How to Help Your Team Perform

Three Methods:Being a LeaderSupporting Your TeamEnsuring Quality

Individual performance and getting your team to perform are two totally different entities. Indeed, they represent a total shift in paradigm. When you focus on your entire team's performance, your own achievement includes the sum total of the whole team's achievement, and an individual failure can also pull your team performance down.

As a team leader, helping your team to perform is a combination of balancing what is good for both the whole team and the organization as a whole; while not easy, it's a rewarding challenge that will stretch your abilities for the better.

Method 1
Being a Leader

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    Act as both a manager and a leader for the team. You have to perform both the roles independently and in synergy so that you can use these roles as a catalyst for getting the best out of the team every time. Approach each unique role as follows:
    • Leader: As a leader it is in exhibiting your human qualities that you are accepted as a leader by the team. Human values require the leader to have a sense of self, an ability to read the relationship dynamics clearly, and to see the relationship between the emotional, economic, and personal input to the organization. Moreover, a leader needs to have the ability to feel separate from the organization in order to be able to see beyond the company's immediate needs and to focus on the team needs instead. Here the order of preference is: the team member, the team, and then the organization.
    • Manager: As a manager you have to get the performance out of the team as per the organization's objectives. Here the order of preference is: the organization, team and the individual.
    • The balancing act: As a team leader and manager, you need to perform both the roles efficiently, to be able to blend both leadership and management within the team context. This will take practice -- but it helps to treat team members as individuals all the time -- while keeping your eye focused on the integral, common goal.
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    Set goals for the team. Every team member has to understand the short and long term goals for the team. They should also understand the path for fulfillment of the goals, the segments (breakdown) of the project, the deadlines, the processes and the procedures involved. As team leader, you have the responsibility for ensuring that all of these things are clear to each member of the team. You have to clarify goals and clear all the doubts at the time of goal setting, and to regularly check that the understandings continue to hold.
    • Devise a well known means for keeping track of progress toward intermediate and final goals and signaling, to everyone, the nearing of the various deadlines on work toward completion.
    • Clarify assumptions. Remember to clarify all parties' assumptions, and set parameters as to the premise underpinning the work or project, its required format, any specific or general criteria, the timelines or stages, and so forth. Often different assumptions can lead people to go off on different tracks, resulting in frustration and loss of buy-in, as well as loss of time and traction. It is better to overspend time on clarifying conceptions than to ignore possible miss-perceptions.
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    Use the power of delegation. Delegation of responsibility provides you with the time and energy to better manage the team and monitor their work regularly. Non-delegation will lead to early burnout for you and marginalisation of the results (team members won't feel so responsible without delegation). Some leaders make the mistake of thinking they are the only one with the big picture view and therefore are too afraid to delegate. However, this is a dangerous way to think and will end up in less team cohesion and a worn out leader. Consider your job situation and all its demands and pressures to get things done right. Ask yourself how you can begin to delegate and empower others through the principle of completed staff work at every stage and segment.
    • Focus on each team member's strengths when delegating. Give them just a bit more than what you know they're capable of, so that they have a challenge to strive for and will meet it because of your faith in their ability.
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    Know what you want and say it. Establish a definite understanding of the desired results. By stating openly and clearly about what is expected -- with guidelines, documents, parameters, rules -- you create a psychological contract of clear expectations between yourself and those you lead and supervise.
    • Answer team member's questions promptly. When explaining things, do not see questions from the team as divisive or obstructive. Questions are an excellent way of eliciting whether or not people have truly grasped what is expected of them and you can guide their understanding with your answers.
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    Empower each team member by giving them controlled discretion. Help your team members to understand that they will be called upon to give their best thinking in solving problem-making decisions and when formulating recommendations. Identify the criteria to be included in recommendations so that they know how much detail and original thinking is expected. Opening up the thinking and solving processes gives team members freedom to wander within the parameters and to possibly find better solutions than the ones originally posited. It will also help team members to feel empowered and not merely contributing within a narrowly defined area.
    • Ask questions. As part of empowering the team, ask your team members for their input and ideas. Ask them such things as: "What is your recommendation? How would you solve this problem?" or "How would you implement this policy?" Get into the habit of soliciting ideas at all stages of a project and be attentive to their responses. Obviously, not all the ideas will fly and not everything they suggest will be credible but a willingness to listen with an open-mind will ensure that team members feel valued.
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    Give credit where it is due. Give credit and recognition to others for their contributions and do this regularly rather than holding back until the very end (or there may be no "end" until the employee gets up and leaves without forewarning).
    • Don't risk having your team members see you as exploiting them for your own recognition or benefit by letting your superiors think that all the ideas and best thinking came from you.
    • Acknowledge team members' contributions openly within the team and openly to others within the company, especially in front of those team members.

Method 2
Supporting Your Team

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    Give people the tools they need. You cannot win a war with an ill equipped arsenal. Provide the necessary resources -- including time and access to people -- and critical information, in written form either online or on paper, that will ensure each team member is capable of completing their part in the project. Nothing is more frustrating to people than to be expected to do complete work without the necessary information, tools and resources.
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    Ensure that you are available as leader for idea bouncing, questions and complaints too. Having an open door, be accessible as manager when necessary to give information and feedback of the organization.
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    Provide a setting for success toward completion. Schedule a time for presentation and review of the team's completed work at various stages. Give each team member a chance to make an effective presentation of their aspect of the work.

Method 3
Ensuring Quality

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    Monitor and evaluate processes continuously, done along pre-formatted, transparent procedures so that every team member knows what to expect.
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    Ask questions respectfully and provide positive feedback, acknowledging progress, checking the benchmarks of success to this point.
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    Recommend any improvements and identify the next steps for completion of this implementation -- while looking beyond the present, especially where your team has an ongoing process, monthly, quarterly, annually.
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    Re-initialize and re-set goals for entering any new phase: a new fiscal period, looking toward new locations, new products -- focusing on the enduring role of your leadership, your management and your team.


  • Every word and action should be viewed as a tool to motivate the team. If the words are likely to puncture the enthusiasm or actions to sideline team members, then rethink your approach.
  • The principle of completed team work is not a panacea, or cure for all ills. It's simply an effective means of teaching people to do their own thinking and to put their best work forward. Most people welcome the chance to study things and to show what they're capable of. If executed well, completed teamwork saves everybody's time in the long run and produces higher-quality results by tapping into a wider range of people's talents and potential.
  • Expect and foster cross-utilization of skills and talents, by role swapping within the team. Team members will work out for themselves whose strengths are most apt for particular aspects of the project. Within such boundaries as being sure to inform you and being certain that the best team member for the particular aspect is responsible for it, allow flexibility for interchanging of responsibilities within the team. In the same way, foster team members helping each out, such as filling in for one another occasionally when needed, and so forth.
  • The handling of the team must be humane and compassionate and the language used must be respectable at all times.


  • Never assume that the team members will have your calibre of learning, understanding, and depth of perception. You're a leader and manager for a reason and that added experience is supposed to guide and help the abilities they do have. Keep your interaction at a level which is clearly understood by each team member, and don't become a substitute team member or pick up on their slack -- or the abuse of your generosity and lack of boundaries won't ever stop.
  • A leader has to always set an example by his or her own superlative performance; this simply means that you're being observed in everything you say and do, so be sure to make it exemplary and worthy of being followed.
  • Non-performers are a drain on the team and the organization's time and resources. Timely action should be taken to correct such a situation and to prevent it from becoming entrenched.
  • A team leader has to work hard to contribute in keeping the team morale high. Being the team's cheerleader is not an easy role, but it is definitely a rewarding one.

Things You'll Need

  • All guidelines, documents, parameters, rules, etc., should be available to all team members in written form either online or on paper
  • Project resources, materials, tools, information, etc.
  • Access to people needed to help the project, especially access by the team members to such people
  • Open door policy from the team leader for complaints, discussions, queries, etc.
  • A means for keeping track of progress and signaling the nearing of deadlines

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