19 September 2019

Pushing Your Team Members The Extra Mile

For the majority of team leaders, team performance and ‘behaviour’ don’t quite sit together: the modern organisation is designed to measure results, not relationships; and this way of thinking has crept just as much into sports as the military organisation.

Photo credit :  US-Women-GettyImages-1160858454

When it comes to increasing team productivity, behaviour is monitored – not measured. The majority of modern projects and team activities are intellectual and can be pre-planned: the real-time experience of social behaviours are therefore seen as something to mitigate rather than something to manage for better results.

However, in exploring how behaviour is modelled both in sports and military applications, not only do productive projects thrive off performance indicators that quantify team behaviours; but may also highlight a source of productivity that until now has been ‘alien’ to the traditional corporate paradigm.

Angela Ahrendts: 'The last five years have been the most stimulating, challenging and fulfilling of my career' © Bloomberg


In the case of basketball coach Pat Summit, this sports leader repeatedly associates the process of active feedback with team members to real ‘gains’ in player performance: planned feedback sessions are seen as a method of rejuvenating latent knowledge attained in prior training sessions; and in turn suggests that the absence of a planned feedback process is seen to limit how effectively training knowledge is retained – one session to the next.

The performance management model (Pulakos, 2004)

The performance management model (Pulakos, 2004)


However, according to the six-part model of performance management, this perceived relationship may suggest that the stages of planning, feedback and employee input are in-fact interdependent: as opposed to defining a project as a top-down by-product of directions from the project manager; this model instead defines the direction from the project manager as in itself a product of circular feedback from team members (Pulakos, 2004).

Furthermore, although Pat Summitt may consider the pedagogical ‘pre-planning’ of feedback sessions to be strongly associated to how her players perform; the real-time nature of training sessions may also suggest that this effect – in-turn – requires a real-time behaviour component.



In addition to this ‘interdependency’ between the performance of the project manager and the presence of pre-planned performance feedback sessions, further studies have investigated this relationship in the dimension of interaction and behaviour.

In this case of United States General James Mattis , the presence of pre-planned feedback sessions is also considered to impact broader behaviours of not only the team members – but also the team leader: in addition to considering planned supervisor sessions and HRM practices as a tangible boost to productivity, the former General also sees a circular relationship of benefit between productivity; and how this is continued day-to-day in the form of ‘behavioural alignment’.


The HRM and performance relationship model (Deanne N. Den Hartog, 2013)..jpg


However, this perception may not only be ‘gut feel’ intuition; but also supported by a recent model in HRM and relationship performance management: this relationship suggests a ‘reverse causality’ between project performance and conditioned behaviours (Hartog, 2013).

However, this model not only further suggests the complimentary relationship between conditioned behaviours and the performance of a project supervisor; but may also indicate that this circular process is responsible for performance of the organisation at the macro level.

Furthermore, given this observed ‘requirement’ of real-time behaviour management, as perceived by United States General Mattis: this may in-turn suggest that industries lacking a real-time component within their front-line projects may experience decreases in team productivity despite similar behavioural key performance indicators.



As activities in commercial organisations are intrinsically ‘forward-planned’ – and therefore less subject to real-time feedback – this may suggest that levels that this military-style optimisation of team behaviours could be simulated by combining existing key performance indicators with behavioural tuning practices; and then applied to replicate similar productivity benefits in team member productivity.

However, according to Cybersecurity firm CEO Robert Herjavec, this difficulty to apply behavioural performance indicators may actually suggest limitations in task delegation:

Although a project manager may achieve marginal gains in team member performance by introducing behavioural KPIs created through past project cases – this may still be less effective than behaviourally ‘conditioning’ team members through in-person interaction.

This suggests that, although many commercial enterprises may hold on to a traditional ‘systemic paradigm’ of team outcome management (Sandler, 2017); a lack of real-time behavioural conditioning may not only undermine the performance of corporate team members – but may even mean that the behavioural influence of today’s CEO is yet to be unlocked.

This may suggest that the qualitative attributes of project management may simply be limited by contemporary training methodologies. The answer? The majority of high-performance CEOs nod to the seminar or event-based format.


Ultimately, considering how behaviour is quantified as a productivity factors across the military, sports and corporate domains; this highlights three strategies that almost any project manager or high-performance coach could apply.

  1. Self-modified feedback sessions: as observed by coach Pat Summitt and the six-part model of performance management (Pulakos, 2004), introducing planned sessions solely dedicated to employee feedback may trigger a ‘recursive relationship’ between supervisor feedback and employee input – this means maximising the content your team can memorise from one session to the next.

  2. Case-informed behavioural KPIs: due to the importance of combining pre-planned feedback sessions with more ‘qualitative’ indicators of behaviour for real-time activities: introducing an established mechanism that captures feedback and builds behavioural KPIs will enable your team to emulate the productivity levels observed in military environment.

  3. Accelerated exposure for project managers: despite the increases in productivity that may be achieved by increasing the number of pre-planned feedback sessions and establishing agile KPIs to optimise team behaviours; the ‘systems thinking’ of modern organisations may simply not understand the rich qualitative impact of leadership behaviours – and how this can pack a punch. However, as suggested by Othman (2016), controlled exposure to a live event or a seminar-like experience could be the solution that bridges the gap. And at CONQA Group1, we feel we finally have the solution to achieve this exact result.