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PPI #30: How To Get The Best Out of Your Team

Eric Partaker


  • Do you feel frustrated with trying to get your team to perform? Sometimes it may feel like you’re just beating your head against the wall and you wonder if it’s worth all the effort. But as a leader, it’s up to you to elicit that performance and if you don’t manage to do it, eventually someone else will step in and do it for you.
  • In this episode I’ll teach you five things that I’ve found increase team performance the most. I’ve called upon these principles as a CEO myself and I’ve also seen them create the greatest impact with the leaders that I coach so I’m confident they’ll help you get the best out of your team as well.
  • When you’re setting goals for your business, try to engage the team in the process. People always feel more enthusiastic about pursuing goals that they themselves have had an influence in creating.
  • Traffic lighting is a brilliant tool for communicating progress on goals in a team. With my teams, I like to get each member of the team to talk about the goals they’re responsible for and say whether they’re red, yellow or green in terms of their likelihood of achieving the goal. The rest of the ream can then jump in with suggestions for how they can improve progress.


One of the most common frustrations I hear is about the performance of teams. The late Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel in his book High Output Management says that one of the primary jobs of a manager is to elicit peak performance in their teams. Now it’s up to you to elicit that performance and if you don’t manage to do it, eventually someone else will step in and do it for you – and we certainly don’t want that to happen.

Hi, I’m Eric Partaker and I help CEOs, entrepreneurs and leaders reach their highest potential, not just in their business, but also their life. But today I want to tell you about five things that I found to have the greatest leverage with teams in terms of increasing their performance, not the only five things that mattered, but the five things that I most often called upon as a CEO myself, or that I see create the greatest impact with the CEO’s entrepreneurs or leaders that I coach.

I can understand at times you might feel quite frustrated with trying to get your team to perform as you would like. Sometimes it may feel like you’re just beating your head against the wall and you wonder if it’s worth all the effort. It really just comes down to learning a handful of techniques that if correctly implemented will totally transform the performance of that team. It’s all learnable like any other skill. And with practice, you will handle it. You will get it, and you’ll start to see that the output of your team changes. So, first of all, the first thing that I like to do with the team is make sure that the team is subscribed to something that’s bigger than just the team. Elon Musk has done a fantastic job of this. His mission with several of his companies is to really change the face of humanity.

With Tesla, he’s solving the problem of pollution with cars, with solar city, he’s solving the problem of fossil fuels and all the waste bride products that we have throughout the world with solar energy. With SpaceX, he’s looking to ultimately solve the problem with overpopulation and get people into the universe, living somewhere else, perhaps maybe not exactly in his lifetime, but eventually. These are very, very big grand visions that you could use to inspire a team. Or you may think, “well, hang on, actually, I can’t use any of those because they’re much bigger than something I’m trying to do”. When I was working at Skype, our tagline was “the whole world can talk for free”. That’s another example of a vision that extends beyond the team. When I built up the Mexican change lingo, our vision there was to “make the world a more vibrant place”.

But with all of these examples, what I’m trying to highlight to you is the power of getting the team to realize that they’re doing something beyond just the company. If your goal for the team is to help the company become number one or two or three in its market, that’s pretty boring, right? That’s very self serving and it’s not going to really motivate the team to a higher level of performance. 

Number two. The second thing that you can do is always try to co-create your goals with the team. So once you decide what it is that you want to be doing from the team’s point of view, or with the company, really engage the team and how to do that, you can in-company them on that journey. Or you can hand it over to them a bit more autonomously and say, here’s what we’d like to achieve.

For example, grow ourselves or open up in this new market. I’d like you to take some time to brainstorm and think through how are we going to go about achieving that? And when you do that with a team, when you give them the autonomy to co-create the goals to suit the mission or the overall objective of the team or the company, they’re going to be way more bought in. Also, you’re going to be tapping into the wisdom of that collective group, which always will exceed just the wisdom of you alone. There’s actually a great book on this subject as well, called the wisdom of crowds. And if you haven’t read that, I highly recommend that you take a look at that. 

The other thing that you can be doing when it comes to increasing the output of the team is keeping score. If you’re walking through a park and you see a couple of kids playing football or basketball, and they’re not keeping score, they’ll kind of just be monkeying around and there really won’t be much rhyme or reason to how they’re playing. If you suddenly put up a scoreboard, it changes the whole dynamic, right? People want to win. It brings out a competitive spirit – that same mentality, that same effect happens with the teams that we manage as well. And we can use it with great results. So what I mean that we do in this regard is a few things. Really one is everybody on the team should know which goals or objectives they’re accountable for. 

On a weekly basis in your team meeting, I like to do what I call traffic lighting. So, what I mean by that is each member of the team goes around, they talk about the goal or the goals that they’re responsible for. And then they say whether they are red, yellow, or green in terms of their likelihood of achieving the goal. Now that’s great because the yellows and reds will prompt discussion, right? How do we get these goals back on track? And you want to prompt that discussion by asking everyone to take off their functional. Don’t have them thinking just from their point of view or only engaging in discussion. If they think it’s relevant to their department, instead, you’re encouraging them to really benefit from the collective wisdom of the group and just chip in on their thoughts of how you might help that other team member turn that goal from say a red or a yellow, which that team member identified themselves in terms of its traffic light status. 

What are the things that we could be doing to turn that yellow or red into a green effectively? How do we get that goal back on track? The other nice thing that I like to do when it comes to keeping score is make sure that your team or your company has a dashboard of key metrics, ideally key metrics that could be seen on a single page, or if you’re going to be looking at it online key metrics that would appear on a dashboard above the fold, on your monitors screen, an overview of both qualitative and quantitative metrics so that the team knows exactly, am I winning or losing as a group? Where are we winning? Where are we losing? Where are we doing well? Where is it? Where is more effort required last but not least when it comes to keeping score? I encourage you in your quarterly review process to have that gathering where you bring together everyone in the company, in the team and celebrate what went well in the quarter.

Also, what are you going to be working on next quarter? And even recognize individuals with maybe awards that are linked back to the values of your team, group, or company in a separate way. Each of those values out, maybe have a trophy and award for each of them given to the person in the company or the team that best represents them. And another quick tip, you can even have the team do all of that voting themselves so that they’re choosing who to honor and recognize. That’s just another way of keeping score and increasing the output of the team. 

Four things that I highly encourage you to do from a team output point of view is encouraged debate. What I mean by that is that in the context, for example, of a team meeting, if you sense that there’s a little bit of resistance and that people aren’t speaking their mind on a particular subject, never let that go. You’re going to lose the opportunity for people to pitch in with different perspectives. And you’ll also lose the opportunity to correct any seeds of resentment from blossoming up into something far worse later down the road. You kind of always want to be like pickaxe mining for conflict. If you sense a little bit of conflict like gold, you want to dig through it, get it to the surface and make sure that that’s being aired out and people are discussing it. That sort of healthy debate; that sort of encouraging productive conflict will increase the output of the team because you’re going to make sure that you’re tapping into everyone’s points of view. You’re not letting any resentment become harbored, and you’ll just reach better decisions more quickly by tapping into those various perspectives. 

The last thing that I recommend that you do to increase the output of the team is always think about developing one big thing. What do I mean by that? Everyone on the team you included, if you’re a team leader you should know, what’s the one big thing that I’m working on this quarter, such that by improving it would improve my output on this team? That’s incredibly powerful. And I’ll give you an example of a group that I was coaching. I did this with them recently. So it was three co-founders of a digital marketing agency. And I had them ask those that they were leading each of them. What, in the eyes of those that they’re leading, what should their one big development opportunity be? 

By the way, if you want to know how you’re doing it as a leader, ask those you lead. That’s why I suggest a route like this, or an approach like this with regards to uncovering what you should be working on. One of them uncovered that the vast majority of his team thought that he needed to work on his clarity. So often he would want to be going in one direction, but then suddenly another. And the team felt very, very confused. So they wanted to see better clarity from him in terms of what he was working on, why and what the team should be working on. 

For the second co-founder, his feedback was communication – that people often weren’t sure exactly what they should be working on or what the progress was on a project or why something was being stalled and not progress as quickly as they were expecting, because there was a lack of communication. So he got into the habit of over communicating and communicating more than he felt comfortable with, but which matched the expectations and the desires of those that he was leading. 

Last but not least the third co-founder – his one big thing was to follow through. So his team members said that, you know, you’re really great at helping us get going and work on a project. And then we’ll have requests of various things that we might ask of you to help us from say, unblocking something, or overcoming a challenge. And he had this habit of saying, “yep, I’ll send you that. Yeah, I’ll do that”. But he wouldn’t actually follow through. And so he was actually letting his team down. And one of the hallmarks of great leadership is relentless reliability. And I really made sure he realized that because unless you’re relentlessly reliable you won’t be able to hold your team to a similar standard. So that was an opportunity for him to not only work on his one big thing, but I made sure he realized that it was also an opportunity for him to work on something which is associated with super strong leadership. Now that last point, by the way, your one big thing, that also happens to work super well at home.

Another CEO, I was coaching, wanting to improve his home life. I encouraged him to ask his wife and children, if he were trying to become the best husband and father in the world, what’s the one big thing that he should be working on this quarter to help him close that gap between who he was and who he was capable of being. He asked his wife and kids. They all gave them the answers. And soon enough, he was closing that gap and doing a lot better in their eyes as well. So these principles don’t just apply in the workplace; they can also apply at home as well. 

I hope you found that useful. And if you don’t remember this last point, if you don’t actively look to increase the output of your team, as I said earlier, someone else eventually will step in and do it for you. Don’t let that happen to you. Embrace these principles, give them a shot, give them a try.

Eric has been named "CEO of the Year" at the 2019 Business Excellence Awards, one of the "Top 30 Entrepreneurs in the UK" by Startups Magazine, and among "Britain's 27 Most Disruptive Entrepreneurs" by The Telegraph.

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