As economic times get tougher (can’t recall when last they were easier…) companies tend to put the pressure on managers to do more with less. Stretch the resources, optimise, and tighten the bootstraps, they’re told. But the reality is that old business tactics of buckling down to ride it out, don’t really work anymore.

The way of working has changed, team expectations have changed, and business operations have changed, so old management styles need to adapt too. Building a more productive team is not about cracking the whip. There are better ways to motivate:

Create ownership

Team members perform better when they’re empowered to take ownership of specific projects or tasks. This is because it’s no longer just a job, it becomes an opportunity for them to showcase their skills, knowledge and experience. Creating ownership gives team members a stake in the success of the project and creates a different perspective towards the work they’re doing. They become more engaged and motivated which delivers more value for a company.

Serve your team

Good leaders build strong relationships with their team members. They know them as individuals and understand which areas they excel in and are most passionate about. They also serve their team by ensuring the company provides them with the resources they need to work effectively. If there’s an aspect of work they’re struggling with, employees should feel comfortable enough to ask for help, knowing they’ll get  support.

Focus on learning

When people are scared they’ll be punished in some way for their lack of knowledge or inability to complete a task, they’re less likely to ask for help and as a result, more likely to actually fail. Creating a culture where it’s ok to experiment with ideas and try new approaches creates a productive, problem-solving working environment where employees are less concerned about failing and more focussed on learning in the process.

Keep them in the loop

Team managers are typically the key communicators between the executives or upper management. Knowing how to effectively communicate news to the team – whether it’s good or bad – will impact how they respond. Communicating in a neutral way, without assigning blame, yet being able to find the positive takeaway is what’ll keep the team motivated, even if it means they might be under pressure.

Good leadership is the critical element of creating a productive and motivated team. Focusing on team needs helps keep perspective.