6 Ways to Sabotage Your Team’s Performance

6 Ways to Sabotage Your Team’s Performance

Sam is a salesman who is exasperated with his job. 

One of the top performers for his company, he’s been repeatedly commended for his contributions to the team and his willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty. Sam is a valued employee.

Like many companies these days, Sam’s organization is under great financial strain, in spite of record-breaking sales last year. Thus, at the beginning of this fiscal year, his boss – a good, Christian man – challenged the sales team to double their revenue in the next 12 months. “We will work hard, and we will trust God!”

“Yes!” Sam and his teammates agreed. “We can do this!” It was an ambitious goal, but with hard work and God’s help, all things were possible.

Sam and the sales team started the fiscal year fired up and ready to conquer the world. But as the months have passed, their enthusiasm is waning. Every time the numbers disappoint, upper management attempts to tinker their way into better performance. There have been ongoing changes in titles, procedures, reporting structures and communications.

“It’s incredibly discouraging,” confides Sam about the pressure to meet extraordinary expectations amidst the flurry of changes. “You can't win the Super Bowl in a rebuilding year.”

6 Dead-End Plays

Sam’s simple sport-inspired analysis carries a lot of wisdom for workplace leaders.

Inspirational films often portray teams going from zeroes to heroes in two hours or less – but most coaches know the truth. Outstanding performance usually comes as the result consistent application of solid team-oriented strategy over the long haul. Conversely, taking an impulsive, messy, unrealistic, self-centered or finicky approach to leadership will demoralize your team and undercut any organization’s ability to achieve long-term success.

Here are six common ways leaders may unwittingly sabotage a team’s performance.

1. Turn to faith on the back end.

When things get tough in pursuit of lofty goals, Christian leaders are often quick to claim God’s promise that He will “in all things work for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28) But taking this verse out of context leads far too many people to a “name it and claim it” mindset, measuring God’s faithfulness by whether or not He comes through on the goals we never consulted with Him on in the first place.

Don't measure God’s faithfulness by whether He comes through on goals you never consulted Him on in the first place. Tweet This. 

Don’t procrastinate on making prayer and faith part of your change strategy. Earnestly seek His wisdom and supernatural support from the very beginning – not just the back-end – allowing Him to take the lead in defining your vision and goals.

And when you do, you’ll be less likely to…

2. Set unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky goals. 

Sometimes God challenges leaders to take a leap of faith, setting goals that can only be accomplished through His divine intervention. These are incredible, trust-building moments. But sometimes leaders set unrealistic expectations for their teams out of greed, pride, fear, desperation, or ignorance.

There’s a fine line between faith-led stretch goals and crazy – and when your goals lean toward the latter, you set you and your team up for tremendous disappointment. You’ll quickly lose any internal support when your team believes they’re sunk before the game even begins.

Pray, consult trusted advisers, take realistic stock of what kind of manpower and resources are available to you, and then plan accordingly. Doing so will enable you to set God-inspired, realistic goals that you and your team will be proud to accomplish.

And once you’ve established your goals, don’t be so quick to…

3. Abandon the strategy.

Long-lasting change rarely happens quickly. And knee-jerk reactions to early disappointments wreak havoc – on your organization’s productivity, budget, resources, and perhaps most importantly, your team’s morale.

Lasting changes rarely happen quickly. Knee-jerk reactions to early disappointments wreak havoc. Tweet This. 

Go into any strategy or change expecting that it will take a lot of effort and a whole lot of time to execute. You will, of course, probably have to make adjustments along the way as you come across new information, circumstances and challenges. However, think long and hard before abandoning any strategy altogether. Effective leaders know that slow and steady wins the race.

When changes do become necessary, make sure not to….

4. Attempt too many changes all at once.

Change is inevitable, and the most successful employees find a way to adapt – but even the most adaptable among us have their limits. When people face too many changes in too short of a time, they become discouraged, disgruntled or even start to shut down.

Keep the total number and pace of changes in mind as you introduce new processes, reporting structures, technologies, etc. Allow ample time for adaptation; hold off on introducing any new modifications until your team has had the opportunity to implement and master what you’ve already given them. It may seem like a painfully slow process, but in the end, everyone will benefit from having a confident, well-adjusted, cohesive and therefore productive team.

As your team makes forward progress, make sure that you don’t…

5. Discount the power of celebration.

There’s no doubt about it: strong performance comes as the result of hard work. But as the old saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” When leaders fail to take time to stop and celebrate the wins along the way, teams become bored, discouraged or disengaged. Leaders risk losing the momentum that comes from an energized, competition-oriented team.

Create opportunities to celebrate the success of your team. Establish milestones en route the ultimate goal – then carve out time to celebrate when your team reaches those milestones. For example, is your end goal to increase annual revenue? Why not establish correlating monthly goals? Then reward your team any time they surpass those monthly goals. Rewards don’t have to be substantial to be meaningful; even verbal affirmation goes a long way when your team perceives it as sincere.

And speaking of affirmation, don’t be so quick to…

6. Assume everyone is handling change well.

Most people recognize that change is hard. Even so, too often, leaders significantly underestimate the toll it is taking on their teams. Whenever an organization implements new changes or ramps up the pressure to perform, your individual team members will likely experience a new level of stress and/or apprehension. Ironically, this may be the hardest to see in your “best” high-performing employees who are eager to show their support of your leadership. In an effort to “stay positive” they may appear upbeat or say “everything’s great,” even as they’re making updates to their LinkedIn profiles.

In times of change or increased pressure to perform, make sure to keep close tabs on employee morale. View every meeting, every conversation, every decision as an opportunity to show love and encourage workers at every level. Show patience, extend extra grace, give positive affirmation, and foster a spirit of transparency.

Make sure your team knows that THEY are your most valued assets, regardless of their performance.

Achieving Their Greatest Potential

So many of us are leading teams full of Sams – individuals who WANT to perform well and have all the potential to do so … if only we can provide them the right leadership.

Rather than sabotaging their performance, we can help our teams thrive by:

  • Following God’s lead in our vision casting,

  • Setting realistic, God-inspired goals,

  • Implementing solid strategy over the long haul,

  • Avoiding too many changes at once,

  • Celebrating successes, and

  • Showing love, grace and patience to our teams throughout the process.

In short, we will help our teams achieve their greatest potential when we love and lead like Jesus.

In his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul writes, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9, NIV)

May this be our prayer as leaders:

“Lord, let me not become weary in doing good – the good work to which You have called me. Help me to follow Your lead, and to show wisdom, love and patience with those I influence so that they can become all that You’ve designed them to be. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.”

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Heather Day

Heather Day

Heather Day is an accomplished writer and communicator, who served as Lead Like Jesus’ Director of Communications for two years. She also spent nine years as Director of Marketing Communications for Olivet Nazarene University, three years as the Creative Services Coordinator for Bible League International, and two years as Community Outreach Coordinator for St. Anne Community High School. Heather and her husband, Robert, reside in Bourbonnais, IL with their two young children, Emma and Jackson. She is an active member and volunteer leader at Manteno Church of the Nazarene.

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