyone must be clear about how their work ladders up to the bigger organizational vision. 

Additionally, each individual should have a clear agreement with their peers and manager on their role in achieving this collective vision. Clearly and consistently communicating the purpose and goals of the team is crucial for success and accountability.

Suggestion: Reflect on your team's goals for the year -- if they're unclear, make some time to set them with the team's input. Have conversations around WHY these goals are important for both your team and for your organization. 

An easy way to integrate purpose into your workflow is to add a spot for your team's goals directly into your meeting agenda template. Begin every meeting by stating your organization's purpose and how your team's goals will help you achieve this purpose. Bonus points if you connect the purpose for that specific meeting to your team's larger goals. You should be able to connect everything you do as a team, including the meetings you hold, to your organization's goals. 

Even if your organization's vision or purpose is unclear or uninspiring, you can create a meaning-fueled work environment for your team. Connect with each individual to better understand their personal life and career goals. Then, help them create a plan for connecting their individual work to the team's work. When opportunities arise, give your people chances to achieve their personal goals by meaningfully contributing through their work. 

If you are a manager, think about how you can positively impact the performance of your team by:

  • prioritizing and being a visible model for self-care
  • improving your self-awareness and providing your team the tools to do the same
  • making your team's work meaningful by connecting it to your organization's goals

If you enjoyed reading this article, please share on social media so others can find it.

Also, feel free to leave a comment or reach me directly at bree@habitsatwork.com I'd love to answer any questions or continue the discussion!

Breean Miller
SVP Context Design

Helping managers future-proof their careers and teams with Context Design, habit change & storytelling.

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