Whilst motivation is a common topic on many a management blog, I’ve focused a few times here in recent times on how to motivate particularly high performers.
A recent study found that when highly educated people are given autonomy over how, when and where they work, they produce much more than when they are micro-managed.
The research found that when people had control over their own schedule they were empowered enough to accept whatever work pattern they themselves adopted. This often meant working longer and harder than before.
A recent study suggests that rather than worrying about the majority of employees, managers should instead by focusing their attention on those star players. The paper reveals that teams nearly always perform much better when the individual within the team who is prepared to go significantly beyond the call of duty is right in the middle of the team, whereby they can influence and inspire as many of their colleagues as possible.
In other words, if you can place these star players strategically throughout your workplace, it can have a big impact on team performance and dynamics.
“The extra miler has more of an influence in the center because they have more contact with other workers and because others can see what they’re doing,” the authors say. “Through this role modeling, everyone on the team becomes better. If the extra miler is on the periphery, they don’t come into contact with as many team members and nobody notices them.”
The researchers examined nearly 100 teams of workers from a petroleum plant, with each team having on average 8 employee. The star performers in each team were identified via peer interviews, with the performance of each team then identified via interviews with the managers at the plant.
Why you want an extra miler in your team
The results revealed that extra milers would typically exhibit their dedication both by helping their colleagues and by speaking up. So they’d help out team mates if they were struggling with their workload, or if a team mate was off work sick. They’d also take on a leadership role and be the defacto voice of the team when it came to organising themselves more effectively or dealing with managers.
Next, the researchers explored where those individuals were found in the workflow of each team. In other words, were they lone experts that seldom came into contact with their team, or were they the hub through which all team activity flowed?
The results revealed that the best performing teams, as chosen by the managers at the plant, were those whereby the extra miler was front and centre of all that the team did.
These top performing teams would typically exhibit traits such as a balanced work load, as well as requiring less input and direction from their managers, preferring instead to develop solutions themselves.
“It demonstrates that you need to pay attention to key players in a team because some of them are more important than others,” the authors say. “Management can rely on the extra miler to have a positive impact on the team and know that person will help to manage the team.”