Learn How Goal Contagion Boosts Team Productivity

Goals, productivity, and teams. What could be the secret ingredient that binds these three? We admire those that inspire. And nothing inspires us more than the pursuit of greatness. Tenacity. Resilience. The ability to keep going, no matter what. And it is people like these that we want to lead us. It’s no surprise that we tend to follow those who persevere.

Teams follow leaders that are persistent, resilient. Teams find inspiration in those who accomplish their goals. Thus, teams follow leaders that are productive and reach set objectives. Because productivity is always a concern. Whether you are recruiting, preparing your onboarding strategy or even training new teams. Read this to understand how goals, productivity and teams are related.

Productive leaders can make productivity “infectious”

How exactly do teams follow leaders? They can’t help it. It’s infectious 🙂 And it all starts with goals.

Productivity and goals are two faces of the same coin. You use goals to know how productive you’ve been. And you use predicted productivity to determine future goals. In fact, any hierarchy of plans takes productivity into account. And more than anyone, teams look to goals and productivity with awe.

The main purpose of a team is to focus synergy towards productivity. The second, equally important, is to direct productivity towards goals. Achievements, of any kind, are always to be measured against set goals.

And when something works, people use that. They use it again and again. They simply can’t stop. And for good reasons. After all, research tells us why it works. Goal-setting and goal-pursuing work together to determine overall team productivity. And it spreads. It’s not only infectious, it’s contagious.

The reverse is also true. When people are under-productive, this is also contagious. When people are slacking off, lacking energy, this is also infectious. Why?

Team members are fine-tuned to spotting team behavior

People are particularly good at spotting patterns. This is how humans function. Our brains have developed an incredible ability to spot patterns. We can even see them when they’re not there. And we have this incredible gift precisely because it’s so useful.

Apply this to people working in teams. They are quick to notice behavioral patterns. This is particularly true for goal-oriented behavior. People in teams try their hardest to make sense of the behavior of others. And when they do this, they pay a lot of attention to goals.

Also, this happens on an individual level and on a collective level. In fact, when dealing with a new set of circumstances, people try to spot the general tendency. The trend. The overall target, the end-game.

And it’s only natural. They ask themselves “Where is all this heading?”, “Why are these people doing these things?”. In fact, our minds attribute goals to people performing various actions. And our minds do this even when there is no objective causality. When there is no relation between perceived behaviors and assumed goals. Hence, we could claim that we have a natural tendency to theorize about the goals others have.

Almost as if you have a scaled-down model of other people and how they interact. And, in a sense, you actually have this model in your head.

“It’s all in your head”, yet it’s real

Sure, your model of how others think is just in your head. You cannot predict with 100% accuracy why people act a certain way. The reality is that you cannot even predict why you yourself act a certain way.

Not only do we try to model others in clear and predictable ways. We also try to do it with subtlety and in close relation with our own behavior. Let us explore this notion.

You notice that your teammates have certain behaviors. Each of these behaviors seem to favor various objectives. So you take a mental note of behaviors, objectives, and performance. Further on, you use empathy and reasoning and develop a “model” of how others think and act. That’s a transparent model.

The secret, subconscious back-stabber

However, deep down somewhere, you build a secondary model. This model has to do with you, personally. Based on your team and other people, you establish how often you should take what sort of action. You build a subtle strategy of what to do and when and how and why. And you do it even before you have a rational reason to do it.

And this is how things that are just “in your head” become real. You are, in effect, driven by a convergence of perceived team tendencies. In a sense, that’s awe inspiring. According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, “the perception of goal-implying behaviors may activate representations of goals outside of conscious awareness”.

Hence, you are subconsciously driven by your interactions with others. Their productivity and goal-achieving behavior is something you resonate with. Truly you are the average of those 5 people you spend most time with.

Yes, goal contagion boosts productivity

This minor point is crucial. Goal contagion is stronger towards positive outcomes and weaker towards negative outcomes. If your team is under-productive or counterproductive, you can survive. If your team is under-performing, you can overachieve.

You get a major boost of productivity when your team is made of overachievers, true. But if everyone is slacking off, then you’re a lot less affected.

Think of it this way. Imagine you want to have lunch at the new sushi place. If everyone in your team wants to have lunch out at the new sushi place, that’s great. If they all have various preferences making them choose differently, that’s OK. You can still go for sushi.

And it works like this

The key here is to have maximum impact with limited resources. Sure, a team of 5 is easier to handle than a team of 50 people. Either way, here are productivity boosters via goal contagion:

1. Collaborative teamwork solutions

I mean instant communications solutions. And more. Imagine there’s a way for team members to work together in real-time, share resources and keep each other in the loop. Could anything be more motivating than that? Collaborative teamwork solutions are accessible. They are highly effective and affordable. And they come packed with awesome features. This is likely the most cost-effective way to boost productivity.

2. Organize micro-goals

Get a tinier team to work on a very specific, measurable, and attainable goal. More like an objective, really. Learn how to use micro-goals and their general organizational benefits later. Now, focus on what’s at hand. Micro-goals will boost the productivity and the goal-achieving behavior of some people. And they will engage others.

3. Use a technical-authority mentor

Get them onboard for a project. We’ve talked about various types of authority. Technical authorities are people that everyone loves to follow. Think Elon Musk. OK, it’s not easy to get someone as big as him. Then get someone with 20 years of relevant experience, plus some achievements. Teams react very well to mentorship. And technical authorities are considered cool.

4. Training

Could it be any more obvious? Get your entire team into a weekend retreat. Too expensive? Perhaps. Hey, if you’re doing retreats every 6 months, that’s perfect. Do a micro-team-building instead. Have an extended lunch break with some fun and prizes. Lose 1 extra work-hour, get 10 highly productive hours later on.

5. Create a micro-frenzy

What’s a micro-frenzy, you ask? It is a team-motivating tactic. Firstly, tell your team that they can skip a meeting. Secondly,  develop some conditions to make it happen. They need to accomplish several objectives, as a team. Some of them can be fun, others work-related. Sort of like a hackathon with a modest prize. Better yet, replace the meeting with an “Ice Cream Day”.

The main idea of goal contagion is three-fold. Firstly, direct limited resources. Second, stimulate key team-members and boost their productivity. Thirdly, enjoy the overall engagement and boost in team productivity.

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