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4th April 2018

6 Inspiring Ways To Improve Team Productivity

Business is just a series of relationships.

This year marks my fourth year working for the amazing employee engagement company, Inspire Me.

I feel my knowledge of business continues to grow every day and this only serves to prove what I knew from the start… business is just a series of relationships.

Good businesses are those that maintain great relationships and have slick processes for managing these effectively. Bad businesses forge inauthentic relationships and struggle to manage their clients.

The relationships in your business are not just with your clients. They are, first and foremost, with your internal customers… your employees.

These people are your business and they are your brand!

Make poor recruitment decisions and you condemn yourself to an uphill struggle, make good recruitment decisions and you’re on to a winner!

Time and time again I come across managers in organisations who are frustrated with their team.

They feel that their people lack the appropriate drive and mind-set to be as productive and as profitable as they can be.

Often managers feel that their team do the bare minimum to get by; they complete what is expected of them and fail to go above and beyond.

Essentially, they are describing an ‘us and them’ situation, in which they feel that they operate on one level (along with their fellow leaders) and their team do not. So, how can we solve this?

The good news is that there are loads of ways to do this, but they all involve putting egos to one side and becoming a leader, not a manager. Are you ready for the challenge?…

1. See things from their point of view

This is the first, and most important, thing you need to do to move things forward. I like to remember this amazing quote from the inspirational, Robin Williams:

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be Kind. Always.” – Robin Williams

When trying to understand your colleagues, you must first do what you can to understand their mind-set.

You can never know exactly how other people are feeling, however, start with presuming the best.

If their work isn’t up to scratch, consider the fact that they may be going through a tough time in their personal lives. Also consider that they’re probably doing their best, but confidence and insecurity may be stopping them from excelling.

If you want to lead (and not manage) your team, you need to take the time to get to know them.

It’s important to understand their influences and drivers in order to talk to them in their language.

For example, if your colleague is into football or hockey, describe their lack of team playing from the point of view of a sports game.

If they sing in a choir, describe their lack of team playing as disrupting a harmony of the piece etc.

To change behaviour, you must first change mindset, and you can only do that by having an understanding of their current mindset as it stands.

2. Be grateful for them

Practicing gratitude is a hugely important part of a successful business.

However frustrating you find your colleagues, it’s important to be grateful for their good qualities.

Try not to complain and use words like ‘selfish’. It will only serve to widen the ‘us and them’ gap.

Sales environments are often really good at celebrating conversions but not necessarily good at celebrating and appreciating individuals. To move your relationships with your people forward, you need to find elements of their personality that you like.

You should have more in common than simply working for the same company. If they are younger than you, remember what you were like at their age. If they are older than you, consider their responsibilities and how they may differ to your own.

Everyone has different pressures, different circumstances and different values. You just need to establish the ones you have that are the same. There will be many!

Relationships, like everything, need work and effort to be good and healthy. The more you invest in them, the more you will gain.

As a leader, it’s your job to know your team. Unless you know them as individuals, with families and hobbies outside of work, how can you ever expect them to see their job as anything more than the way they make their money. It starts with you!

Once you know them a bit better, you’ll start enjoying their company more and more.

Now it’s time to build their confidence…

Complement them when you feel it’s appropriate! Be aware, this can go a long way! Remember, only give a complement if you believe what you’re saying. People can smell insincerity a mile off!

3. Communicate the bigger picture

Pre-industrial revolution, most people worked for themselves or for their families. Carpenters would make a product from beginning to end and sell/exchange it themselves.

Therefore, they learned quickly that, if they made a mistake early on, they’d be the ones dealing with the repercussions at a later date.

A lot of people believe that this way of working is far more suited to humans; it meant an individual owned their own brand and gained the reputation they deserved.

These days, things don’t tend to work like this.

If a Carpenter is part of a table-making process for a business, their responsibility may be to make the joints for the tables. If they have an off-day, are slow with their production or relax the quality of their work, they are unlikely to see a difference in their pay check.

They may not even be aware of their change in quality of work until further down the production line when someone realises a joint isn’t working effectively.

They may never meet the Sales Person who has to call the customer and explain that their table isn’t ready because of a production issue.

They may never talk to the person in Customer Services who has to deal with the returned table because it has broken after a month of usage.

They may also never be affected by the anger of the customer or hear the negative opinions they pass on to their friends and broadcast on social media about the company.

…So, what have we learned?

Large organisations can feel anonymous, and people aren’t directly connected to the consequences of under performing or not being a team player.

On the flip side, the CEO, the Board, the Directors and the Managers may see alterations in their pay if things aren’t up to scratch and as a result, can feel far more connected to the brand and quality of their products and services. So, what is the answer?…


This is where the value of great teambuilding away days come into play.

Get people talking and building relationships. A short-sighted manager would see this as another expense on their bottom line, but a strong leader will evaluate how much the lack of team playing and ownership is costing their business and will act appropriately to put it right.

If you don’t have the power to bring everyone together, you need to communicate the bigger picture to your team.

This must be done from a point of understanding! If you deliver this in a condescending way you are likely to alienate your people. Be aware, they don’t understand your frustrations in the same way you don’t understand theirs.

4. Use your company values to support you.

In an ideal world, the values of your organisations would resonate with yourself and your team. The best company/brand values are those that have been created by the people in the organisation.

These can be found through values-driven training and teambuilding. Inspire Me has a number of teambuilding options to help you discover and instil your values, including an amazing training package on leading with authenticity.

Once you have your values, it’s important to make them part of your everyday language.

Explain your need for quality, efficiency or excellence through your brand/company values. If your product is premium, your service should be premium! If your brand is built on trust then the team should be trusting each other and working together.

5. Be charming and disarming: manage from above and below.

If you are in middle-management, it’s likely you’re doing what you can to change the culture and behaviour of your team, whilst still receiving pressure from your superiors.

Often, a middle-manager will try and enforce an ownership change, but the senior-management will undo this by undermining them in front of their team. This can be incredibly frustrating.

As a Team Leader, you’re best placed to notice small changes which will make a big difference to productivity, as a whole, and the last thing you want is this to be undone by a superior who doesn’t understand your motives.

In this instance we must be charming and disarming.

Firstly, talk to your superior and explain the issue you’re having without giving an obvious solution.

Don’t do this in a negative way. Illustrate your position as though you’re asking for their expertise.

Make sure you explain it in a way that points to the solution you have come up with. They will likely suggest an option in line with your plan. If they don’t, outline your plan as though they have helped you work it out. Say something like,

“Well, chatting it through with you makes me think I could delegate that task to my team, leaving me free to focus on my 10am deadline for you.”

If your boss feels like they either came up with the solution, or enabled you to see the solution, they will have a vested interest in that solution coming into fruition. Thus, you are playing to their ego and have achieved senior buy-in.

Next, you go to your team.

You outline the problems you’re facing with your role and see if they offer any ideas. Remember, be charming and explain that you don’t feel you can serve them effectively as you have too many tasks to get through.

Allow them to be part of finding the solution so they can take the tasks off you with an understanding of how that will support the team overall.

6. Don’t be a martyr!

Take some responsibility for their so-called ‘lack of effort’! Do you get in earlier than everyone else and take on the work that should be distributed? Do you suffer in silence or spend your time bitching unproductively to your peers?

You may feel that your overexertion is clear for everyone to see and your team are proudly ignoring your efforts.

This probably isn’t the case!

Your team are more than likely to be too task focused to even acknowledge what you’re doing. The longer that this goes on for, the more the lines get blurred as to whose responsibility it is anyway.

Is your behaviour actually enabling their behaviour? Are you both spoon feeding and expecting ownership?

This is common in managers that have true leadership qualities but are currently too insecure to fully assert themselves.

There is an element of respect in not wanting to call people out, but as a result, they’re not confronting the issue head on, and the more time that passes, the more the frustration builds…

…Think this might be you?

Ask yourself this. Do you inflate your importance without realising it? Are you scared to take a day off because you don’t trust that things will get done to your standard?

If this is the case, be aware, you are responsible for that feeling. Only you can change it, and you can’t blame it on other people who have a better work-life relationship than yourself.

There you have it! 6 inspiring ways to make your employees be more productive.

It won’t be easy, but it will be worthwhile.

When I’m faced with difficult leadership decisions I remember the phrase, ‘Leaders eat last’.

It’s your job to serve your people.

What makes a great leader? Passion.

They lead by example and are happy to ‘be the change they wish to see’.

They are human! They are vulnerable and they are kind.

Teambuilds are a great way to enlighten your people and show how their colleagues are rounded and full individuals. They act to humanise your colleagues, and seeing their leader get stuck in can be a huge turning point for employees!

Sometimes leaders feel a need to distance themselves from their team when times get tough. It’s easier draw the ‘them and us’ line.

However, being easier doesn’t make it right!

Thanks for reading!


Philippa Atkins | Inspire Me Team Member
Written by

Philippa Atkins

Relationship Manifestor & Creator of Joy

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