There are ways to create a top-performing team. You can try to transfer, fire, and hire your way to a team that, on paper, looks great. Or you can be a leader. High-performance teams aren’t clobbered and pieced together; they are forged. And if you’re doing your job effectively, any human soul can be properly forged in your furnace—if you follow
Consider this example: Say there’s a member of your sales team who’s low performing and threatening a project’s success.
This is where you make your first choice. You can judge this person on their numbers and throw them into a performance review (and an eventual frustrated exit), or you can think of them as an emotionally driven human being and talk to him.
You decide to talk to them. Good choice.
Strategy #1: Talk First and Ask Questions.
When you talk to them, you ask why they are struggling. This is important: always ask questions first. Your job is not to force success; it’s to find that something greater—that spark that lights a fire—which will leverage people into pursuing success whether you ask them to or not.
During your talk, you discover this employee just found out some issue in family and they are terrified about the prospect of providing for a growing family. Here you make your second choice.
Strategy #2: Provide a Path.
The average HR manager might listen, nod, empathize and encourage the teammate to keep their head up because losing their job or missing a bonus will only make things harder. But kindness is not enough to give this person leverage. Being nice is not enough to unlock high performance.
Instead, you look them in the eye and make a promise. You tell them you’re going to make a plan. This will include performance milestones, intense goals, and regular performance reviews. If they hit those goals, you promise them you’ll do everything possible to secure a raise and plenty of paternity leave to take care of their family.
That teammate is going to leave the office ready to run through a wall for you. Now, instead of just feeling heard, they feel empowered. You haven’t solved there problem for them. You’ve offered them a path to the life they want for themselves and the people they care about.
Strategy #3: Leverage Human Emotion.
Leveraging human emotion is the most powerful thing a leader can do to forge a high-performance team. To do this, though, you need to understand that humans, at their core, are far more emotional than they are practical. It sounds counterintuitive, but your time is better spent engaging the emotions of your team than appealing to their sense of strategy or professional intuition.
This ability is what makes the difference between a team that can hit a goal and a team that can pull off the impossible. If all you can leverage is your team’s minds, time, or bank accounts, their objectives at that level will always be out of your reach.
It all boils down to this: you sit your team members down, you ask them who they want to be, and then you create the opportunity for them to be what they want. That’s what leveraging emotion is all about. Give people not money, time off, nor a kind shoulder to lean on. Give them purpose.
Your job, despite your title, is not to manage people. It’s to discover, champion, and maintain that fire that keeps all members of a team leveraged and managing themselves. High-performance teams are made up exclusively of emotionally leveraged people who are determined to achieve the “something greater” offered to them by a high-performance leader. And that leader can be you.