11 Leadership Activities That Will Boost Team Productivity

by Mike O'Neill

It may seem impossible to motivate your employees to produce their best work and strive to reach company goals. You’ve probably tried several tactics and strategies to improve their productivity — nothing seems to work.

Are your hands tied by company policies, a lack of time, budget constraints, or a need for training? How are you supposed to produce the results your boss wants when it seems like everything is working against you?

The lack of results, long hours, and workplace stress is starting to have an impact on your job satisfaction and your home life. If something doesn’t change soon, you’re going to have to look for work elsewhere.

Don’t give up just yet! 

Let me show you 11 leadership activities you can try to boost the productivity of your team, and get the results you and your boss want.

Don’t have time to read this article right now? Click here to be taken to the summary at the bottom of this page.

Activity #1: Optimize Your Meetings

I recently worked with a client that was very meeting-centric. They wanted to be able to share information, solicit ideas, and make decisions, but do so with fewer meetings.

I suggested focus be placed on having a clearly defined purpose for each meeting and sending out an agenda and meeting materials beforehand.

This resulted in less meeting time being used to read and more time to collaborate. They also adopted a rule to never hold a meeting just to update people.

Coupled with keeping meetings short (60 minutes max) and small (no more than 7), this client improved productivity & strengthened communication.

Mike O'Neill, Bench Builders

Often, CEOs and managers waste time with excessive, disorganized meetings, and the meetings aren’t as effective as they could be.

As you can see from Mike’s story, you can optimize your meetings to make them more productive if you take the time to do some prep work beforehand. Come up with the key talking points and plan out how you want the meeting to go.

Prepare an organized agenda with time limits to discuss each talking point. Send it out to the staff members who will be attending the meeting so they can prepare.

Pro Tip: A good rule of thumb is to keep your meetings short, sweet, and get to the point quickly. Limit the number of people attending to no more than seven and keep the meeting time to one hour max.

Activity #2: Communicate Constructively

Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.

Constructive communication is a vital skill that everyone in a leadership position should possess. You should be able to discuss situations with employees in a way that focuses on solving the problem instead of pointing fingers or wasting time on “what-ifs” and “whys.”

When you communicate in a way that makes your employees feel respected and heard, you’ll find that it’s easier to motivate them. When they make mistakes, you need to remember they are only human and that getting angry about the situation isn’t helpful.

Follow these tips to help you become better at constructive communication:

  • Focus on the solution, not the problem. Placing blame causes tension and hurt feelings while doing nothing to solve the problem. Focus on what you can do to fix or improve the situation instead.
  • Be an active listener. Paraphrase what was said to you to show you were listening and to make sure you understand what they meant. Pause long enough to let them speak up and add something to the conversation before continuing to talk. Ask for clarification if something they said didn’t make sense to you.
  • Listen to facts, not opinions. It’s important to let them talk and tell you what’s on their mind, but don’t automatically accept their word for truth. You need to get all the facts before you voice your opinion and decide what to do next.

Activity #3: Provide Clear and Honest Feedback 

Employees who receive little or no feedback from their managers tend to disengage from their work more readily.

Providing clear and honest feedback is one of the most important things you can do to help your team be more productive. 

Rhonda Beard, one of our expert consultants, witnessed first hand just how much providing feedback can make a difference to an underperforming employee. Here’s what she had to say about her experience:

I recently worked with a client who had a manager that was not motivating his employees, not making decisions quickly, or making progress or improvements in his area.

The employee was a hard worker and very bright, but he was just not getting results. The manager was not involved in developing or coaching to any great degree. He kept telling the employee what he needed, but he provided very little feedback or encouragement.

I worked with the manager and trained him on how to change his approach — and it made a big difference. He began communicating more clearly. He explained what he wanted in smaller steps while clearly defining goals, expectations, and deadlines.

He also talked with his employee to find out what was holding him back. He became more encouraging and provided regular feedback as he made progress.

The employee began to step up and become more confident in making changes and moving things forward that had been incomplete for quite some time.

Rhonda Beard, Bench Builders

As you can see from Rhonda’s experience, providing honest feedback and clearly communicating with your employees can be the key to getting the results you want from employees that may otherwise seem unmotivated.

Activity #4: Prioritize Tasks

Being busy and being productive are two entirely different things. Employees can work long hours and weekends and still not really accomplish much of anything when they aren’t focusing on productive tasks.

How do you know what tasks are the most productive? 

You start by determining what tasks are going to get you the furthest toward reaching your desired goal with the minimal amount of effort and time.

For example, let’s say your goal is to achieve a crucial milestone towards the development of a new app your team is working on. The bulk of the tasks your team should be doing needs to be directly related to reaching the milestone by the required due date.

You have two team members that are making excellent progress, but you have three others who seem to be working all day long without ever checking off more than a few tasks per day.

The two employees who get the most done are spending all their time writing code for that milestone. The three others spend some of their time writing code, but they spend much more of their time replying to emails or talking to clients. 

Even though they are all working the same number of hours, they aren’t working on the tasks that matter most to the goal you’re trying to achieve. 

You can help keep them focused by marking the tasks they need to focus on as high priority or by assigning them a due date.

Take action when you notice employees are being overwhelmed or bombarded with less important tasks. You need to free them up so they can focus on the work that’s most important to achieving your goals.

Activity #5: Utilize Leadership Group Activities 

Leadership group activities are an excellent way to teach your employees important skills. These include constructive communication, team-building, or conflict resolution — and they can be fun. 

Focus on the areas you would like to improve on within your team and try some of the following leadership group activities to help:

  • Social Group Activities. Take your team out for lunch, to see a movie or some other fun activity to help your team members bond.
  • Sports. Bowling, basketball, softball, or any other sport inherently results in  your employees working together as a team.
  • Volunteering. Walk dogs at the local shelter or pass out food at the soup kitchen during the holidays. These activities promote trustworthiness and commitment, plus it builds confidence and a sense of self-worth when they come together to help others.
  • Passion Projects. These types of side projects can be a lot of fun, and they promote creativity and strategic planning. Some examples include mentorship initiatives, community outreach programs, and volunteer work.

These are only a few examples of some leadership group activities you can try. Contact Us if you’d like some more insights into games that might help you teach your team the skills they need.

Activity #6: Role Play Important Changes to Prevent Pitfalls

Are you implementing new company policies, processes, or tools for your team to use? Role-playing these situations can be extremely beneficial for you and your team.

Role-playing offers you a unique opportunity to put the changes into action and work out any kinks before rolling them out company-wide. Your employees are going to have an easier time adapting to the changes when they have an opportunity to see how they’ll work.

For example, let’s say your company has decided to start using new task management software. Your team loves what they are using now, and they are reluctant to use something else.

They have lots of negative feelings about the change, but they haven’t seen or heard any details about the new software. Give them a chance to test it out for a day and allow them to see first hand what it’s going to be like. Practice constructive communication and allow them to provide vital feedback.

Your team might discover that the software is lacking a feature they need. They may also find that it has new features they can get excited about. Either way, this is valuable information for you and them and shows that you value their opinion.

Activity #7: Host Workshops For Conflict Resolution Coaching

Everyone can benefit from conflict resolution coaching — even if you haven’t experienced any conflicts within your team first hand. 

Coaching should be thought of as something you do to prevent unresolved conflicts from happening in the first place vs something you do to fix a situation after it impacts the work environment.

Conflict resolution coaching involves teaching your team how to: 

  • Become more self-aware and identify things that trigger conflict. 
  • Understand how and why they react to conflict the way they do.
  • Teach them approaches or techniques they can use in the future to work past their triggers and negative reactions.

You can host a workshop on your own, but we recommend hiring a professional coach to lead the workshop instead. 

Activity #8: Offer Rewards For Achieving Crucial Goals or Milestones

69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were being better recognized.

Everyone is motivated by something. The key to being an excellent leader is to find out what that something is and offer it in exchange for something you want them to do.

Let’s say you have a project deadline fast approaching, but at the pace your team is currently producing work, hitting that deadline doesn’t look likely. 

How can you motivate them to work faster and come together to achieve your goal? 

Try offering them something they want in exchange for meeting the deadline. What you should offer depends on what your employees’ likes and interests are.

  • Does your team have a favorite place to eat or an activity they love to do together? Take them out if they meet the deadline and cover the expense.
  • Do they all have a favorite store they shop? Buy them each a gift card instead. 

Pay attention to which employees respond positively and which ones don’t. Ask any who don’t respond positively if there is a better reward you could offer next time.

Activity #9: Offer Performance-Based Bonuses

Quarterly or annual performance-based bonuses can be excellent motivators. 

Make sure you take the time to outline what their performance goals are and where they are towards reaching them. Sit down with your team one-on-one and set goals you would like to achieve between now and the next performance review. 

It’s important that you do this together, and that you make the goals something they believe can be realistically achieved. You could offer them a one time bonus if they achieve or exceed all the goals you came up with by the next performance review. 

How much you should offer as a bonus is completely up to you and your company. Just keep in mind that the amount should be high enough to motivate them, but not so high that your company spends more than it gains in profits from your team meeting their goals.

Activity #10: Give Them Chances to Earn Extra PTO (Paid Time Off) For Performance

Offering paid time off (PTO) to your employees often pays dividends for the employer in the form of the employees’ physical and mental health, attitudes toward work, and productivity.

Disconnecting from work, especially from a stressful or demanding job, will afford your work staff a welcome reprieve from the daily grind, allowing them the chance to rest, relax, and rejuvenate.

And when they return, they will likely have gained a new perspective on a project, be more productive, and be more in tune with their colleagues and managers.

Offering bonuses works, but you don’t want to do it all the time. Mixing up the rewards and adding some variety can give employees renewed motivation and some well-deserved time off.

Consider alternating bonuses with extra paid time off. You could give them 1 extra vacation day for the quarter or year — depending on how often you are doing performance reviews.

Your employees will appreciate the gesture after all the extra hard work they put in to reach the goals you helped them set.

Activity #11: Start a Contest

A little friendly competition never hurt anyone, and it’s a great way to keep your team working more productively while allowing them to have some fun at the same time.

Center your contest around getting your team to complete crucial tasks by a specific deadline, or by challenging them with personal goals.

Do you have an employee who seems to take their time and work really slow? Challenge them to complete more work in a shorter time frame.

What if you have an employee who gets a ton of work done really fast, but they always make careless mistakes by rushing? Challenge them to slow it down and take some extra time to double-check their work.

The winner is the employee who worked the hardest and made the most improvements going after their goal. Make sure to recognize and encourage the efforts of every member of your team, win or lose.

Quick Summary

Do you feel like nothing you do ever helps to motivate your employees to be more productive? Is your boss breathing down your neck because you’re not producing the results they want? 

Try the following 11 leadership activities to help you motivate and coach your employees to greatness.

  1. Optimize Your Meetings. Prepare an agenda of key talking points and send it out to attendees beforehand, so they have time to prepare. Keep meetings to one hour max and seven people or less for maximum efficiency. 
  2. Communicate Constructively. Focus on actions to solve the problem. Don’t waste valuable time and resources debating who did what and why. 
  3. Provide Clear and Honest Feedback. Making your expectations clear and discussing problems early on is crucial to keeping your employees engaged and productive. 
  4. Prioritize Tasks. Work on the tasks that are going to help you achieve your desired goal the fastest. Don’t let employees waste time on tasks that are not adding value towards goals.
  5. Utilize Leadership Group Activities. Activities and games are great tools for developing the skills you want your team to improve on the most.
  6. Role Play Important Changes to Prevent Pitfalls. Doing this gives you a chance to see how changes are going to impact your processes and employees, so you can make necessary adjustments before you roll out the changes company-wide.
  7. Host Workshops For Conflict Resolution Coaching. Workshops should be treated as a preventative measure and not something you do after a conflict has caused an issue in the workplace.
  8. Offer Rewards For Achieving Crucial Goals or Milestones. Gift cards, team outings, or other things that motivate your employees can be excellent incentives for meeting crucial milestones or achieving goals.
  9. Offer Performance-Based Bonuses. An opportunity to earn some extra cash on their paycheck from time to time can help you get the performance from your employees that you want to see.
  10. Give Them Chances to Earn Extra PTO (Paid Time Off) for Performance. Don’t want to offer cash incentives? Give them a chance to earn PTO for meeting pre-determined goals between performance reviews.

Start a Contest. A friendly competition can be a great way to keep your team working more productively. Center your contest around getting your team to complete crucial tasks by a specific deadline, or by challenging them with personal goals.

Get Your Free Tactical Guide to Managing Humans

Managing humans is tough. You have to be skilled at communicating with others, able to read body language well, and have the perseverance to find solutions without giving up.

Learning to be a more effective leader is all part of your job, and the more you learn, the easier and more fulfilling your job will be.

Many managers and supervisors may be lacking the skills or training to communicate effectively with employees in ways that will improve their performance, productivity, and results.

It's important for organizations to have effective training for leaders, which can impact employee performance and bottom-line results.

Rhonda Beard, Bench Builders

Let us help you learn some new skills to help you excel at your job.

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