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Research Triangle Business Advisors

May 2016 Newsletter


I have talked about motivating and evaluating individuals several times in the past.  Now it’s time to take a look at motivation and evaluation from a team perspective. I’m sure we have all recognized the importance of “team work,” but I still see managers focusing on individuals as opposed to the team.  That is individual goals as opposed to team goals or individual recognition as opposed to team recognition. So, this newsletter is about the how and why of team performance and recognition.


  Bob De Contreras





How and Why to Reward Your Top Performing Team

Many managers think that the top performance they see in their team happens because of the great people on the team. Some managers recognize that the team needs to be motivated with recognition and reward. But, then they recognize individuals, when they should be recognizing the team as a whole. That is no surprise, since most management training is focused on individual performance, and that is undermining the very teamwork we are hoping to encourage. Despite these issues with training, experience and upper level coaching we don't need to do battle with the company's HR department view of the evaluation process or pay structure. Let’s explore how you as a team manager, can entice the desired behaviors with actions that are in your control.

What Gets in Our Way

More and more we have teams made up of people with diverse backgrounds, styles, and personal needs. For example, we have teams made up of “Baby Boomers,” “Gen Xers,” and “Millennials.” So, we have environmental issues that are getting in the way of forming good teams. Then, we frequently have people work on multiple teams at the same time, making it even harder to implement an effective team incentive program. And, we often face the individual performer who is looking to over achieve and get all the credit for the team’s success. So, managers have to look at creative and different ways to implement incentives.  For example, realizing that rewarding the team dramatically improves not only the team performance but also that of the individual team members. Let’s look at a few ways to do it.

Set Clear Goals and Objectives

Hopefully, you have already discovered that the team can’t meet objectives without goals and deadlines. Team members need to understand and agree on what their success looks like. And, managers need to have some way of assessing the team's performance — a common set of goals and objectives. Start by bringing the team together to discuss goals and objectives. Have them answer the question: What would it take for us to achieve our team’s objectives? Having this sort of discussion can be motivational in that it gets the team members’ buy-in since it’s their idea, and lays the groundwork for collaboration and team success at achieving the goals and objectives as a team.


Once the team agrees on what it's supposed to do, and how the team will be evaluated, the team manager must check in regularly. Ask questions that help the group assess its progress: How is the team performing compared to its plan? What obstacles can the manager help remove? Ask team members to give themselves a collective grade. If everybody agrees that it has been a “C” week for the team, then the manager can discuss how to improve. If its been an “A” week — celebrate.

Get to know your team

Of course rewards are only motivating if you give the team something it wants. This can be challenging because what makes one person feel appreciated may have no effect on another. Spend the time to get to know your team members and look for things they collectively value. If you're at a loss, ask for their opinion.

Focus discussions on collective efforts

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 recognize successes and discuss stumbling blocks collectively – “The team accomplished…” and “The team missed the deadline…” The less you talk about individual contribution the better. Instead, praise the behaviors that contribute to the team's overall success such as helping other teammates on their part of the project and giving candid feedback to peers.

Evaluate team performance

In addition to completing individual performance reviews, consider conducting a team review as well. Every quarter or so, take a close look at the team's progress, noting its accomplishments, where it has succeeded, and how it can improve. Don't mention individuals in this appraisal but focus on what the team has done — and can do — together.

Non-Monetary Rewards

A large majority of individuals respond to the question, “…what kind of recognition do you want…” with the answer, “I just want my manager to say thank you.” What they often don’t say is that there are several ways managers say thank you that the team members say “don’t count.” They include things like: a simple two word email (lazzy), a thank you as your manager just passed you in the hallway (afterthought), a thank you immediately after the manager has just told you how unhappy he is with your performance (conciliatory), a thank you when the manager says I don’t remember why, but I know I owe you a thank you (doesn’t care), etc. It does not count as a thank you until the manager stops all she is doing, looks you in the eyes, and patiently and deliberately explains why and says the thank you.  Better yet, the person would appreciate the thank you even more if the above was delivered publicly and in front of the other team members.  So, apply all this by replacing “team member” thinking with “team” and you will have a very simple and powerful thank you. 

Other things that can be done include the following:

  • Put up a framed display with the team member photos and a short description of the recent team success.

  • Put up a framed photo/logo of an important client who has extended their relationship with your company and include a thank you to the team who made it happen.

  • Put the team in front of the top executive and allow them to provide feedback on how to make things better in the company (better equals more sales, or more profit, or better working conditions, or tools to improve productivity, etc.)



  • Agree with the team on what team success looks like.

  • Bring the team together to discuss progress against goals and how to improve or if it’s going well — celebrate.

  • Complete a periodic formal evaluation of the team.


  • Only think of rewards as money — there are many non-monetary perks that people appreciate.

  • Focus on individual performance — emphasize the team's accomplishments.

  • Reward your team with something they don't collectively value — know your team.


Cary | Raleigh | Research Triangle Park | Greensboro | North Carolina
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