Your most important management responsibility is to achieve team goals. As you know, in this current business environment where team members regularly resign or call in sick, the organization frequently changes direction, or budgets are slashed without warning, achieving goals isn’t an easy task. And yet it must be done.
The most effective way to achieve team goals is to utilize the steps early in the Task Cycle, such as planning ahead, setting appropriate standards of performance, and providing motivating feedback. Unfortunately, some managers rely more on pressuring their teams to perform than they do on other techniques. Goal pressure may result in short-term performance gains, but it is not likely to be your best tool over the long term. Too much pressure results in burned-out team members, inconsistent results, and poor relationships.
On the other hand, pressure that is only applied occasionally could be quite effective. But it should be a rarely-used tool in your tool box. If you rely on it too much, you could be pushing, not leading. People might consider you to be abrasive or overly aggressive, and they might not want to work on your team. Conversely, if you never use this tool, you could be considered to be less than committed to the success of your project.
How can you achieve your goals without over-reliance on goal pressure? Here are a few suggestions.
Study the early parts of the Task Cycle. Techniques such as Goal Setting, Problem Solving, Planning and Collaboration, and Coaching are much more effective than pressure for motivating team members.
When you set goals for your team, make sure you stress the importance of achieving them. Ask people to talk to you right away if they believe they are not likely to reach the goal in a timely manner. If you know this ahead of time, you have options. Pressure might not be the preferred one.
Make sure your expectations are appropriate and not overly ambitious. Your colleagues who are also managers can help you decide whether you are asking too much of your team members.
Remember that each person responds to different motivational techniques. Rewards are often much more effective than pressure. Tailor your strategies to the needs of each individual team member.
If you decide that this is one of those rare occasions when pressure is most appropriate, be up-front about it with your team members. Assure them that the need to work late, drop other assignments, miss training opportunities, etc., will not be the norm. If possible, explain how long the pressure situation will last (hopefully no more than a few weeks) and demonstrate that you will also be working long hours alongside them.
When you meet your goal, congratulate your team for a job well done. Then return to the status quo.
Be careful not to overuse this skill. The pleasure that team members feel from accomplishing goals that have been planned for and executed appropriately will be very different from the relief they are likely to feel when success comes from pressure. And you will be happy to have a variety of tools in your toolbox from which to choose.
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