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The A-Game

21 June 2022

Do you bring your A game to work?

Is your team bringing their A game?

What even is the A game and how do you get people to bring it?

The A game normally describes athletes performing to the very best of their ability. We see it at the Olympic Games, Six Nations, FIFA World Cup, Masters Tournament and at Wimbledon. Seeing world-class athletes competing at the top of their game is inspirational, motivational and entertaining.

The A game can apply equally to business. When it comes to employee motivation and engagement, you’ll not only want to see your employees bring their A game to the workplace, but you’ll also want to feel it.

However, some days it’s just not there. We’re human beings and sometimes struggle to motivate ourselves at work, whilst coping with the pressures of daily life. On those days our potential delivery levels lag and sit at our B, C or even D game level. Funny how none of these are a thing.

We know that it’s ok not to be ok. People will have bad days at work and are hopefully supported through any personal issues they are dealing with. However, poor performance over a longer period will lead to negativity within a team, which can bring a rapid downward spiral of motivation and team spirit.

Generally, people want to do their best and enjoy their time at work. Some may bounce back from setbacks quickly returning to their best version of themselves, but others need more time.

Employees losing their A game can happen for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s organisational, personal or sometimes both. Whilst lack of motivation to do your best can be expected occasionally, when it’s ongoing it can be detrimental for the individual’s well-being or the business, and both should be looked after carefully.

So how can companies help employees find their A game?

A great starting point is developing a positive culture such as giving employees autonomy within their roles, making them feel valued as individuals and valuing their contributions.

However, the real secret power tool to unlocking employee motivation and finding the A Game is their line managers.

‘A line manager’s behaviour and the culture they create in their team is the biggest influence on an employee’s work experience.’ (CIPD)

A good line manager is on the ball. They know their team and understand when someone is struggling. They make an early intervention and offer time for a supportive chat which hopefully will help the employee back to a better place. However, it’s not always as simple as that. If line managers show positive leadership, empathy, understanding, and are conscious of their team’s needs as well as bringing their own A games, your employees will naturally be more engaged and motivated to do their best too.

People don’t leave companies; they leave line managers.

Line managers who haven’t been given the opportunity to develop their people management or self-awareness skills can inadvertently be contributing to B, C and D games.

It is therefore vital for employers to maximise the performance of their line managers and give them the managerial courage needed to successfully lead their teams. But how?

The CIPD and Affinity Health at Work have identified 5 key behaviours for line managers to support the health, wellbeing and engagement of those who work for them:

1. Being open, fair and consistent

  • Be positive and appreciative: take a positive approach in interpersonal interactions, avoiding unhelpful criticism and blame
  • Respect and openness: treat everyone with respect, consult people and be open to other perspectives
  • Remain calm under pressure: manage emotions, pressures, deadlines and personal issues in order to stay calm and collected
  • Be consistent, fair and kind: manage with fairness, impartiality, kindness, integrity and consistency.

2. Handling conflict and people management issues

  • Conflict management: deal with employee conflicts early, effectively and in an impartial manner and follow up as appropriate
  • Address people management issues: support people and address serious issues, such as bullying
  • Appropriate support: seek support for yourself and the team, use company resources

3. Providing knowledge, clarity and guidance

  • Clarity about roles, expectations and feedback: demonstrate understanding of your own and employees’ roles, clarify expectations and provide clear feedback
  • Guidance and advice: give advice and guidance when appropriate and make time for people
  • Reliability: be decisive, follow up on actions and take responsibility for problem solving

4. Building and sustaining relationships

  • Concern for wellbeing: show empathy, concern and consideration for employees
  • Interest in individuals: take an interest in employees as individuals
  • Sociability: interact with employees in a friendly and sociable way
  • Availability: provide opportunities for employees to speak one-to-one

5. Supporting development

  • Explore and actively support development: take time to discuss employees’ career development and actively support them to develop
  • Development opportunities: offer opportunities and arrange career progression and development for employees

We understand that’s a long list to consider, but, to find your A game in business, line managers are key. They are your coaching staff. Without them, there’s no point turning up. By improving their people management capabilities, you will achieve better results and you will start to see and hopefully feel the A Game in your business.

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