How to Get Your Team Members to Pull Their Weight

Business is a team sport, but what happens when everyone on that team isn’t pulling their weight? Aside from being frustrating, it can also increase dysfunction as it signals to hardworking employees that they too can slack off. Dr. Mario Moussa, Dr. Derek Newberry, and Madeline Boyer, authors of “Committed Teams: Three Steps to Inspiring Passion and Performance,” have identified how to prevent unequal work efforts and encourage cohesive teamwork.

  1. Boil down abstract goals. While lofty, grandiose goals can be uplifting, don’t forget to pay attention to more concrete, personal rewards. If a team member loses sight of how their work benefits the end goal, it can be hard for them to commit. Make sure that big, collective goals align with small personal goals that drive performance.
  2. Create structure. Don't assume that a group of talented people will automatically act like a team. Clearly define roles and responsibilities to make sure everyone knows what they’re accountable for.
  3. Don’t overemphasize rules. While rules are important to running a business, don’t get bogged down on creating one for every potential contingency. Instead, focus on a few big rules that are likely to make the biggest difference in your team’s culture and performance.
  4. Reflect often. There is always room for improvement, even if an outcome was successful. Bake in a culture of constructive criticism and reflection so if someone starts to slack, there’s already an encouraging feedback mechanism to let them know they are underperforming. If a culture of feedback isn’t there, this could come off as a personal attack, rather than as a team improvement exercise.
  5. Include others in the decision-making process. Bring others into the process allow them to weigh in (even if they don't have final say). Not only does this provide unique vantage points, it also allows team members to feel ownership over a decision, thus driving performance and work ethic.

Takeaway: Set clear and direct goals and distribute ownership so that team members feel like they are making an impact on that end goal.

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