Seven Tips for Creating a Productive Team Culture

Personal productivity is fantastic thing, but once you become a leader, productivity is no longer just a matter of being the best you can be, but rather of bringing out the best in others. This is a constant challenge! Priorities compete. Distractions abound. Some folks just won’t commit to being productive team members. So how do you create a productive team culture that contributes not only to individual productivity, but also to that of the group?

Here are seven tips:

1. Teach others that “not in their job description” is not acceptable in the new culture you are establishing.

Sometimes, employees are asked to do things outside of their normal duties. When it takes a team effort to get the job done, you want folks ready to happily roll up their sleeves and pitch in. Yes, in general, you want everyone to have their own defined responsibilities, but these well-defined boundaries can’t hold up 100 percent of the time.

Keep a positive attitude and reward your team for pulling together and getting things done. Create a culture where people jump at the chance to help others as opposed to standing back and reveling in the chaos as it unfolds.

2. Focus on the present. Fix problems later.

Imagine this scenario: there’s a big project on the line, and your team needs to pull together to pull it off one day before the deadline…a lot is riding on this project. You’re frustrated. You want to know how this happened. Who dropped the ball? Why didn’t they ask for help sooner? Where did the system break down?

Well, forget it—at least for now (at least until the project is complete). This is not the time for second guessing, finger pointing, or scapegoating; you can’t tolerate any of that from anyone on your team. You need everyone focused on meeting the deadline at hand.

At the outset of your work, let everyone know that problems will be addressed, but not until the crisis has passed. The first order of business it to pull together and finish the project with a positive attitude. Once the project is complete, you can figure out what happened and ensure that it never happens again. This way, cooler heads prevail, and the project won’t suffer because of internal strife and tension.

3. Maintain a unified front.

A reasonable amount of conflict is good. It can help stimulate ideas and bring out the best in people. But as a leader, your job is to have the final say. Your team might squabble and butt heads, but your job is to ensure that they all leave the table with a common purpose. “We can argue all we want behind closed doors, but when we put on our public face, our team must be in agreement externally.”

4. Establish (and manage) expectations.

As a leader, you set the collective tone, attitude, and work ethic of your team. Decide what is expected and make your thoughts known. Do you expect others to meet deadlines or to exceed them? Will you track everyone’s working hours or do you allow some flexibility? How informed should your direct reports keep you about the status of their projects—just the high points or do you prefer detail?

Your people are not mind readers! Make sure they know what you expect of them and what they can expect from you. Keep regular appointments to review each individual’s progress and to reinforce your expectations. As priorities conflict and you adjust expectations, share these changes with your team.

If someone needs to drop everything and focus on one problem or project, make sure he or she knows it. If you need to be kept more informed about a key initiative, make the person responsible aware by saying, “Please keep me posted on your progress and let me know if you run into problems.”

5. Don’t just make rules—build character.

You can set rules all day long, but what you want to do is help develop the character of your team. Character is what kicks in when the rules break down. It is also what helps your team get through tough, demanding times. A team with strong character requires much less management. People appreciate not being micromanaged and you’ll have more time to address your job duties. High productivity is based on a person’s values. If you employ someone who values hard work and honesty, that’s what you can expect from them when you’re not looking.

Clearly state the productivity traits you want people to demonstrate, for example: integrity, accountability, punctuality, excellence, self-discipline, responsibility, and honesty. Post them on your wall. Repeat them often. Refer to your values when explaining your decisions. Ensure that your team knows what you stand for and what you expect from them.

6. Engage your team members.

Engaged employees enthusiastically contribute to both team and company success. They are proud of what they do and where they work. The leader makes the difference here; the relationship between employee and manager is an excellent gauge of the employee’s engagement level. Engaged employees are super competent: the type of people you count on to drive performance outcomes.

Engagement is driven by several factors, including employee confidence and autonomy, the nature and quality of the job, access to training and career development, opportunities for growth, ongoing communication and feedback, a clear grasp of the goals and why their contributions matter, trust in the leaders and their integrity, pride in the company and their place in it, relationships with team members and co-workers, and presence of a competent and supportive managers who foster an environment of excellence and motivate team members by walking the talk, making personal integrity clear.

7. Lead by example.

People might question what you say, but they can’t deny what they see you do. If you arrive late, miss deadlines, or settle for sloppy work, you signal that that this is acceptable. If you show a sincere commitment to following through on your promises, fulfilling your obligations, and behaving with integrity, you set a positive standard. Be consistent. Contradicting you one time can undo years of demonstrating good behavior. People tend to notice inconsistency in a heartbeat and have little patience for it. Hold your team to a high standard, but hold yourself to an even higher one.

Think of some immediate ways you can implement these ideas with your team.


David Lammert

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