Sometimes improving team performance requires getting back to basics. Remember Maslow’s hierarchy from psychology class? Maslow proposed that humans have five categories of needs, and the most basic of these (physiology & safety) must be met in order for an individual to achieve their higher level needs (belongingness, esteem, & self-actualization). Basically, if we don’t have food and water, we’re not worrying about fulfilling our creative potential. Reality isn’t that simple, obviously, but the concept provides a good starting point for understanding individual motivation within an organizational context.
It’s common for managers to jump to the upper levels of the hierarchy and focus their efforts on things like team building, recognition, and professional development. And these are great strategies. But it’s important to remember that an individual’s lower level needs must be met as well. You may have little control over some base factors, like your company’s wage structure or retirement plan, but you can greatly influence your team’s work environment and their sense of stability.
Like food and water, employees need adequate resources and equipment to do their jobs. Eliminating outdated technology, convoluted processes and unbalanced workload goes a long way toward improving individual motivation. As a leader, you can also create a safe, non-threatening environment by curtailing inappropriate email or other unprofessional team behavior that may leave individuals feeling uncomfortable.
To insure a sense of security, your management policies should be clear, consistent and objective. Arbitrary decisions, conflicting priorities and mixed messages all undermine team stability. Sharing information also helps your team understand the context of their work and what to expect from both you and the organization. Providing details of organizational strategy and impending changes (where appropriate) will help your team feel more secure in their positions.
You might also consider using Maslow’s hierarchy as a starting point when crafting your management philosophy statement.