Productivity Secrets for Building Top-Performing Teams

Reading time: 5 Mins

If you want to build a seriously successful business, you need a super-charged, highly productive team. Here’s what you can learn from the world’s best businesses about top-notch team management.

When Bain & Company partners, Michael Mankins and Eric Gartner, conducted research for their book Time, Talent, Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag and Unleash Your Team's Productive Power, they discovered an incredible fact:

The best companies in the world are 40% more productive than everyone else.

This means that by 10am on a Thursday, they have completed what most other companies only manage by 5pm on Friday.

But here’s what made the biggest impact to profitability: Those top-performing companies don’t just stop working at 10am on a Thursday.

They still have two whole operational days of the week left to them. They’re still working and producing, significantly outstripping their competitors in terms of what they can do for customers.

The next big discovery: You don’t need great players to build great teams

Their next discovery was even more significant, and it had to do with the talent pool that these top performing companies had.

According to their book, Time, Talent, Energy, A-level talent is exponentially more productive than everyone else:

  • A developer at Apple writes nine times more usable code than the average software developer in Silicon Valley
  • The best blackjack dealer at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas keeps his table playing at least five times as long as the average dealer on the Strip
  • The best sales associate at Nordstrom in the US sells at least eight times as much as the average sales associate walking the floor at other department stores
  • The best transplant surgeon at Cleveland Clinic has a patient survival rate at least six times longer than that of the average transplant surgeon
  • The best fish butcher at Le Bernadin restaurant in New York can portion as much fish in an hour as the average prep cook can manage in three hours

It doesn’t matter what industry you investigate, there are always A-players, and they always achieve significantly more than everyone else.

Which leads to the question: Do top-performing companies have more A-players on their teams? And the answer, surprisingly, is no.

  • Across all companies, whether they are top performers, average or even poor competitors in their industries, the talent ratio is the same: One in seven employees are A-Players.
  • The difference is in how employees are hired for culture, onboarded, teamed up together and managed.
  • When all of these elements are in place, companies win – and become super-competitive productivity hubs. 

3 Secrets to exceptional productivity and team management

Here are three ways you can get higher productivity from your employees – without only having A-players on your teams.

  1. Effectively onboard employees

What is onboarding? Onboarding is getting your new hires up-to-speed as quickly and as effectively as possible. This entails:

  • Introducing new hires to your company culture. This is important. The foundation laid will impact how your new hires behave going forward. Make sure a highly engaged employee or manager who has embraced your company culture handles the onboarding.
  • Communication around systems and processes is important. Create videos interviewing various managers who can discuss your products, services and divisions. Onboard new hires with these videos. This will introduce them to the language your business uses, how you approach customers and the overall culture of your organisation.
  • Training is essential. Finally, don’t just throw new hires in the deep-end. Train them on everything you do and offer to customers, as well as the operational aspects of the business. A comfortable employee is more likely to treat customers well and be engaged in the business.
  1. Effectively drive engagement

What is engagement? How engaged your employees are determines how happy they are to come to work, which in turn impacts how they do their jobs and interact with customers.

Unfortunately, employee engagement is not a given. It needs to be earned. Certain criteria need to be met, and this starts with you, the business owner. You need to create an environment that supports engagement.

To have satisfied employees, the following criteria need to be met:

  • They need to feel safe
  • Have the resources they need
  • Feel that they’re relatively unencumbered in getting their job done every day
  • That they’re rewarded fairly

Once these are met, you can focus on getting your employees engaged:

  • They need to feel part of a team
  • That they’re learning on the job
  • That they’re having an impact
  • That they have a level of autonomy

Finally, inspired employees take this a step further:

  • They have a personal mission that is so aligned with the company’s mission that they’re inspired to come to work every day
  • The leadership of their immediate supervisors is incredibly inspiring
  1. Pick great managers

Finally, don’t discount the importance of great managers. According to the Harvard Business Review, employees respond poorly to managers who:

  • Micromanage
  • Avoid making decisions
  • Don’t listen
  • Bully them
  • Steal credit for themselves
  • Reserve information
  • Shift blame
  • Set a poor example
  • Are lazy
  • Don’t develop or support their staff

So, what does this mean for you as a business owner? First, understand how important strong management structures are in your business.

Your managers are there to support your employees. They need to embody your company’s culture, and be focused on building satisfied, engaged and inspired employees. Double check the Harvard Business Review’s list above – do any of your managers have these behaviours? If they do, they could be toxic for your business.

Second, help your employees and managers understand that this is not a one-way relationship. Employees and managers both have responsibilities towards each other. Everyone has a role to play – together, you can create top-performing teams.

Productivity Secrets for Building Top-Performing Teams