Team Leaders - the critical link between people and performance

Aly McNicoll


An ADP Research Institute 2018 global study of workforce engagement has highlighted the importance of the employee experience, not in the organisation as a whole but in their team on an everyday basis. Research has found that when it comes to engagement, the most important experience of work is the experience of team.

Engagement is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to successful organisations because all the studies show that it drives the things that matter most - client or customer satisfaction, productivity and turnover.

Our experience working in over 200 organisations from the business and not for profit sectors is that the team leader is the critical link between people and performance.

Team leaders have by far the biggest influence on the unique, local experience of employees within teams. People don’t leave organisations, they leave teams or managers.

The good news for team leaders is that what people care most about at work is actually within your control. You might not be able to do much about the organisation’s parental leave policy or decision to change their service approach but you can build a team environment where people feel valued, have positive connections with others and get a chance to do what they do best every day. Team engagement and performance scores vary significantly within organisations, more so than they do across organisations so every team has the potential to excel when it comes to engagement.

Further investigation by Gallup into what creates high performance in teams highlights the importance of employees getting attention from their team leaders. Whether the attention is negative or positive, both are shown to have significant effects on engagement with positive attention (attention on what they did best and what was working most powerfully for them) outstripping negative by miles. Funnily enough, negative attention is still 40 times more impactful on engagement than ignoring people, with positive attention being 1200 times more effective.

This research supports our experience that team leaders who check in regularly with their people have higher levels of engagement and performance than those who don’t.

‘Frequently’ has shown to peak at weekly with check-ins of monthly or more actually marginally decreasing engagement. Even if conversations are short - 10 minutes or less, you can still harness the benefits.

If you want to improve the quality of your team’s experience at work, you might like to check out our Managers as Coaches series of workshops coming up in Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch and Whanganui over September.

You can catch up on the latest research, learn how to use 4 core coaching tools and walk away being able to hold effective check-ins with staff or volunteers in 15 minutes or less. Investing more time in talking with your people is a challenge with the ‘always on’ nature of your daily work, but effective leaders say it pays more dividends than anything else they do.

ADP Research Institute Global Engagement study