Manager or motivator? How to build a high-performing team

Wednesday, December 9, 2015 - 15:15

It's become a core goal for organisations: improve the performance of each and every team within the company. It falls on managers and HR professionals to understand the challenges companies are facing and develop a strategy to help staff reach their peak.

Employees are also looking out for these qualities in their managers. A survey from Robert Half earlier this year found that the most desirable quality in a manager is that they can motivate and inspire staff to perform higher.

Motivating staff to perform is about much more than just carrots and sticks.

With so much riding on how well managers can help staff to boost their performance, the question remains: what concrete strategies can companies pursue to build a high-performing team? Here are three of the most effective approaches.

1) Build a culture where teamwork benefits other employees

Motivating staff to perform is about much more than just developing the carrots and sticks that will push them further. It's also about looking at the team environment and how this can support staff performance.

This was underscored by a recent US study from the University of Notre Dame. The researchers found that workers reached their greatest performance when their work created a benefit for their team. According to the study's authors, this motivation to perform was highest when also combined with work that was inherently interdependent and where they relied heavily on other team members.

For managers and HR professionals, this research suggests that the answer to building a high-performing team is to focus on spreading projects across a team so they share in the motivation to succeed.

2) Expand the leadership knowledge of key managers

While building an interdependent team is one way to boost performance, staff training courses also have a useful role to play.

Any training initiative for managers will need to start with benchmarking the capabilities of your organisation against comparable businesses. This information can then help you develop a targeted training program that addresses any skill gaps among employees.

3) Walking the walk, talking the talk

Last, but not least, managers within a business can't simply act the part, they also have to communicate in a way that engages and motivates their staff.

This can be as simple as the words managers and business leaders choose to use. Research published in the March 2015 issue of the Harvard Business Review found that effective managers and leaders were more likely to use the pronoun 'we' rather than 'I' when they spoke. The authors suggested this small shift changed the perspective of the speaker to make them more focussed on others and more purposeful, rather than thinking about themselves.

Finding the formula of high performance

There's no one silver bullet for building a high-performing team. For many organisations, it will require a considerable investment in managers and their HR processes over an extended period of time. However, the reward for companies that can get this right will likely be a considerable boost to their performance across the board and a more engaged body of workers and managers.