How to get the most out of your team

I spoke to someone recently who was dealing with a frustrating dilemma, having just started at a new company and leading a new team. They quickly noticed that while their team excelled at their core tasks, they struggled to support others and participate in broader company projects. The problems were made worse by a lack of ownership and accountability, which is another common problem among the teams of the leaders I work with. So how should you get the best out of your team?


If the main problem is that, in the face of too much work, your team are prioritising what they see as their ‘main role’ and not doing the other tasks that they see as discretionary (such as getting involved in projects and supporting others in the company) then you need to change your perspective, and theirs, on what their day job is. If organisational support and project involvement are both important then they need to be seen as being as much a part of the role as the other elements. And then it becomes a broader conversation about what needs keeping versus what needs dropping, in order to have a manageable workload. Temporarily put everything in one ‘task bucket’ and then re-sort it in terms of what’s really important and what isn’t.


If you find that most tasks are important, then you need to find more hours somewhere. There are only three ways of achieving this:

  1. Getting people to work longer
  2. Getting more people in to do the work
  3. Getting people to work more efficiently

For most managers, the first two are out of their control…people are already likely to be working hard, and increasing team size will, more often than not, be beyond the current budget (or you’d have done it already).In that case, the best option is the final option – getting people to work more efficiently. And this is where we return to the question of what’s important. You’ve already narrowed their work down to the key tasks; how can you streamline these further to create more space in people’s diaries? Can you automate more? Can you combine tasks to take less time task switching? Can you reduce the number of meetings so people have more time to complete their workload? Can you cut out 20% or 30% of the task and its output to make it less thorough but less time-consuming? Can you double the time between reports to give more space for other tasks (going from a monthly to a bi-monthly report, for example)?

Also, don’t forget, despite your frustrations, to praise your team for being good at the main components of their role – your recognition will go a long way in keeping them motivated during what sounds like pressured times. 

In short – prioritise, streamline, praise, repeat. And keep seeking out more staff to help you complete what’s important. 

Three resources to help with work prioritisation: 

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