Focus on the “Extra Milers” to Improve Team Performance
In any team, there will be at least one person who puts in the extra effort and the extra hours. These so called “Extra Milers” could also help a work team’s overall performance, according to a study by the University of Iowa.
The research, published by Ning Li, Helen H. Zhao, Sheryl L. Walter, Xin-an Zhang, Jia Yu in the Journal of Applied Psychology discovered that managers should focus on boosting the motivation of “Extra Milers” rather than distributing their efforts equally over the entire team. Researchers discovered that because they put in the extra effort, these employees are in the centre of the workflow within the team and are able to bring more team members on board because they are in greater contact with all of them.
The study investigated 87 separate teams at a Petroleum Plant where each team averaged 8 members. The University of Iowa identified the “Extra Miler” in each team through talking to their managers and conducting interviews with their team mates. These Extra Milers extolled two important traits which the researchers termed “Helping” and “Voice”
In their trait of Helping, Extra Milers were more likely to physically help and assist other team members to do their jobs, especially if they were ill or were not capable of doing the job to a required standard.
Secondly a “Voice” trait among Extra Milers tended to be demonstrated in greater leadership, recommending changes to the workflow with managers so the rest of the team could do their jobs far more easily.
In addition, the position of the Extra Miler in the workflow was also important. In higher performing teams within the Petroleum plant, these hard working team members were located in the centre of the workflow, meaning they were in constant contact with other team members, keeping projects on track and taking up the slack of those teammates who weren’t able to contribute as much. This is crucial for improved overall team performance according to Professor of Management Sciences at the University of Iowa and lead researcher Ning Li:
“The extra miler has more of an influence in the centre because they have more contact with other workers and because others can see what they’re doing. Through this role modelling, everyone on the team becomes better. If the extra miler is on the periphery, they don’t come into contact with as many team members and nobody notices them.”