How leaders can make their teams more productive

Tiny Aaron

In the third of our five part blog series on productivity, to-do lists and Streamtime, guest blogger Mat Groom looks at how to make your team productive – for everyone’s sake.

Now that we’ve established that productivity is important for your happiness, let’s talk about how to be productive at improving productivity. But before we get into specifics, you need to start by asking yourself a question – are you looking to make your business more productive, are you looking to make yourself more productive? Because business leaders with control over how their workplaces operate can do a lot to push the productivity of their team… but everyone else will have to settle for changing their habits.

We’ll talk about personal productivity habits in the next blog. This one’s for the head honchos.

Positive and negative charge.

If you’re looking to help your team be more productive, there are two psychologists who might be able to help you out: Frederick Herzberg and Abraham Maslow. Let’s start with Freddy.

Herzberg believed that there were two types of things that influenced how motivated (and, subsequently, productive) a worker is: what he called ‘motivator factors’ and ‘hygiene factors’.

‘Motivator factors’ make your team feel satisfied with their work lives and make them more likely to actively want to come into work each day – so things like enjoying the projects they’re working on, receiving encouragement, and having opportunities to progress their careers.

‘Hygiene factors’, on the other hand, don’t make employees feel motivated, but will sap motivation if they’re not present – things like salaries that reflect their effort and value to the company, job perks, fair treatment from supervisors, good relationships with co-workers, and reasonable company policies.

What’s interesting is that, according to Herzberg, motivator factors and hygiene factors don’t influence each other – they both affect motivation independently. Being underpaid doesn’t mean that some can’t still enjoy the projects they’re working on, for example. And having opportunities for career progression won’t stop a bad relationship with a co-worker from draining their motivation.

The lesson, then, is to be constantly managing both – making sure your team have plenty of motivator factors keeping them passionate, whilst also making sure no hygiene factors are undercutting that. No mean feat. But for a little help with that, we can look to Abraham Maslow.

The hierarchy you need.

You may have heard of ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’ – a list (usually depicted as a pyramid) that describes the fundamental needs of humans, in order of urgency. It’s used all over the place (from psychology instruction to sociology research to management training), but the original intent was for it to serve as a guide to understanding human motivation. And if you understand motivation, you understand productivity.

The Hierarchy starts with our most urgent physiological needs (oxygen, water, food); then onto matters of security (covering everything from a safe place to live to financial security and good health); then to love and belonging (both romantic and social); and then to esteem (the need for respect from ourselves and from others)… and when all those other needs are met, a person seeks self-actualisation – the need to become who they want to be, to achieve their dreams. The ultimate motivation.

Self-actualised workers are the hardest workers (as long as the work they’re doing for you lines up with their ambitions) – because they’re self-motivated, fuelled by their own burning desire to reach their most fundamental goals. That means, as a manager, you have two goals: make sure you’re doing everything you can to help meet your team members’ fundamental needs (so their attention is focused on their self-actualisation needs), and ensure that the work you’re giving them is meeting their self-actualisation needs.

To help with fundamental needs, you can:

– Ensure you’re paying your employees enough for them to feel financially secure
– Encourage them to use their sick days to keep them healthy, and make sure they’re not overworked (so they’re getting enough sleep)
– Maintain a positive environment that ensures they have healthy, respectful relationships with each other
– Be mindful of their need to have enough time to spend with their loved ones and family
– Provide regular feedback and be aware of their need to feel valued within the business.

Self-actualisation needs are much trickier, because they’re both individual and often intensely personal. The best tool here is communication: check-in with your team regularly to make sure you understand their self-actualisation desires, and how you can help that person focus on them.

Managing both for every person who works for you is an incredible challenge – but if you can do it, you’ll have a team of self-fuelled productivity machines.

As promised, our next blog will look at how you can improve your own productivity.

Mat Groom is Storyteller at For The People Agency.

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How leaders can make their teams more productive