Peer group pressure is often cited as being an important, even critical, component of building a high performance team environment. We thought we would dig a little deeper as to what peer group pressure is and how to create the right conditions for it to flourish.
Common standards, consistently applied, are vital. Teams have to know where they stand, what expectations are being made of them (both individually and collectively) and what the consequences are for different levels of output. Next, there needs to be as much focus on the right behaviours and activities as there is on performance. How people fulfil their role is as important as what they achieve.
The team must have a clear, higher purpose, something more than simply doing the numbers, or beating target. Peer group pressure comes from wanting to excel at something, to create something special, to be rated by people whom you respect as doing something impressive. Or put in sporting context, ‘we don’t just want to win trophies, but to be remembered as a legendary team.’
An open culture of meaningful feedback, constructive criticism and effective conflict management needs to be upheld. You cannot have peer group pressure without peer group review. The amazingly consistent quality of Pixar films (Toy Story through Finding Nemo to Wall-E and now Up) is driven by extensive peer feedback created in daily reviews of each others work. This focuses on the need for trust and respect for people and their work, another critical component of the peer pressure mix.
Peer pressure cuts both ways. It holds people to account, miles from the office or team colleagues, peer pressure helps maintain the standard of output, you are doing it not only for yourself but also for the team. But also it looks to offer support. When a team member is struggling, everyone piles in to help, ‘we stand or fall together’.
There are significant benefits from Peer Group Pressure:
- higher morale
- performance standards are more challenging
- faster induction and resulting speed to competence
- increased peer-to-peer coaching
- steeper learning curves
- more collegiate atmosphere
- more challenging conversations
- increased creativity and innovation
Times are changing fast and jobs, roles and personnel are changing with them. That makes a step into an old role far scarier than it might at first appear.
Lance Armstrong made a surprising return to cycling after four years, having retired at the top of his game. A finish on the podium of the Tour de France was quite an achievement but not the win he’d aimed at. Finding that although his manager believed he was capable of winning and was willing to make sure he did, not all his team mates were working to ensure his success, a situation he wasn’t used to. Alberto Contador won the race, from within the same team, without the level of support he felt he deserved.
Michael Schumacher looks set to return to Formula One, a decision driven by events rather than purely by ambition. He’ll be coming back into a sport which has again changed, and he’ll be coming back without the opportunity to win the Championship. He’ll also be coming back to a car that simply isn’t as competitive as he’s used to.
Armstrong cycled well, putting in an astounding physical performance, but his comments about team mates both during and after the race were less than graceful, and the team looks set to implode, aided by a financial crisis. It will be interesting to see how Schumacher reacts to his changed status and the challenge of less than ideal equipment.
Outstanding performers can be as much a product of perfected processes and high performing teams as they are a product of natural talent. In sports the great unanswerable questions are of whether stars of old would be even better with today’s training regimes and equipment, or whether today’s top performers would have made the grade in the past.
The question for modern business is – are your top performers doing better because of favourable circumstances rather than real competence and effort, and can your organisation do more to release the talent of others who are not getting support they could capitalise upon?
Prepare yourself for a flurry of commemorations later this year when it will have been 20 years since the Berlin Wall fell signalling the demise of East vs West thinking. There will be plenty of books published, and in his book, ‘Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire‘, Victor Sebestyen makes some fascinating observations about the period.
In some fairly heavy going academic text he argues that it wasn’t the irresistible allure of Western capitalism, Levi’s Jeans and Coca-Cola that lead to the demise of the Soviet Union. It wasn’t the strong rhetoric of Reagan and, closer to home, Thatcher that made the difference. It wasn’t even the courage and leadership of the Polish priest who became Pope John Paul II and stirred up thoughts of freedom in Poland, along with Solidarność.
The core argument is that the Soviet empire was just not very good at anything. There was little left to defend and so a safe transition to jobs in a democracy looked like a good idea.
Some businesses develop a hugely successful model of just being good enough to be better than the competition, take a little bit of slack out of the processes, spend a little more time listening to customers, demonstrate a smidge more care in product design and manufacture and it will be enough to bring customers over to you.
Great employers know it too. It’s not just money and brand that keep great employees. Spending a bit more time coaching them, offering a few extra opportunities to develop, creating a few new delegation opportunities all lead to happier more motivated employees.
You may not need grand gestures and great rhetoric to work through the recession, you just need better customer service and employee management than your competitors.
We hear lots of conversation about teams’ views of their manager. It’s a popular break-out conversation. A common theme centres on a desire for mangers to be, well, just a bit more admirable, to be a more obvious role model, to have a bit more about them. If you’re that manager being talked about, we have provided a 14 point guide to improving your credibility. All these points are answers to common complaints raised by unimpressed team members:
- Deliver the required quality of output in your own work.
- Complete that work to the timetable you originally set.
- Work on really understanding your people, without over-identifying with their problems or issues.
- Position your personal style around being effective in delivering objectives, don’t work on being liked or feared.
- Lead by example; it’s not your job to do their job for them, but it is your job to get stuck in when and where required.
- Demonstrate your commitment to, and belief in, your team to others.
- Be a human being; you are not infallible, don’t be too intense.
- Deal with team conflict, never ignore undermining behaviour.
- Be a coach to your team; constantly look for ways to improve their performance.
- Set and maintain high standards, both in performance and behavioural terms.
- Deliver a cast-iron commitment to confidentiality; your total discretion is guaranteed.
- Manage up effectively; teams like to see their manager surfing company politics and pressures, rather than being drowned by them.
- Don’t over burden your team with your concerns; don’t pass the full heat of that meeting you’ve just attended onto them.
- Appropriately socialise with your team, but it’s not your job be the life and soul of any party, you are still their manager. Never get drunk with your team.
What is it that really motivates sales people? Money – obviously! Or is it? Having worked in high-pressure sales environments over the last decade, the idea that all sales people are money motivated is misleading and only part of a much more interesting picture. Certainly financial rewards are an important part of the overall sales person’s recompense for handling all the rejections, objections, issues and complaints. But when you scratch beneath the surface there’s a lot more going on.
In the current economic climate organisations are looking to their sales people to generate more new business and get more business from their existing customers against increasingly more desperate competition. Sales people today are coming from more varied backgrounds than ever before; many coming from technical and specialist fields or from account-managing or customer-service types of roles. And whilst they like to earn the extra money that sales can offer, it takes something more than just hard cash to keep them performing at the highest level. From our research over the recent months it’s clear that several factors need to be taken into account to fully motivate top sales people:
Competition: the chance to compete with others, not only the incentive of beating their competitors, but also competition within the sales team or across the organisation – the urge to be top sales person can really drive success.
Kudos: the recognition from their peers and colleagues, as well as from happy customers and other industry specialists, sales people benefit from their status within their circle of influence.
Challenge: cracking the ‘tough nut’, finding the best solution for a complex problem under difficult circumstances is motivational and rewarding.
Expertise: sales people enjoy being recognised for their knowledge and proficiency in their area of specialisation.
Autonomy: having control over their patch, their diary, and their contacts, being empowered to find their own way of meeting their goals.
Market Knowledge: networking and keeping up-to-date with who’s who, what’s what, and the ‘movers and shakers’.
Development: learning new tips and techniques to ‘sharpen the saw’, sales people are always looking to try out new ideas and different tactics.