"team cohesion"

Sun 26 September 2021
Attracting and retaining talent in the summer of 2021 has been incredibly difficult – so much so that LinkedIn and other news outlets have dubbed this time period as the “Great Resignation”. I have personally interviewed dozens of executives and consistently heard sentiments like this: 

“Business is booming, but we can’t find people to staff the demand we are receiving or keep the people we have!”

Some executives I have interviewed have blamed working from home and the general burnout from the increased uncertainty as reasons for this. Other executives blame generous unemployment benefits as the reason for these hiring struggles.

This article won’t serve as a deep-dive into why the Great Resignation is happening. Instead, I’m going to focus on solutions and highlight one major way we can handle this challenge to our businesses’ viability.

According to a Gallup survey, 75% of employees who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of their bosses, not because of the position itself. 

In other words, the adage ‘people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses’ seems to ring true for people who are quitting – and with workers quitting at an incredibly high level at the moment, it is paramount that we, as leaders, do more to equip our managers with the tools and resources to be better managers.

There has been significant research into measuring work engagement and its impact on retention and productivity from teams – and if your team isn’t measuring engagement, I would highly recommend starting now. But new research is showing that there are 5 additional criteria that should be measured to understand the level of satisfaction employees have at work and their productivity.

1.       Team Cohesion – Employees’ self-assessment of how well the team has been working together in terms of their camaraderie
2.       Team Productivity – Employees’ self-assessment of how productive the team has been 
3.       Task Performance – Employees’ self-assessment of how productive, they personally, have been
4.       Manager Performance – Employees’ assessment of how effective their manager has been at leading them
5.       Organizational Citizenship – Employees’ self-assessment of their ability to be helpful to the team outside of their explicit work duties 

Caveats about measuring this data: 

1.       It should be measured monthly, at a minimum. Feelings about work and productivity change rapidly and asking annually, bi-annually, or quarterly is not enough to garner an accurate picture.
2.       It should be measured on a team-by-team basis, not a general overview of the entire company. The dynamics that occur within teams are more relevant and critical to an employee’s sense of belonging and willingness to stay at a company. Company-wide metrics are far too broad to be useful.  
3.       Managers should be provided with tools for enacting change based on these metrics. For example, conversation prompts and suggested questions for 1-on-1 meetings with direct reports can help managers address these issues early. Collecting data without immediate action diminishes the employee experience instead of enhancing it.

If you can measure this data on a month by month basis for each and every manager and their respective teams and equip your managers with suggested questions and conversation prompts to discuss with their direct reports based on the data, you are significantly better equipped to elevate the employee experience and feelings of belonging at work.

Why?

Because employees’ feelings of burnout and dissatisfaction with managers don’t happen because the manager is purposefully trying to sabotage the team or individual employees. These negative feelings typically happen because of poor communication between the manager and their employees. Most bad managers think they are good managers.

When an employee receives poor communication from their manager, there are consequences. It may cause them to do work that is not what the manager actually wanted, or to feel they are being treated unfairly, or to feel they aren’t receiving ample feedback (or too much unnecessary feedback), or just feel uncomfortable or dissatisfied with the manager in any way. When this happens, it is VITAL that the manager understands this frustration right away and have a conversation to rectify it (Kim Scott, the author of Radical Candor calls this “challenge directly while caring personally”).

If a manager doesn’t rectify the situation and this feeling of dissatisfaction from the employee festers, they are going to become actively disengaged, bring down other employees because of their dissatisfaction, and eventually leave. 

If you are a CEO and you believe that having an “open door policy” or “clear lines of communication” is enough to gather this information, you are making the MASSIVE assumption that your managers’ direct reports have the same level of psychological safety as your direct reports have with you. You are also assuming that your employees have personality traits in which they are comfortable being optimally objective with everyone they interact with across all levels of an organization. 

Overall, now is the time to equip our managers with the data and the tools necessary to build strong teams. Providing a robust system through conversation prompts helps managers understand how their direct reports are feeling about work in terms of their team cohesion, team productivity, task performance, manager performance, and organizational citizenship. If we can do that, we are much more likely to increase retention and the productivity of our teams.

A quick final note, my team and I at Ambition In Motion are working on tools and ways to research these 5 core areas that increase work satisfaction and productivity across all employees. If you are a manager that is interested in collaborating or learning more about our research, please feel free to send me an email at [email protected]

Wed 4 May 2022
Hybrid? Fully remote? Never left? Regardless of how your team operates now or in the future, the pandemic changed how companies will need to manage their people. This article is titled how to measure performance for remote teams, but these lessons apply across all teams if we want to effectively lead into the next 5-10 years.

There is this common notion: what is focal is causal. Or put simply, what people see, they perceive as important. This focus on management through visibility has been the traditional style until the pandemic. But as more teams continue to work remotely, we must find new leadership methods that can ensure productivity without relying on visibility without context.

Why?

The pandemic exposed the major flaws of traditional methods. Focusing on visibility discourages actual productivity and encourages performative productivity (e.g. people looking busy while being observed).

For example, I recently interviewed the CEO of a tech-focused logistics company. I wanted to learn how other leaders are responding to the tail-end of the pandemic. He shared his intentions to bring the entire team back into the office. He believes that his team is more productive from the office than from at home. I suspected that he had fallen into the trap of relying on that same old notion: What is focal is causal.  

So, I pressed him on some key statistics to see why he decided to end remote work. We discussed sales, fulfillment, and the other factors that indicate the health of his business, but he didn’t have the new data for comparison because they just got back into the office. We scheduled a follow-up interview two months later to see how the company changed and to compare metrics.  

When we met again with the data to compare, the results spoke for themselves: people were more productive working from home. But this CEO couldn’t shake his intuition; he still preferred to work from the office with everyone else on his team because he liked seeing everyone working.

He was always skeptical of “work from home” and had the same worries that many CEOs and managers have had to deal with: “What if people skip work early? Or they take a day they said they were working completely off? How can I manage people that I can’t see?” He was stuck in the traditional mindset that what is focal is causal. Intuition is a dual-edged sword. When it leads you astray, your key to getting back on track is taking your intuition out of it. 

The answer to this is to measure and take the guesswork out of it.    

When ‘what is focal, is causal’ pervades a workplace culture, people are incentivized to look busy when in front of their managers; the key word here is “look busy”. This is Performative Productivity. 

In the book Deep Work by Cal Newport, Cal talks about this concept of the mental residue that occurs when we switch tasks or are distracted from one task to the next. Different people prefer different times and techniques to get into a flow-like state to focus as deeply as we can.

Productivity occurs when we eliminate distractions

When we work in an office, anyone can interrupt our work, distract us, or force us to work in ways that are not conducive for our flavor of deep focus. We can put ourselves in a position where our real productivity is sacrificed to support performative productivity. 

Therefore, if we can 1.5x, 2x, or 3x increase our productivity when we control when we work and when we allow distractions, it seems only logical to allow our people to do that if we can.

The challenge lies in how we measure productivity and what actions we take for granted that we realize need to get done.

Sure, in sales, it is pretty easy to quantify productivity – number of calls made, meetings scheduled, meetings had, follow ups made, and deals closed. But for less quantifiable tasks, it is critical that we identify useful metrics for measuring progress. 

For example, an executive in my mastermind group runs a consumer-packaged goods company. He started putting QR codes on packages that link consumers to surveys. These surveys let customers share their feedback on product quality, packaging, and labeling. He also started implementing end-of-call surveys to gather feedback from his clients (or prospective clients) on his customer support team. 

As he started creating opportunities for gathering more feedback, he learned that some metrics were more important than others. He also learned that he can only improve what he is measuring. He focused his team on specific outcomes, but more importantly, he was upfront that some of these metrics may change over time as he learns more feedback. 

This iterative process helped him develop a strong system. Now he measures change and improvement pretty accurately and can share that insight with his team. His team knows when they are working in a positive direction or when things need improvement.  

Performance reviews shouldn't be a surprise

Another benefit was that performance reviews become super easy for him and his team. They have minimized surprises and his direct reports are now reporting to him where they know they can improve.

His team has now started implementing a hybrid approach where his team members have total autonomy of when they come into the office. If somebody decides to work half the day in the office and the other half from home, they can do that. Or they can rent an RV with the family and work on the road or pull all-nighters so then they can work on their start-up during the day. No matter how they decide to work, he doesn’t care because he knows what they are measured against and leaves the decision making to the employee.

Measuring works for collaborative teams just as much as individuals

And this works just as much for collaborative work as it does for individual work. When teams are working collaboratively, they are measured against the team goal. Individuals break their segments down and are held accountable to their individual tasks. Their success is tied to the team’s overall ability to achieve their goals.

When the team doesn’t achieve a goal, they work together in an experimental way to identify what they can change to achieve the outcome they desire for the future. Sometimes part of that solution is working together in the same space, sometimes they identify other methods. Either way, a manager with a strong system for accurately monitoring productivity can trust their employees to take the initiative and find productivity instead of micromanaging. 

The notion that “focal is causal” forces bad incentives. When goals are clear, employees know what needs done. Everyone can be measured based on what they know they need to accomplish, and you can continue to make incremental improvements to the goals and metrics. Together, this new method builds resilient productivity and helps you manage your team better whether your team is remote, hybrid, or in-person. 

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