Work is never going to be perfect. No matter what role you have, there are going to be problems. No matter what organisation you work in, there will be issues. Enter team improvement, to save the day.
Logically, we know perfection is impossible. There are problems in every workplace and every team. Leaders shouldn’t be aiming for a place where everything is perfect and everyone is happy all the time. Instead, we should aim for an environment that encourages team improvement.
Didn’t get it right this time? Great, next time we’ll do better.
Here are some common phrases that will work against your efforts to introduce team improvement.
“That’s just the way it is here.”
“It’s just the nature of the industry.”
“This is how we’ve always done it.”
I dislike these phrases because they are powerless, victim statements.
They show that people have given up on team improvement. They indicate that no matter how much we try, nothing we do will work. After all, why bother trying if it’s just “how it is”?
Learn More: Do You Have a Victim Leadership Mentality?
Aim For Team Improvement, No Matter Where You Work
We aren’t all working on the SpaceX program with Elon Musk. Some leaders are working in companies that wouldn’t rate a mention on the world scale.
Some are working in industries that are in the dark ages. Others are working in companies that supply specialist components to different organisations, and many of us might not even know they exist!
No matter where you work, improvement should be a key driver. Achieving perfection may not be possible, but why not aim for it? We should be trying to improve every week, every month and every year. Even if our team sells toilet accessories.
Team improvement plays a key role in helping you drive and motivate your team members, and keeping them interested.
Let’s look at some of the less obvious ways it can help you and your team.
1. Team Improvement Provides Goals
When you’re leading an operational team, life can become fairly mundane. Your team’s job might be to manufacture products or provide a service.
So the team does the work. Then it starts again the next month. It can seem like a never ending cycle.
Team improvement is great, because it provides targets to aim for which may not naturally exist during the day to day operation of your team.
Project teams are slightly different in that they have a defined scope of work to complete. A project (usually!) has a defined end point. This means that you already have a defined goal for the team.
Operational teams are usually fulfilling a continuous need, so it can be good to punctuate the constant stream of requests with something else to strive for.
Whether it be a reduction in processing time, an increase in quality or better working conditions, team improvements can provide key goals for team members to strive for.
Learn More: How Setting Deadlines Will Improve Your Team.
2. Team Improvement Feeds Your High Performers
High performing team members feed on achievement. They like to feel as if they’re progressing. If your team isn’t improving, then your high performers are often dissatisfied. They feel as if they aren’t getting anywhere, or like they aren’t making a difference.
High performers who feel as if they aren’t making a difference or using their skills appropriately will soon leave.
Improvement opportunities help your high performers feel like they are learning and growing. If they’re still developing, then they have at least one reason to stay in your team.
If your high performers are stuck doing the same work day in and day out, you may find them heading out the door.
Learn More: 6 Ways to Keep Your Top Performers.
3. Team Improvement Provides Opportunities to Lead
Another great thing about team improvement is that it can provide leadership opportunities for your team members. It can be as simple as giving team members the opportunity to lead initiatives that improve productivity, quality or team morale.
Not only will this motivate team members, it will give them valuable leadership experience to include in their CV, for future job opportunities.
After all, your job is not to keep them in your team forever. It’s to help them improve until they can find their next big opportunity, or better yet – take on your role if you move on to something bigger and better.
4. Continuously Improving Means You’ll Be Ready For Change
If your team is consistently improving, your team members will become accustomed to having to change.
They will start to learn that change is a constant. This means when you really need to improve, due to changes to your organisation’s internal or external environment (such as new regulations or new competitors), you’ll be ready for it.
Industries are constantly transforming, so it’s not uncommon for a business to need to undertake a restructure or other significant change to make sure they can cope in our changing world.
A team that is not receptive to change is a team that will show the greatest degree of resistance. Like steam engine wheels that have rusted in place, you’ll need some significant force before you can get them moving again.
Taking on frequent team improvement initiatives will future-proof your team. Not only will they perform better, they’ll be ready when bigger changes happen.
Learn More: How Leaders Can Build a Resilient Team.
5. Team Improvement Keeps Skills Current
Improving the way your team works keeps people learning new things. Introducing new and better ways of working will prevent your team members from growing stale.
One way to do this is to keep in touch with your professional network so you can remain aware of industry trends and new ways of working. In order to apply them, you and your team members will need to learn new skills and techniques, which will keep your skills current.
If you’re leading a team which isn’t improving, there is a good chance that your team members’ skills are stagnating, which isn’t good for you or your organisation.
Jack Welch has a nice quote which reminds us just how important this is:
“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”
In other words, if things are changing outside, but our company isn’t changing inside, we might not be around for much longer!
You will never achieve perfection in your team. But just because you can’t achieve perfection doesn’t meant that you can’t get better.
Team improvement initiatives keep your team learning, ready for change and provide opportunities for skill development and leadership.
Are you consumed by the status quo? Or are you trying to get better?