As a manager, poor team performance is your worst nightmare. Your team is unmotivated. They're not communicating, and deadlines are often missed. You've tried having meetings to encourage collaboration and productivity, but there's no change. 

How do you improve performance when you can't pinpoint what's wrong? Whether working remotely or in-office, managing team performance requires commitment, conviction, and leadership from you and all members of the team. 

Why team performance matters in project management

Team performance is vital to project management for many reasons. It enables the smooth running of projects, flow of information, new ideas, and collaboration that facilitate efficient completion of project goals. 

As a project manager, if you don't nurture maximum team performance, you run the risk of underutilizing the resources you have available for each project. This can lead to wasted time and higher costs for less value produced. 

Managing and maintaining a steady level of team performance is possible when your team trusts each other, understands their role in the team and within the organization, and each one takes ownership of projects. 

Teams that have these qualities are high-performers, and they deliver the best results. High-performing teams maintain quality of output, degree of innovation, the time allotted for each project, budgetary constraints, and continuous development of its members. 

How to tell if team performance is falling 

Before we move on to tactics to improve team performance, it's important to note some of the signs of team performance decline.

This is crucial for business leaders and project managers, especially now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In changing and uncertain times such as these, people are dealing with significant adjustments at home and work which may affect their performance, and thus the team.

One way to know when your team performance is on shaky ground is to observe the attitude and productivity of individual team members. If you pay close attention, you may notice when one's attitude and energy start to lag. Address this by taking proactive steps to support them before it grows into a case of contagious demotivation.

Another sign that team performance may be falling is if project deadlines are missed repeatedly. This may be due to poor communication or a lack of structure, process, or work synchronization. It may also be due to members withdrawing into themselves as they deal with personal issues stemming from the health crisis and other issues. This may make them less invested in the outcome of projects at work.

Tips for managing team performance remotely

Now, onto the nitty-gritty of managing team performance for optimal results. 

You need to layout new processes or streamline existing ones to capture input and feedback from your team. You should then go over the new setup with your team and outline the changes, why you're making them, and other processes you'll put in place to increase team performance and morale. 

To ensure you do not repeat a situation where members of the team become disconnected from your efforts to optimize performance, you should take them along in this process and get their input and feedback so that they are a part of it from the start. 

Next, you can move on to the steps below to enhance team performance further.

1. Establish a system of measurement

Measuring team performance is essential to improve the team's output. Without any tangible data, how do you know what you're doing wrong or improving? 

A sound system to put into practice is establishing Objective and Key Results (OKRs) across your team. This methodology, popularized by Intel and Google, allows you to plan out your quarter or year aggressively, and then stack up what you achieved against your forecast. 

OKRs should be created at both the team and individual levels. Whether you're in IT or marketing, this form of measurement can be used in any team.

2. Provide incentives

After you've established OKRs for the quarter or year, create incentives for your team to hit them. A new reason to commit to the project goal may energize your team to strive for optimal team performance. 

Due to the nature of OKRs, the goal-setting is usually aggressive, so your team can aim to hit 70%–80%. Due to the changing times, however, team members may lose focus if they feel the work is too ambitious or meaningless.

Incentives are a great way to curb demotivation and motivate your team. For example, the incentive could be: If the team hits 70% of their OKRs, you'll plan a trip to the wine country (post-COVID-19). 

If you want them geared towards individual goals and productivity, you can make the incentives more personal, e.g., if you complete three customer case studies by the end of Q3, you'll receive a 3% bonus. 

3. Create and use templates

Templates are a necessity to save time and avoid mishaps. Smart project managers automate recurring tasks and use templates to work more efficiently. 

When managing a project that requires lots of steps, templates save your team time and helps lower stress by knowing that everything is captured in the template, and nothing is being left out, especially now when you may be working from home.

Templates ensure that your team maintains the set standard. Templates also ensure that tasks are assigned to the right team members, and task dependencies do not become a problem. Wrike offers free templates for various project management needs.

4. Only schedule must-have meetings

It isn't easy, but it can be done. Meetings shouldn't be the go-to choice whenever there's something to discuss. 

Studies show that employees attend an average of 62 meetings per month and believe that half of those meetings are ineffective. What's more, since the COVID-19 virus spread and sudden work-from-home orders, employees now experience intense Zoom fatigue. This concept is something to consider for remote work after Covid.

You can encourage a new culture of only scheduling meetings when they’re absolutely necessary. One of the most crucial remote work tips is to reduce unnecessarily stressful and time-consuming meetings and keep communication streamlined. To ensure your meetings are useful, start with a purpose, and end with a clear action item. This will help your team stay alert and engaged throughout the meetings. 

If you are unsure whether you should schedule a meeting, review this decision tree infographic to determine whether a meeting is worth having.

5. Engage in team building games

Work hard; play harder. One of the characteristics of high-performing teams is knowing when (and how) to have fun. Regular breaks from work for remote team building may be the key to the productivity you need. 

Sometimes when a team is suffering from burnout, they need to recharge, by themselves or within the team and reconnect with each other. Team bonding games offer light and creative ways to boost creativity, practice problem solving and encourage teamwork. 

Out of ideas of interesting team bonding games for your remote team? Check out this list of virtual team building activities.

6. Become Agile

Effective team performance management isn't always about hitting your numbers, meeting deadlines, and executing projects. It's also how you cope with missing your numbers, delayed deadlines, and bottlenecks in executing a project. 

Adopting the Agile methodology allows your team to adapt when plans change instead of panic. It also forces your team to communicate regularly and focus on quality over quantity. 

It's essential to keep this mindset when building your OKRs. Instead of focusing on executing 15 marketing campaigns this year, you might want to look at executing only ten campaigns that each bring in a higher number of leads. 

7. Celebrate big and small wins

Big wins are fulfilling, but small wins are what get you there. Celebrate little wins, and your team will be inspired to continue their hard work. 

Planning a happy hour or sharing little gifts is a small way to show how much you appreciate their dedication. For project managers with remote teams, here are more suggestions to show your remote workers some love.   

How to improve your team performance with Wrike 

Wrike helps project managers manage and improve team performance by providing an intuitive portal for team communication, collaboration, and project management. This enables visibility into ongoing projects, which helps your team and other internal stakeholders understand how their roles fit into the bigger picture and monitor the project progress.

Get started with Wrike's team collaboration software with a two-week trial.