If managing your team is like trying to teach cats how to push string, then you need a new approach. Confused workers, sloppy processes, poor work and low morale are not just the fault of your team members; they are signs that you could do a better job managing.
As a leader, there are all kinds of ways you can improve your team’s performance. However, if their productivity is lacking, your results as a leader will be lacking, too. That’s why improving your team’s productivity must be your greatest priority. Simply put, when your team becomes more productive, the results of your other efforts will multiply.
1. Clearly define your expectations.
Before you can leverage any other ways to improve your team’s productivity, you absolutely must make your expectations clear. When employee expectations go awry, the ramifications can be numerous and extreme.
Certain team members may be falling short of their productivity goals simply because they don’t know what those goals are. Don’t assume they do. Instead, be as specific as possible about what they’re expected to do, from daily to monthly goals. The important thing is that these goals come with objective descriptions.
Review these things with each staff member so they can ask questions. Then, when you have a final document that outlines what they need to do, have them sign it.
2. Create standard processes for projects.
Project processes are important investments in your team’s productivity. You don’t want people reinventing the wheel every time they take on a new project. This isn’t just inefficient; it also increases the likelihood that the project won’t be successful.
Create templates for your team’s regular projects. Details here are extremely important. You want to eliminate opportunities for a staff member to introduce any amount of variability.
While you need definite processes, it’s also wise to accept suggestions for refining them. This will ensure they continue to improve as time goes on.
Related: 5 Practices of Exemplary Leadership
3. Learn each staff member’s skill set.
Everyone is different, which means no two people have the exact same strengths and weaknesses. Instead of treating every employee the same, structure your team’s workload so it makes the most of these different skills.
You’ll have an easier time increasing productivity if you learn everyone’s skill set. You can simply ask people what their strengths are to get a good idea, but don’t forget to go over their past work history, too. Someone might think they’re great at sales, but their performance begs to differ. Speaking with their supervisors will also help; they’ll be intimately aware of where an employee succeeds and where they struggle.
Pierre Gurdjian and Oliver Triebel of McKinsey & Company recommend skill gap surveys. This means allowing employees to give feedback about their skill gaps and those of their peers. These surveys also give them an opportunity to rate their team’s skills as a whole and where it puts them in relation to what it will take to accomplish their goals.
4. Show your appreciation.
Employee recognition is important. The Harvard Business Review even calls it the single “simplest way to improve morale.”
No one likes to feel as though their efforts are going unnoticed, but employee recognition goes beyond that. An employee who knows they’re valued will also feel more secure with your company and more motivated to work hard for it.
The more productive your team is, the better your company is going to be. If your team is underperforming, make sure they know what your expectations are, create and improve standard processes, make sure you are leveraging your team members’ strengths instead of weaknesses, and always show your appreciation for good work. As a leader, you’ll find that a more productive team is easier to manage and produces greater results.
Megan Totka is the chief editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. Chamber specializes in helping small businesses grow their business on the web while facilitating the connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.
As a small-business expert, Megan specializes in reporting the latest business news, helpful tips and reliable resources, as well as providing small-business advice. She has significant experience with the topic of small-business growth, and has spent several years exploring topics like productivity, marketing and entrepreneurship.