Updated: Sep 30

Keeping teams motivated, productive and collaborating optimally after 18-months of pandemic-related pressure and fatigue is tough. An alarming report by McKinsey & Company found that 49% of employees are burnt out – and that’s likely an under-representation of the true number.

As the custodians of culture and employee engagement, leaders play a key role in supporting and easing the burdens employees face. One of the biggest challenges leaders are facing is how to effectively support their teams while energising, engaging and aligning them to common goals.

The key is understanding what tasks will have the biggest impact in driving your business forward and aligning, mobilising and supporting your people to achieve them. It is this clarity of vision and focus on doing the right things at the right time that has seen Red Bull dominate at the Formula 1 with its seamless pitstops.

Essentialism: a key tool in your toolbox

Essentialism is a philosophy that involves taking the time to pause, question and evaluate before taking action. It was popularised in business by the well-known author and strategist, Greg McKeown, who explains:

“Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean doing less for the sake of less either. It’s about making the wisest possible investment of our time and energy to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”

With this in mind, here are six key principles for leaders

1. “Do less, but better”

Define a simple yet compelling vision, underpinned by your purpose and values, and simplify this to a single page. Articulation is key. Everyone in the organisation needs to understand the vision, be clear on what the end-goal is, and know what success looks like and how it will benefit them.

Make this a part of your daily team conversations and regularly communicate progress.

2. Focus on the highest point of contribution

When juggling the boundaries between work and life, it is easy for employees to become burdened by their growing list of ‘to-dos’. Approaching the day overwhelmed, negatively affects their ability to focus, prioritise and execute tasks effectively.

To set your team up for success, it is important to determine where each team member’s highest point of contribution lies and then empower, develop and enable them to focus on and take ownership of this.

This involves defining clear roles and responsibilities with measurable goals and targets. Performance scorecards are a valuable tool that set a clear agenda and ensures that employees focus on the right things. It further involves having targeted performance conversations and providing coaching on areas of development.

A key question to ask your employees is; “Are you investing in the right activities?” Regularly evaluating and reviewing performance against your business goals and values allows employees to choose wisely and make the highest level of contribution to their team and the business.

3. Build team fitness

A team with too many priorities usually gets very little done. Be absolutely clear with your team about what is most important to accomplish and how it fits into the vision.

Create clarity by breaking down your goals into 12-week horizons with weekly targets. To help your team focus on doing the right things at the right time, adopt a motto of “WIN” – What’s Important Now? Ask this question during your weekly operational check-ins and if there’s uncertainty, clarify the objectives and reprioritise.

HOW your team works together to achieve performance is as important as WHAT they get done. Your team must understand the behaviours required to get the results. To keep your team future fit, ensure that meetings focus on goals versus achievements as well as the values demonstrated during the process.

4. Eliminate the non-essential

It takes discipline to not get sidetracked by daily pressures. Accountability is essential to maintain a clear line of sight between team goals and outcomes. Encourage your team to look at their daily tasks and ask: is this essential and does it create value? If it does, prioritise it. If it doesn’t, discard it.

Regularly engage with individual team members to get their input, discuss progress, identify the obstacles distracting or slowing them down and understand how you can support their performance.

Communicating frequently with your team to create alignment and clarity will simplify and focus their efforts on what matters most in the business. This unified direction and understanding of what creates value have a tremendous effect on employees willingness to think out the box, embrace change, step up their contribution and deliver excellence.

5. Celebrate small wins

When we celebrate small and simple wins, it builds momentum and healthy internal competition to get to the winning line. These small steps forward, shared by many people, accumulate into excellent execution.

Leaders need to be on the front lines, getting to know their people and ‘catching’ them doing the right things. Celebrate success and have fun doing it. Celebration lays the foundation for recognition and appreciation, a key to driving workplace engagement.

6. Seamless execution

High-performance teams are built by design, not by default. To turn these principles into highly effective team habits requires a process that eliminates obstacles and streamlines efforts so that your team is as productive and focused as possible.

Building High-Performance Teams is a practical learning programme that can help your leaders energise, align and engage their teams behind what REALLY matters to your business. Underpinned by an outcomes-driven high-performance formula, this blended learning journey equips leaders with the skills to:

o Set their teams up for success

o Increase the effectiveness of team meetings

o Strengthen commitment and engagement

o Take accountability

o Lead performance conversations effectively, and

o Coach for performance

Together these skills will help your leaders build the desired culture and ensure that teams achieve their goals through effective teamwork that supports simplicity, agility and continuous improvement.

About the author: Hennie Brittz, Director and Head of Marketing and Technology at 2Collaborate

Hennie has spent 12 years in business and consulting conceptualising, designing and implementing large-scale performance improvement processes. An entrepreneur at heart, he founded the design and internal communications agency, Elevate, in 2019. Shortly, thereafter he co-founded GameChangers, a business consultancy that brings you the best from the sports field and boardroom.

Get to know more about Hennie on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/henniebrittz/

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With the Olympics underway, we are reminded of what can be achieved through effective teamwork and a philosophy of continuous improvement.

Perhaps the most famous example of this was the transformation of the British cycling team. The shift began in 2003 when Sir Dave Brailsford took over as performance director. At the time, Britain had endured nearly 100 year’s of mediocrity with one Olympic medal and nothing to show for the Tour de France.

Brailsford’s strategy to turn their performance around was simple: if you break down each aspect of cycling and improve it by 1%, the cumulative benefits would be extraordinary. Known as “the aggregation of marginal gains,” this strategy led to a transformation in the team’s performance. Between 2007 and 2017, British cyclists won 178 world championships, 66 Olympic gold medals and an impressive five Tour de France victories, in what is widely regarded as the most successful run in cycling history.

But what does this have to do with leading a successful business in a time of complexity?

Keeping it simple. Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced everyday. Many organisations fail to reach the podium not by doing nothing, but by trying to do too much. When employees are already feeling overwhelmed by the daily pressures of pandemic life, they are unlikely to buy-in and get behind change. By creating focus and commitment to the small things that are achievable (1% gains), you can create a positive energy that yields significant results in the long term.

Irrespective of your position in the team, preparing for and executing races like the Tour de France is about managing uncertainties and dealing with change. Similarly, to successfully navigate the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world we live in, leaders need to be excellent at leading change and their people need to be change ready.

Four key lessons for leaders and their teams:

1. Replace volatility with vision-led performance

High-performing teams know where they are going and believe in what they are trying to achieve. Define a simple yet compelling vision, underpinned by your values, and simplify this to a single page so that everyone understands. Make this a part of everyday conversation to create a strong sense of purpose, buy-in and direction in the business.

2. Counter uncertainty with understanding Brailsford experienced failure at the outset, until identifying critical success factors and focusing improvements around these. It’s the same in business: once the destination is defined, clear strategic plans are needed to get there. Break your strategic goals down into achievable chunks (horizons) with clearly prioritised targets to indicate what success looks like and how it will be measured. Align teams, cross-functionally, to these goals and engage them in the achievement of targets.

3. React to complexity with clarity Understanding the behavioural psychology behind performance and the environment needed to optimise it was another key principle in Brailsford’s approach. It is understanding this ‘HOW’ a team works together to achieve performance, that differentiates top-performing teams and businesses. Unfortunately, day-to-day pressures often force teams and leaders to focus on ‘WHAT’ is needed to get the job done. Embedding structured and values-based dialogue within and across teams is an effective vehicle to drive both the behaviour (HOW) and performance (WHAT) required to execute your strategy. A key component of this is structured team meetings which follow a distinct cycle of four steps:

  • Review: Look back on the previous period. Focusing on goals vs. achievements and how the team ‘Showed Up’ in terms of living the values. Recognise and celebrate success, acknowledge failures and identify quick fixes and process improvements.

  • Goals and Actions: Ensure goals are aligned throughout the business; utilise performance scorecards to set a clear agenda; and ensure targets are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based).

  • Team Fitness: Empower your team to take ownership of their performance while fostering a healthy spirit of collaboration and camaraderie. Create opportunities for learning in team meetings, encouraging participation and innovation around improvement.

  • Execution: Walk the floor. Spending time engaging, coaching and developing your team. Remove obstacles, prioritise key objectives and create a sense of urgency around achievement.

This distinct cycle of four steps is at the core of TeamConnect: an effective performance methodology that ensures structured discussion and execution to support agility and continuous improvement.

4. Fight ambiguity with agility

Brailsford talks about ‘contagious culture’: the principle of continuous improvement owned by the team and implemented with energy, focus and discipline. The same applies to business teams. If people understand the “bigger picture”, how they fit in and where their highest points of contribution are, they can handle change with confidence and agility, innovate with your goals in mind and remain motivated to get better results. When engaging everyone in regular goal-setting, devising action plans and reviewing performance, it is surprising how quickly structured meetings can entrench highly effective team habits. The combination of a change-ready mindset and alignment to common goals builds a climate conducive to strategy execution and continuous improvement. When aggregated, the power of these marginal gains can be a force multiplier in your business.

How can we help your business become 1% better every day?

At 2Collaborate we designed a simple and effective team performance methodology called TeamConnect. Comprising structured team meetings and on-the-job coaching and mentoring, this methodology connects:

  • Leaders with their people

  • People in teams with each other

  • People with the organisation and their jobs

  • Teams to other teams

  • Businesses to their customers and suppliers

Once connected, the focus is on engaging everyone to achieve their common goals through effective functional and cross-functional teamwork. Adjusted to your needs, TeamConnect can help you identify and make improvements to unleash the performance potential of your people. So forget about perfection; focus on how your teams work together, strengthen these connections and compound the improvements.

About the author: Hennie Brittz, Director and Head of Marketing and Technology at 2Collaborate

Hennie has spent 12 years in business and consulting conceptualising, designing and implementing large-scale performance improvement processes. An entrepreneur at heart, he founded the design and internal communications agency, Elevate, in 2019. Shortly, thereafter he co-founded GameChangers, a business consultancy that brings you the best from the sports field and boardroom.

Get to know more about Hennie on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/henniebrittz/

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Successful change starts in the minds of people. If your people don’t understand the need for change or how it will benefit them, creating the desired behaviour change will be extremely challenging.

To run a thriving business in today’s rapidly changing world, your leaders must be excellent at leading change and your people change ready. And yet research firms, like McKinsey & Company, have found that 70% of change initiatives fail.


  • Too many initiatives at the same time that aren’t synchronised

  • Ineffective communication

  • Employees don’t believe in what you are trying to achieve

  • Employees don’t understand the benefits of adopting new processes, technologies and tools

  • Employees aren’t equipped with the tools they need to be successful

  • Leaders aren’t equipped to lead change or manage resistance effectively

To help employees make the mental and behavioural shifts needed for change to achieve high-performance, they must understand business and labour’s ‘intertwined destiny’. They need to know how the economy functions, the reality of your current operating environment and how the business profit model works. When people understand what they want as employees and they also understand what the business needs to be successful, there will be an appreciation for and a willingness to work together towards this. Once they “see the bigger picture” it is much easier to develop united, engaged people, that are able to execute your strategy and deliver a winning performance.

Bottom line: people won’t do differently, if they don’t think differently.

Once you kickstart this conversation, it is important to maintain it through an ongoing cycle of structured and meaningful dialogue to review performance and set goals, underpinned by your business’s purpose, values and vision.

There are three key steps to kickstart and sustain this process:

  1. Mobilise change influencers: Identify and equip key influencers on all levels to drive change and a high-performance culture. This creates a common change language, promotes long-term sustainability and ensures that a winning culture becomes the “way of doing things”.

  2. Build a critical mass of understanding and commitment: Align a critical mass of employees to a shared vision, focused on their intertwined destiny. Use people and culture processes that mobilise your people around commons goals – engaging, empowering and equipping them with the skills and tools to make the behavioural shifts required to build further momentum. Our YOUnite programme accomplishes steps 1 and 2 in a very short space of time, by helping your people understand the WHY, WHAT and HOW of the change with an appreciation for WIFM (What’s in it for me), while gaining their valuable input and commitment to action plans.

  3. Continue to develop the right attitude and effective teamwork: In today’s fast changing and virtual environment, the need for and frequency of effective team dialogue has increased significantly. A recent McKinsey & Company agility study also identified a Network of Empowered Teams as one of the five trademarks of agile organisations. Therefore, it is key to ensure that teams have structured daily discussions about work and implement team effectiveness processes that support future fit standards of alignment, accountability, transparency and collaboration. TeamConnect®, our tried and tested team performance methodology, uses structured team meetings as well as on-the-job coaching and mentoring to do just this. By engaging teams in regular goal setting, action planning and reviewing, it becomes an effective vehicle through which leaders can continuously manage change and performance.

TeamConnect®, a team performance methodology that works

My 35 years of developing people, leading change and enhancing performance have revealed that effective team meetings follow a distinct cycle of four steps: Reviewing performance, Goal setting, Improving Team Fitness and Execution. (If you’ve ever wondered what ‘WTF’ stands for… it means to walk the floor i.e. visible and engaging leadership.)

Together these steps ensure that the process of team meetings in your business becomes a continuous and agile cycle of structured discussion and execution.

Learn more about how YOUnite, our high-impact employee engagement and change readiness programme – together with TeamConnect® - can take your business to new heights www.2collaborate.com

In the next blog post, we are going to explore how structured conversations can help leaders tackle the challenging situations they are not getting to because of Covid-19 fatigue. If you’ve enjoyed this read, be sure to sign-up for our quarterly newsletter bringing you tips, tools and the latest industry thinking https://www.2collaborate.co.za/subscribe

About the author: Tjaart Minnaar, CEO and Culture Improvement expert at 2Collaborate

Tjaart has spent 35 years in business and consulting conceptualising, designing and implementing solutions to improve business and individual performance. The success has been highlighted by several of his clients winning Deloitte’s Best Company To Work For Survey, overall or in their industry categories.

Get to know more about Tjaart on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/tjaart-minnaar/

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