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Four Skills of Highly Productive Teams

Friday, August 23, 2019
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We all have them. That teammate who promises to deliver but doesn’t. He forgets deadlines, misses meetings, misplaces important communications, and loses track of to-dos then apologizes profusely for the inevitable blunders. What this teammate doesn’t realize is that his fumbles are not just mere annoyances but slip ups that send the entire team into a tailspin.

VitalSmarts recently asked 1,160 professionals to share how individual performance affects team productivity within their organizations. This is what they said:

· 94 percent have at least one teammate who frequently misses deadlines.
· 91 percent have at least one teammate who forgets tasks and appointments.
· 85 percent have at least one teammate who appears busy but fails to complete tasks on time.
· 91 percent have at least one teammate who spends too much time on unimportant tasks.

And nine of 10 say when even one teammate commits any of these blunders, the team and organization suffer. Morale, trust, productivity, quality, customer service, and profitability decline.

People can have good intentions and rich technical backgrounds yet still overestimate their ability to manage workload. In fact, we’ve found that as a person’s roles and responsibilities increase, their productivity practices begin to fail them. For team members to thrive in a world of endless tasks and inputs, they must develop a few key practices.

This is good news. By adopting just a few vital skills, team members can learn to execute effectively on time and protect themselves from mishaps and bungles. Here are a few skills teams can begin practicing today for increased effectiveness:

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End with action. At the end of every meeting, identify a clear next action and a plan for follow-up. Never settle for a vague course of action such as, “Let me work with this for a bit.” Instead, identify concrete next actions by specifying who will do what by when and who will follow up. This ensures projects move forward as well as reduces the need for future meetings.

Create a capture culture. One of the most important but widely overlooked productivity skills is that of capturing tasks, assignments, and ideas in a trusted tool, whether that be a notepad, calendar, or app. When team members consistently capture commitments, they are more apt to get work done on time, and they foster trust. When you capture an assignment following a discussion with your teammate, you communicate that you care. And when teammates see you capture tasks, their confidence in you increases.

Do the right stuff. There are three modes of work, and every team member should dedicate time for each.

  • Define work: process inboxes, in-trays, or other requests and clarify inputs into next actions.
  • Predefined work: complete clarified tasks from calendars or to-do lists.
  • Undefined work: work on unplanned, irregular, or emergency tasks as necessary.

Without boundaries, people tend to spend their time on whatever is latest and loudest rather than on key priorities. Conversely, when team members dedicate blocks of time for each kind of work, and the team has a culture of respecting those boundaries, they complete critical projects and tasks.

Make it OK to say “no.” A “yes” mentality will backfire the minute your yes men have too much on their plate. Avoid dropped balls and missed deadlines by making it okay to renegotiate tasks or decline requests. But here’s the key: frame negotiations not as a complainer craving less but as a contributor craving focus. Instead of “No, I don’t have time for that,” communicate your desire to focus on the right priorities. Foster a culture where teammates seek real solutions rather than agree to every request out of a sense of obligation. Managers can praise this behavior to spur focus and engagement.

Workplace productivity is a team effort. To influence how team members do their work, organizations must intentionally create norms for how work is done. They can do this by equipping teams with proven productivity skills. When team members have a shared understanding of how to effectively manage workflow, they foster focus, trust, and accountability. Efficient productivity follows.

To learn more about team productivity training, visit our page and start seeing results today.

About the Author

Justin Hale is a speaker, training designer, and master trainer at VitalSmarts. He has been a lead engineer in designing training courses and facilitated classes and delivered keynote speeches on the skills and principles to 300+ clients and audiences around the world.

RT
About the Author

Ryan Trimble is a lead writer at VitalSmarts. He works alongside the company’s authors and researchers to identify and publicize trends in workplace communication and human behavior.

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