To Improve Your Team’s Output, Look at it Differently

“To Improve Your Team’s Output, Look at it Differently”

Today’s guest post is by Mike Figliuolo, co-author of Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results (you can get your copy by clicking here). You can learn more about Mike and the book at the end of the post. Here’s Mike:

Why do you pay your team members? If you asked them, they might answer “You pay us to work.” If you ask an office-based worker what “work” means to them, you’ll get a list of typical workday activities. They read and write emails. They write reports. They go to meetings and attend conference calls. Those activities that sound appropriate enough, but they don’t give a complete picture of what “work” means to you.

There are two different definitions of “work” in the dictionary. Your team members likely subscribe to the one that defines “work” as “mental or physical activity as a means of earning income; employment.” Given you’re responsible for your team achieving its goals, you probably lean toward the other one which defines “work” as “activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.”

The two definitions are similar in that they revolve around physical or mental activity but they differ significantly on the purpose of the work. The implication here is you must hold your team members accountable for the results they achieve – not the activities they perform. That accountability contributes to the collective results your team delivers. Activities your team members think of as “work” are the inputs that go into getting the real outcome you desire – results that lead you to achieve your goals. Those are the outcomes to assess when placing team members on the Leadership Matrix.

Assessing the Output of Your Team Members

The output question leaders need to focus on is “are my team members producing the results I need given all the investments – pay, equipment, supplies, my time and energy – I’m making in them?” Assess each team member’s output – results that contribute to your team goals. To conduct this assessment, you’ll evaluate five elements of team member output:

What is the quantity of results compared to what is expected or asked of them?

How is the quality of their final work versus what is expected?

How timely is the work they deliver versus expected deadlines or durations?

To what degree do they improve morale in their immediate team?
To what extent do they improve relationships with stakeholders and colleagues outside their immediate team?

By understanding the results someone delivers at a level deeper than the easily measured numbers, you’ll have a sense not only for what they’re delivering but also how they’re delivering it. That new look at the “how” of their results will help you coach and develop them more effectively.

If you’d like to assess your team members and see where they plot on the Leadership Matrix, take our simple assessment. It will give you a sense for not only the results you get from them but what your investment of time and energy is as their leader. That combined picture will give you a much clearer approach to getting the best out of the members of your team.

Mike Figliuolo is the co-author of Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results and the author of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership. He’s the managing director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC – a leadership development training firm. He regularly writes about leadership on the thoughtLEADERS Blog.


5 Ways Team Building Activities can Benefit Your Company


“Remember upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.”

~ Alexander the Great ~

During the past few decades, corporations have changed the environments of their workplace; they have switched from a very competitive environment to a cooperative one. Why would they want to do this? Competition sparks motivation, which means more productivity, right?

This may very well be true; however, the benefits of having a cooperative work environment outshine those of a competitive one any day.

A cooperative work environment leaves room for team building activities and personal effectiveness. In return, team building activities lead to many amazing changes at the office.

1. Increases Creativity

Often times, employees are stuck in a groove where they perform the same type of tasks in the same manner from week to week. These actions allow for little to no creativity because they create a cycle where the employee feels stuck.

Team building activities have the ability to change this because they remove employees from their regular day-to-day tasks by giving them a not-so-ordinary project, which gives them the ability to use their imagination to find a solution.

In the end, team building activities show employees that creativity is welcome at the office. Letting employees know that creativity is not only welcomed but also encouraged at work should be a goal for employers because creativity can lead to innovation, which leads to higher productivity.

2. Team Building Activities Will Boost Employee Engagement

Communicate is key to success. If you want to have a successful relationship with your family, significant other, or friends, you need to foster communication with them and the same goes for a successful workplace.

Moreover, team building activities lead to employee engagement, which leads to increased productivity. Employee engagement and effective communication go hand-in-hand. Those who feel like they can communicate effectively with their co-workers will be more likely to promote employee engagement.

Often times, firms experience the opposite of this and the result is catastrophic; co-workers end up working against each other, which puts the company in jeopardy. However, when paired into teams, co-workers work together to reach the same goals.

3. Increase Profits

The end goal for a company is to make profits, right? Most likely the answer to that question is yes; however, if a company solely focuses on that aspect, they will be destined to fall apart. Instead, firms can focus on employee satisfaction and their happiness.

When firms focus on activities that promote employee satisfaction and engagement, they are more likely to have a smaller employee turnover. Having a high employee turnover is bad news for a company; it means that they are losing thousands of dollars in recruiting and training and it also means that their employees are unhappy.

Employees are more focused on productivity when they are satisfied with their work environment. Therefore, it is key to ensure a creative and healthy company culture that promotes effective communication through team building activities.

What Are Your Thoughts?

There are tons of other reasons why team building activities benefit companies. Can you name a few? Leave your suggestions and questions in the comment section below!

Jeffrey Fermin is Officevibe’s cofounder and is in charge of all marketing efforts and business development for the company.

Image courtesy of ratch /

Team Decision Making:
Tips for Better Career Decisions

Team Meeting

“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”

~Peter F. Drucker~

Being a business leader in today’s climate means more than managing the day to day operations of your unit or enterprise, it means understanding how to get the most out your human capital while acknowledging your limited resources. This means taking on the responsibility of looking out for your team and owning up to them when you need their help. Doing this is harder than it may seem, as people do not automatically trust and respect their leaders, but instead need to build a trust and rapport that allows them to understand why you may be turning to them on an issue. The more you do it, though, the better the results.

Many managers (but few leaders) believe that making quick binding decisions is the essence of being a successful leader. This is of course not true. It is imperative for the leader to be able to assess situations quickly, know whether they have adequate information, and make a decision. The key of course in that statement is knowing whether they have enough information.

Team Decision Making
The key considerations in decision making are assessing the time available to make the decision, reviewing the information that has been provided and determining if you are the best person to make a decision. In considering the last point many managers want to push the decision up to their executive team but few consider looking back to the expertise of their own staff.

There are many benefits to taking decisions back to your team. Some of the key benefits include increased engagement of staff, consensus decisions that when implemented already have buy-in from the staff that do the work, and finally and most importantly: better decisions.

If your work unit has been tasked with developing a new marketing strategy, you can ask staff to provide you with all the reports and data and you can make a decision about what you think is the best way to market the business or product. On the other hand you can gather everyone together that provided the information and make a decision together. Often leaders find that while a data set may show information that would lead you to make one decision, a conversation among staff about the decision may provide new insight that will move you in a different direction.

Using the marketing strategy for a product as an example, sales data may show that there is increasing demand for the type of product you are selling. However, you may have a separate staff person that has looked at demographics and they may show positive growth in the age range of the target market but notice that the geographic target of the marketing campaign may be directed at an area that does not match the demographics.

This is not a universal solution for all decisions and a good leader can assess which decisions can be done by consensus, which require a group discussion with the leader making the final decision, and which must be made by the leader alone. A further thought on this is that as stated the leader must take the timelines of a decision into consideration. Consensus decision-making may make better decisions some of the time but they take longer as people must be informed on the issue and then come together to discuss it.

Team Dynamics and Engagement
A leader that is new to a work unit or team cannot start making consensus decisions immediately. The cement that lets it work is trust. The leader has to trust that their team is capable of working together to create a better decision than the leader would have on their own. Conversely the team needs to trust the leader and their workmates enough that they feel that they can express their opinion without retribution or condescension.

The situation that this presents is a little bit like the chicken and the egg but the new leader can foster the environment and inform themselves of issues as they begin to work in this way. Start out with easy decisions that have smaller impact and move up from there. Reward people that speak their mind (so long as they have evidence to back it up) and discourage those that try and close down a conversation if they disagree. A good tactic here is when someone disagrees, ask them to lay out their key concerns and tell why they are relevant to the discussions. This brings them into the discussion and makes those that want to express themselves feel supported by the leader.

Generally, the end result of continuous use of this form of decision making is increased engagement in work and increased trust both within the unit and more importantly between staff and the leader. As most leaders know, with an engaged workforce that trusts their leadership, productivity will increase and staff turnover will decrease. Not bad outcomes for just making room for a little conversation. 

Author: Georgina Stamp works in the interim management industry for Marble Hill Partners. Georgina understands that business leaders have important decisions to make and harnessing the knowledge of your team is part of the role.

Image courtesy of Monkey Business /

Trust Me
How You Can Build Trust in a Non-Trusting Environment

“Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people. But it takes time and patience.”

~ Stephen R. Covey ~

Client Rebecca Asks:  I’m fairly new here and my company seems to rank pretty low on the trust scale. I want to create a more open, trusting environment where my people feel free to share and grow. How can I use your executive coaching tools to work around my corporate culture without making waves?

Coach Joel Answers:  Executive coaching and the work we do together can give you the tools you need create the environment you want, regardless of your company’s philosophy or operating style. So let’s talk about what trust actually looks like and the tools you can use to build it within your own team. Here are four key trust factors that I’d recommend putting at the top of your list:

  1. Be consistent
  2. Show respect
  3. Create transparency
  4. Have their back

1. Be consistent. Why is consistency important?  Sometimes people associate consistency with someone who’s a plodder, boring or lacking initiative. I see it differently in the corporate environment. When you’re trying to build trust, it’s letting people know where you’re coming from, reassuring them that you’re not going to change your mind about key issues and assignments without warning. Your people will produce their best work when they know you’re giving them guidance without restricting their initiative or creativity. .

2. Show respect.  A lot of managers, especially those who are relatively new on the job, are anxious to get the respect of their team. But you have to give before you get. There are many small ways you can show respect for your people. Ask their opinion about projects and work assignments. Show respect for their time. Start and end meetings on time. Keep appointments and don’t cancel at the last minute unless it’s an emergency. Respond promptly to their emails and phone calls.

3. Create transparency. In a lot of companies where the overall trust level is low, people feel left out of the process. You can start to reverse this trend by being open and honest about decisions. Open communication is a powerful tool. Don’t just tell people when a decision has been made; show them what’s behind it. Share the big picture so people know about company as well as departmental goals and objectives. Unless facts and figures are confidential, share them with your people on a regular basis. Above all, avoid having a hidden agenda.

4. Have their back. People need to know that you have their best interests at heart. Make a list of your key people and, at least once a week, ask them how things are going. Then really listen to their answers and engage in a dialog. Speak up for your people in meetings. Be their advocate. Give public credit for good ideas within your department and promote their ideas to company leaders whenever you can.

An environment without trust is an environment with poor motivation, low productivity, and high turnover. By using these four coaching tools, you can build a strong team and create a workplace where your people feel valued and challenged to do their best.

Is your workplace missing the all-important trust factor? To jump-start your own action plan, begin creating these 4 steps immediately. If you have any questions, please contact Joel.

Talkback:  What have you done to build trust in your work group? What advice would you give someone whose company environment was low on the trust scale? Share your ideas here.

Image courtesy of Ambro /

How Can I Keep My Employees Motivated
in a Bad Economy?

Sticky Note

“In motivating people, you’ve got to engage their minds and their hearts. I motivate people, I hope, by example—and perhaps by excitement, by having productive ideas to make others feel involved.”

~ Rupert Murdoch ~

Client Jennifer asks: My employees are spending a lot of time worrying about cutbacks in staff, salaries, benefits, even working hours. I’m afraid we’re losing our edge. How can I keep my employees motivated in a bad economy?

Coach Joel answers: This may seem challenging when you are facing negative circumstances that are beyond your control. However, it can also be an opportunity for some serious team building, a chance to take your team to the next level. Here are three steps you could take right now.

  • Clear the air
  • Start something new
  • Build on success

1. Clear the air.

Whenever a whole group starts to lose its edge, you first need to acknowledge the reality. Have an all-hands talk session and encourage people to share their concerns. Make this meeting informal, and not a part of a staff meeting or other department function. The sole purpose is to let people say what’s on their minds.

If people have lost friends and co-workers due to cutbacks and layoffs, one of two things is happening: either your employees are living in fear that the next pink slip will be theirs; or they have survivor’s guilt because they still have a job. Combine this with the fact that you as a manager are being asked to do more with less, and you have a real challenge.

Listen to what your people have to say. Acknowledge that you are all under pressure. Guide the discussion, however, and don’t let it degenerate into a gripe session.

2. Start something new.

Once everyone has had a chance to air their feelings, take on a new project. This can be as simple as cleaning out the storage room, or as complex as creating a new ad campaign. Ask for suggestions from the group about some idea or project that’s been languishing on the back burner.

Rather than assigning roles, let people do what they do best. Ask for volunteers and suggestions from the group. As one of the country’s leading modern motivational speakers, I talk to managers every day who struggle to stay in control—of their departments, their projects, and their people. The secret is to let them take back some control. When the external environment is out of control, people need to feel that they still have some power over their own lives. This is your chance to give it to them.

3. Build on success.

There’s no such thing as too much acknowledgement. Chart the team’s progress and give plenty of public and private praise. Make sure the project has a timeline and a target completion date. When it’s finished, celebrate and provide a tangible reward, even if it’s as simple as a pizza party or movie tickets. Let everyone enjoy the feeling of success, and then build on that success by repeating the process we’ve outlined here whenever it’s appropriate.

When times are tough, someone who understands team building and intrapersonal relationships may be able to give your team a jump start. A good coach can help you design a program that meets your specific needs. Contact Joel for more information.

Talkback: Is your team pulling together right now? Have you tried some motivational tactics that worked for you? Leave your comments here, or ask Joel a question for a future Q & A with Joel.