As a leader, one of the most pressing challenges is getting the best performance from your team.

Your success can hinge on your ability to engage your team and drive results. However, the path to getting the best from your team is anything but easy.

In fact, improving team performance is one of the areas where leaders struggle most. In the effort to improve team performance, many leaders take steps that actually DAMAGE engagement!

One of the biggest pitfalls here is focusing on getting the best FROM their people – before focusing on getting the best FOR their people.

The Problem With Focusing on “What You Get”

The problem with focusing on what you get FROM your people is that it’s all about what YOU get out of the equation.

It’s self-focused and it means you view your team as a means to an end.

It completely overlooks the people side of leadership and makes it hard to build a real relationship with your teams.

Think about the relationships you have with your family and your closest friends. Are you focused primarily on what they can do for you? Or do you treat them well because you care about them and want to see them thrive?

People Can Tell if You Care About Them…or Not

If you’re only focused on the ROI you get from treating your teams with kindness, respect and patience – they will know.

If you only give your team your time and energy because you expect they’ll repay you with their best work – they will know.

This transactional approach completely undermines your efforts. You may get your people to deliver the minimum – but they’ll never go above and beyond.


Because they will know you don’t care about them. When you approach people transactionally, you show them you don’t care about them as people. You show that you only really care about the work they deliver.

Leadership Shouldn’t Be Transactional

Building and maintaining strong relationships is one of the key building blocks of leadership.

And strong relationships are never transactional – which means leadership should never be that way either.

Instead, you should be focused on getting the best FOR your people – because you care about them as individuals.

Ironically, when you do this, people choose to deliver their best!

Ask yourself: do you work harder for someone you know cares about you and wants to see you thrive? Or do you work harder for the person who couldn’t care less about you but still wants you to deliver your best work?

If you show someone kindness, respect, and a genuine desire to see them excel, they’ll want to repay the favor.

If you show someone you care about whether they succeed or fail in their career, they’ll repay the favor and work hard to make the team successful.

The trick is that you must genuinely care about your people…you can’t fake it!

Find Out What Drives Your People

A critical step in building a strong relationship with your people is getting to know them.

Besides…you can’t get the best FOR your people until you know what drives them.

Ask questions. Forget the BS old leadership advice that you shouldn’t get close to your teams. It’s not true…and it hurts your position as a leader.

On the contrary, get to know your people!

Learn what they’re passionate about, what makes them excited and what frustrates them.

One critical step is learning about each person’s career goals. A big mistake leaders make is not asking for specific answers here. One team member may say that “career advancement” is their #1 priority. But you have to ask what they actually mean when they say that.

For one team member, career advancement means a promotion – but to another, that might mean getting a raise or expanding their skill set.

Coach Your People to Grow – Toward Their Own Goals

Once you’ve learned how your people want to grow, you can coach them toward their own goals. Help them find courses, books, and other resources to learn new skills. If they’re struggling with a particular challenge or obstacle, coach them through it.

Try to avoid telling people how to solve their problems. Instead, ask open-ended questions. This is helpful because it guides people to brainstorm their own solutions. When people develop their own solutions, it makes them better problem-solvers and adds to their confidence.

By helping your team grow, you’re helping your team become more valuable to your organization. It’s a win-win!

The Best Leaders Put Their People First

It may sound counterintuitive to focus on getting the best FOR your people.

But in 20+ years of leadership experience, I promise you it’s the best way to drive team performance.

No matter how you spin it, if you focus first on getting something FROM your people, it comes across as transactional. That puts a ceiling on team performance.

It can be a hard shift to focus on getting the best FOR your people. But if you give it your all, your people will repay you and then some!