I often hear my clients complain about how some of the people on their team, who still meet their goals, do not want to go above and beyond the call of duty. How do I raise the bar, they ask me, so team members rise to the occasion and achieve amazing goals?
Fortunately, when we raise the bar most team members will rise to the new expectations and standards. Unfortunately, you may still have people who only want to do the bare minimum. Both attitudes are normal and completely understandable. Keep the first group challenged, motivated, and properly rewarded. Apply the 80/20 rule: invest 80% of your time in developing the 20% of the team that continuously rises to the occasion.
When we look for people to be part of our team, we want to confirm that they already have that internal desire and mindset of wanting to excel, learn, and experiment beyond the minimum requirements.
Be mindful of the disconnect that exists in some people between what they say and what they do. For example, someone may say how they are a team player and care about others’ success but rarely praises or gives credit to other teammates.
At the same time, there may be people (especially if they are starting their careers) who have the internal drive to do more but they do not know where to start, or are not clear on the expectations.
Here are four suggestions on how to bring everyone up as you raise the bar for team’s performance and standards of excellence.
1) Clearly communicate new expectations
Excellent communication equals excellent results.
This is especially important if you are leading a new team – they are new to you, you are new to them, or both. It is possible that the prior leader had different expectations and the team is still operating in the inertia of prior management.
If certain tasks need to be completed by the end of the month, define what ‘completed’ means (unless is extremely obvious): minimum requirements on content, where the information will be stored, who needs to be communicated, if approvals are needed, etc.
Also, take the opportunity to assess prior and new expectations. Are you pushing for something that is not important to the role and it is more your personal preference? Do you need to remove prior goals because they are no longer relevant?
Remember communicating involves listening too. Listen to your teammates. They may have insights that can completely renovate a project or shed light on potential obstacles you have overlooked.
2) Discover each team member motivations
Each person is motivated by different things. Some people want money above anything else. Others want to be recognized by their colleagues and/or clients. Some like the glitter their jobs provide such as being at public events, entertaining clients, etc.
Understanding this will give you leverage, when needed, to motivate people to perform the still important and less appealing (to them) tasks. You may want to consider if certain assignments could be centralized and allocated according to people’s strengths and preferences.
Let us imagine that by the end of the month, everyone has to prepare a report with their sales, expenses, leads, etc. Some people would be great at doing this and would enjoy it, and some would simply hate it. Is there an opportunity to reshuffle responsibilities and have one or two people with the skills and preference to create the reports for the entire group?
3) Define roles and responsibilities
Accountability is responsibility for the fulfillment of obligations including how we perform those obligations (e.g., by force or by influence, by individual effort or collaboration, etc.).
In high performing teams, each member has clarity on his/her role and tasks in a specific project. They hold themselves accountable for their part as well as ensure that each person executes their job with the highest standards.
Ask; do not assume you know the answers.
When people on my team did not complete something specific that they had agreed on, I asked about obstacles, their level of knowledge, etc. At times, there was a lack of understanding and once this was solved, all worked well. On occasion, we realized the task at hand was not that important anymore. Most of the time, the person in question was more than happy to find ways to perform the work more effectively.
Another important aspect is to articulate the consequences.
Be clear on requirements, how much or little flexibility people have on completing a task, due dates, and what could happen if expectations are not met. Could an external party fine the company? Would we create a poor customer experience?
4) Create an environment of innovation
Being creative means thinking outside the box and generating ideas that freshen up the ambiance of the workplace as well as combining elements in novel ways.
Innovation is not only beneficial for team bonding but also amplifies productivity. Boredom leads to unproductive tendencies where an individual would either procrastinate or invest their energy in ventures that do not benefit the team’s or company’s end goal.
The word innovation tends to convey images of the iPhone when it first came out, or NASA, or the Marvel movies. If your team gets those results, awesome!
Innovation means introducing something new. It could be something as simple as rearranging the steps of a process from sequential to parallel. Or having two short huddles with your team instead of a long team meeting every week.
Once you set the expectations, vision, and goals, allow people to figure out how to achieve those results. People will surprise you with their ingenuity. And when they combine their creativity, the results can be quite extraordinary.
One more thing before you go
Trust the process that when you raise the bar towards excellence, the members of the team will rise to the occasion. Most people want to realize and fulfill their potential. We have an inner compass set to guide us to self-actualization, the dynamic process of persistently trying to do our best and to improve ourselves in general.
Setting, and communicating, clear expectations is key. Many times, we make the mistake of assuming other people know what we want. As of the time of this article, humanity has not found a way to read someone else’s mind. What is obvious or easy to you, may not be for someone else. Of course, communication goes both ways. Listening is important to understand people’s motivations, receive feedback, and bond.
Having space for innovation and creativity makes projects and tasks less boring. Remember that boredom is in the eye of the beholder so distribute the assignments within a project accordingly. If you allow people to find “the how” (create the path toward the goal), they will amaze you with the results.
Last but not least, hold ourselves and each other accountable. This is linked to communication – do what you say and when obstacles appear, talk about them, find solutions without making excuses. Teams with high work ethic intrinsically know that when their teammates succeed, they succeed as well.
How do you go about raising the bar at work? Please, let us know in the comments.
As a leadership coach, I enable talent to achieve bold goals with high standards. My mission is to empower underrepresented women in the financial industry transition from mid to senior level leadership positions using mental fitness to achieve peak performance, peace of mind, and healthier relationships.