How do you build the most effective team possible? Here's the big secret: It’s not always about the amount of time worked. At the end of the day, no amount of overtime will make up for stressed-out team members with low morale who are making mistakes and performing poorly.
Investing more time alone is the wrong way to go about maximizing efficacy. Below, we’ll show you some of the right ways to help your team do more with less time — and less stress.
Improving performance starts and ends with expectations and milestones.
Let’s start with the expectations, which should be communicated clearly right from the start. What can happen without clear expectations? It’s our nature to make things as easy on ourselves as possible, so team members are likely to start cutting corners without expectations — not maliciously, but because they lack guidelines. Give everyone a guidepost to keep your whole team on track.
Next comes goals. If you’re keeping your team on track, these are the endpoints you’re aiming for. Creating milestones and performance goals gives everyone concrete targets, which you can use to measure success over time. Without those targets, large projects might feel like there is no end in sight — and that loss of morale can negatively impact performance.
While you can create goals and set milestones on any timeframe, quarterly goals tend to work well for most organizations and departments. And what should those goals look like? These are the medium-term items (not the tasks that need to be done weekly or monthly, or the big year-end goals). Some examples include:
For a long time, managers viewed the ability to multitask as a good thing — but that viewpoint is finally starting to shift. Most of us now realize that multitasking deteriorates the quality of each task we try to juggle simultaneously.
The solution is to break yourself of the multitasking mindset. Instead, learn how to focus on one thing at a time. This will improve your work quality and your (and your team’s) overall performance.
If you and your team members have been multitasking for years, it’s tough to break the habit. Here are some strategies to try:
Distractions are the bane of productivity. Between emails, phone calls, and your phone pinging you with social media alerts, it seems not an hour goes by that work isn’t interrupted. Set aside distraction-free hours with all those notifications turned off.
Once you shut off notifications, you’ll probably still reach for your phone to check up on things anyway (like most of us). It’s a habit, and it's okay. But, rather than fighting the habit, work with it by scheduling short breaks specifically for checking notifications.
One great way to cut down on distractions for you and your team members is to practice asynchronous communication.
What's that, you ask? It’s any form of communication that doesn’t require an immediate response. Asynchronous communication includes things like email, instant messaging, or message boards — all things that the recipient doesn’t need to respond to immediately. It’s incredibly beneficial for workplace productivity because distractions are the biggest cause of lost focus, and most of those distractions come in the form of communications. Practicing asynchronous communications gives you and your team the freedom to shut off notifications and focus — then respond later as they have time.
Many people waste time (albeit not intentionally) by jumping from one task to the next without finishing them. This is a surefire way to end up with a daunting pile of partially started work — but no actual finished results. Challenge yourself and your team to finish the tasks before starting new ones.
Starting tasks is easy, but finishing them is tough — especially when energy levels are low or the tasks are undesirable.
The easiest way to knock these jobs out is to break them down into smaller steps, then challenge yourself to complete one step at a time. This works because hitting goals makes us feel good — and in breaking tasks into steps, you’ll hit a series of small goals on the way to the big one, which is to finish the job.
Everyone has their weak spots that block them from doing as much work as possible. Maybe your team finds certain tasks more unpleasant than others, or maybe there are bottlenecks and roadblocks like knowledge gaps getting in the way of employee productivity.
Whatever the case may be, identify these blockers and find a solution to work through them, whether it’s a new way to avoid procrastination or professional development that helps your team members build the skills they need.
The rule of five is easy: Prioritize five specific tasks that move you closer to your goal each day. In the workplace, it can look something like this:
Following these rules will ensure that your team establishes a smooth workflow with tasks moving through the pipeline — no bottlenecks.
Avoiding burnout is crucial — and that’s why you and your team need to manage time efficiently and take plenty of breaks.
Where time management skills are concerned, try time blocking. It’s something you and your team can do together, and it’s relatively simple to implement. With time blocking, everyone blocks out chunks of their workday to devote to specific tasks.
When you create a time-blocked schedule, make sure to add blocks for breaks. This doesn't just mean a block for lunch — be sure to include blocks for smaller breaks throughout the day. No one can work at full capacity all day long. Appropriately scheduled break time lets everyone optimize their performance.
Aside from larger lunch breaks, there should also be mini-breaks to keep your brain refreshed throughout the day. Make sure everyone gets a few minutes every 60 to 90 minutes to boost employee performance. Use this time to:
There are many things people can do on mini-breaks — just keep the activities positive and healthy to make the most of this time.
You can’t do it all yourself — that’s why you have a team! Most of the projects you work on are made up of many smaller tasks. Learning to delegate tasks through project management software will make your workweek much easier.
Delegating with ease comes down to choosing the right software to help. Your project management software should give you a broad overview of the entire project and let you assign tasks to individuals based on their skill set. If you have lots of recurring tasks, use software with some level of automation to set these tasks up to be assigned automatically on a daily or weekly basis.
The unfortunate truth is that desk jobs are sedentary, and are pretty unhealthy as a result. It’s crucial to foster healthy habits and a self-improvement mindset among your team — not just for their health and wellbeing but also to help them be more productive. When you don't feel your best, you don't operate at your best.
What healthy habits should you encourage?
With a big sigh of relief, many people are watching the old ways of working go by the wayside. These days, people demand balance — and as a manager, you’ll do well to make sure that your team members enjoy a healthy work-life balance. They’ll be physically and mentally healthier, happier, and more productive.
Building a healthy, positive environment for everyone helps cut down on the workplace toxicity that can poison morale.
Career growth plans are a big part of professional development — and it’s a good idea to develop these plans with your team members. It gives everyone a set of goals to achieve as they work to broaden skill sets and move up the company ladder.
Creating a career growth path starts with a plan, which looks something like this:
Creating a positive work environment with strong bonds among your team members is essential. It’s one of the best ways to keep morale — and productivity — high.
How do you cultivate these relationships? For starters, foster an environment of positivity. It’s also key to avoid drama and gossip, as these things cause toxicity, leading to poisonous, unproductive environments. Watercooler chat is fine so long as it steers clear of toxic chatter — and so long as it doesn’t take up too much time. If you’re part of a remote team, you can even set up a “watercooler” board where team members can chat or leave messages throughout the day. The goal should never be to stop socialization completely — that’s what brings people closer together.
Weekly check-in meetings are the perfect way to bond with team members individually. Use these meetings to learn how everyone is doing, set goals, and ask about any challenges that are making progress more difficult. Keep the discussion solution-oriented and positive, and remember to be empathetic.
These meetings are great times to figure out solutions. They also provide you and your team members a valuable opportunity to learn one another's communication styles, making for more effective communication in the future.
Smart managers invest heavily in regular training sessions and learning opportunities for their team members. Why? Because a rising tide lifts all boats. The more skilled and well-trained your team is, the more effective they are
It also doesn’t hurt that learning new skills on the job is a nice perk that makes positions extremely attractive for many people. Offer opportunities to create loyal team members who are ready and eager to learn.
There are lots of skills that prove helpful in today’s workplace, either for people who intend to practice these skills or for those who would like to learn more about what their team members do. You could offer opportunities like:
Consider your team’s skill base and jot down notes about their interests during your discussions with them — this will help you discover even more opportunities that they'll find valuable.
Are you looking for even more great ways to improve your team's work performance? Range is a powerful platform that helps remote teams build strong connections and create more effective meetings. Sign up for Range today to help smooth out communication barriers and improve performance within your team.