How to achieve optimum team performance in your small business

When you look at your people, what do you see? A team? A set of individuals? If you’ve ever watched a Formula One team in action, you’ll see a master class in teamwork.  

Each person has a small role, but, collectively, they achieve outstanding results. How does such a team come into being? And how does it achieve such optimum team performance?

1. Who are you?

Think, first, about who makes up your team. It’s always beneficial to have a range of personalities. You need some people who will challenge you, as well as peacemakers, good communicators, logical thinkers and even those with unusual approaches. Differing personalities will naturally bring these differing strengths to your team.

No matter how different your team members are, they do need to be driven and positive. If this is not the case in your present team, it’s time to act.  It’s no use having logical thinkers who are consistently pessimistic. Take any such individuals to one side and coach them separately to help them become more positive team players and achieve optimum performance.

2. Where are you going?

Everyone benefits from being given clear direction.

A good way of setting everyone on the right track to optimum performance is to use ‘SMARTER’ objectives. These are objectives which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound and are Evaluated and then Re-evaluated. This useful mnemonic was developed from George T. Doran’s comments in Management Review (1981) and has been in popular use ever since.

Using SMARTER targets will ensure your team members are aware of their common goal as well as setting out how exactly they are to achieve it. Their work must actually be measurable. So, with its clear practical element, it’s more than just a theoretical approach.

What’s more, you should ensure that your team’s targets are clearly aligned with the company’s overall targets. Your optimum performance will be largely worthless unless it’s relevant.

3. How are you doing?

Your team will only continue to achieve optimum performance if you give clear feedback. You need to be constantly monitoring and guiding. Stepping in to give early feedback can prevent potential problems.

Your team members will also respond well to praise. Make sure you’re around to notice and comment on the positive things that are achieved.

4. Have you got everything you need?

If your people are to achieve optimum performance, they need to be equipped to do so. It’s worth taking some time to ensure everyone has the necessary tools at his/her disposal to carry out the allotted tasks. Whilst this could include the physical environment in which they work, perhaps, more importantly, it should also include consideration of other affecting factors.

Have your team members been given necessary training? What about a sufficient amount of time?

5. Now, take a break.

If you’re encouraging your team to strive for optimum performance, you would do well to note the importance of not working. Encouraging your team members to take time off avoids burn out, renews enthusiasm and can even aid retention and loyalty.

It’s important that your team members can work as a team, so arrange for them to take time away from the office. They’ll be able to learn more about the social side of their fellow team members, which will aid them in their ability to bond as a coherent team.

Achieving optimum team performance is no easy task. Characters can clash, working methods can differ and your team members can bring all sorts of challenging personality traits to the team. Your job, as leader, is to help the people in your team see themselves not as successful individual achievers, but rather as a team of achievers. In the words of American coach, Joe Paterno, “when a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellence becomes a reality”. Who wouldn’t want that?

Heather Foley is a consultant at ETS, an HR technology specialist.

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