26 September 2019

3 Strategies To Enhance Workplace Performance

When we think of the modern team or organisation, a ‘science-like’ approach to tasks and targets quickly springs to mind: competition is fierce in the global market environment – and this has led many organisations to approach human relationships as the next inefficiency to systematise.

Photo credit :  US-Women-GettyImages-1160858454

However, as we take a look at high-performance leaders who have learned to thrive in both the sport and business environment, the issue of social boundaries quickly becomes much more complex: boundaries do need to be embedded, but part of this process of identifying boundaries may in some cases mean elevating social relationships – not constraining them to strict codes of conduct.

However, although this closer investigation into the impact of behavioural strategies presents a compelling opportunity for both new and seasoned team leaders – the capacity to leverage real-time intuition through active learning may be the final ingredient to unlock the most productive workplace relationships.

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


In the case of high-performance coach Creag Lawrence, embedding social boundaries also means breaking long-held stereotypes that have plagued sports culture: the truth is that the ‘casual’ stops at the game-ready clothing – formalities and protocol are expected, and not considered a break to team morale.

Ultimately, a sports team performing at the frontier of performance simply cannot tolerate a meeting structure that fails to give performance the hardest push, and this means establishing social standards to prevent valuable training time from falling through the cracks.

Enforcing a formality to the meeting does not
remove organic sharing and collaboration – it
enhances it.
— Creag Lawrence, FA PE coordinator

However, although this may be an example of where policy handbooks and set standards may creep into the sports sector: a closer look at recent studies in meeting psychology may show that this ‘gut feeling’ gives a unique advantage to team leaders responsible for sport-like activities.

On the one hand, it may be easy to assume that a ‘highly structured’ attitude only has its real benefit in creating sessions that are more time-efficient; but closer look at the ‘design drivers’ of meeting methodologies used in large commercial organisations actually reveals a relationship between social attitudes among team members; and how this blend of attitudes keeps alignment towards the original project target – or steers the team in the other direction (Chan et al, 2007).

Collaborative workplace: a conceptual framework. An elaboration of Chan et al. (2007)

Collaborative workplace: a conceptual framework. An elaboration of Chan et al. (2007)


In contrast to the standard view – that the real ‘productivity driver’ of the modern meeting is created through reports, indicators and OKRs – this suggests that embedding clear social values and barriers for team members may be nature’s catalyst for unlocking the workflow that is most productive towards a set project or target.



In addition to this importance of embedding social barriers to ‘facilitate’ the team conditions that naturally lead to higher productivity, a closer look at the attitude of Co-Chair Melinda Gates may also reveal that – with the right management – certain social traits and behaviours can also be imported from outside the professional domain altogether.

With portable devices and evolving work patterns blurring the line between work and home further each year, large sectors have already updated their leadership methodologies to account for this new dynamic: although this does mean structuring workplace interactions in a way to deter unprofessional conduct that distracts from the underlying goals behind tasks and targets – this may also mean embedding boundaries that retain friend-like behaviours, providing that they support the goal of the project behind the scenes.

Uncovering ‘dual relationships’ in the
workplace does not always mean avoiding
unprofessional conduct: personal relationships
have a lot of productivity to add – managing
dual relationships simply ensure this added
value pushes projects forward.
— Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

In the case of workplace environments where social interactions have the capacity to strongly enhance or endanger complex and changing targets, leadership methodologies developed for the healthcare sector best illustrate this effect:


Adapted from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (2004).


Under the three-part continuum of preferable behaviour, productive social characteristics can be ‘nudged’ procedurally in a way that drastically improves team collaboration and communication efficiency with patients in a difficult scenario. However, this spectrum of boundaries is simultaneously used to detect where friend-like behaviours pass the ‘benefit threshold’ and morph into a dangerous distraction from life-or-death patient outcomes (Kersh, 2016).



When we consider how the above leadership methodologies are applied at their bleeding edge of ‘make-or-break’ scenarios, the textbook paradigm of modular pre-planning is quickly replaced with something much more realistic: theoretical perceptions of tasks and goals may or may not be achievable by the end of a project deadline, but the behaviours and the ‘nudges’ of leadership strategy most certainly are – and should be used to embed productive boundaries along the way.

Actions to apply as a team leader:

If you are a project manager or team leader in the professional coaching sector, consider applying the following tasks in-time for your next team session:

  1. Enforce formalities as a driver of creative bonding: social boundaries should not be seen as a ‘reluctant protocol to follow’ – but rather as a social framework that ‘does the thinking for us’ when balancing the need for focus, and also the need for maintaining productive social cohesion that boosts collaboration.

  2. Embrace dual relationships – and then calibrate together: we instinctively know that our best friend has the potential to be a breakthrough business partner, but then we also anticipate the awkward moments where ‘friend mode’ will need to take the back seat for the larger goal of the project. To access the best of both worlds, implement the three-part continuum of preferable behaviour designed for the healthcare environment – but then customise according to the KPIs unique to your tasks and projects.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 Group, we feel we finally have the solution to achieve this exact result.

  3. Schedule an intuition upgrade with a CONQA seminar: our private one-day events may not be available to all of our readers, but those who do fulfil our criteria (we manage a limited number of seats) have the opportunity to access hundreds of collective leadership methodologies from across the industry spectrum – and then ‘leapfrog’ by simulating this same experience in our private event format.

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