There’s no ‘I’ in ‘recognition’

There’s a lot of talk about increasing team performance by rewarding and recognizing workers collectively. But that can be tough to do, especially when most sales management systems are focused on individual performance, undermining the very teamwork you’re hoping to encourage. As a team manager, you can support the right behaviors with things that are in your control. Amy Gallo, a contributing editor at Harvard Business Review, procured some tips on team recognition from two leading thinkers on the topic:

Set clear objectives.

Team members have to understand and agree on what success looks like. “You need to have some way of assessing the group’s performance — a common set of objectives or aspirations,” says Michael Mankins, a partner at Bain & Company and coauthor of “Decide and Deliver:
Five Steps to Breakthrough Performance in Your Organization (Harvard Business Press). He advises bringing everyone together to discuss goals and metrics. Have them answer the question, “What would it take for us to give ourselves an A?”

Check in on progress.

Once the team knows what it’s supposed to do and how the work will be evaluated, check in regularly. Pose questions that help the group assess its progress: How are we performing as a team? What obstacles can we remove? You can have this conversation in a meeting or do it anonymously, using service like SurveyMonkey to ask team members to give themselves a collective grade. “If everybody agrees that it has been a C week for the team, then you can discuss how to improve,” Mankins says. “If you give yourselves an A, it’s something worth celebrating.”

Use the full arsenal of rewards.

Most managers don’t have the power to change how salaries or bonuses are handled at their organizations. If you do, be sure to tie a portion of the discretionary compensation to team or unit performance — the bigger the percentage the better. But if you don’t control the purse strings, don’t fret. There are lots of non-monetary rewards at your disposal. One example: Give your team exposure to senior leaders. “Teams like to be seen as part of a project that contributes at a high level,” says Deborah Ancona, a professor at MIT Sloan School of Management and coauthor of “X-Teams: How to Build Teams That Lead, Innovate and Succeed” (Harvard Business Press).

Focus discussions on collective efforts.

Ancona says that many companies include teamwork as a core competency in their leadership development models. As a manager, you can further encourage your people to collaborate by talking about them as a team, not as a set of individuals. Be sure to celebrate successes and discuss setbacks collectively. “The less you talk about individual contribution the better,” says Mankins. Instead, praise the behaviors that contribute to the team’s overall success.

Evaluate team performance.

In addition to completing individual performance reviews, consider conducting a team review as well. Mankins says that companies like Apple and Google have made this part of their formal processes, but you can do it on your own. Every six months or so, take a close look at the group’s progress, noting its accomplishments, where it has succeeded, and how it can further develop. Don’t mention individuals in this appraisal but focus on what the team has done — and can do — together.