What is the ideal climate for teams to perform at their highest level?
Teams need a supportive climate to thrive. In this climate, there is just the optimum amount of tension and support to perform at a high level. According to what is known as “The Yerkes-Dodson model”, there is a point where people perform at their best under the right levels of stress. Performance increases with pressure, but only up to a point. When the level of stress becomes too high, performance decreases again.
At the left side of this curve we have low engagement and low tension. In these environments, leaders are unwilling or unable to hold team members accountable for actions, fail to rally team members around the collective results of the team and don’t build an environment where standards are challenged. The result is a relatively happy but poorly engaged workforce.
On the other end of the curve we have performance impacted by too much stress and tension. Managers in these environments try to drive performance through high pressure, short deadlines and fear-driven leadership. This negative environment leads to feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and pressure. The brain, sensing danger, triggers our fight-or-flight response. This “act first, think later” brain system shuts down the perspective and analytical reasoning part of our brain.
The best place from which to nurture high performance is in a supportive climate in which the arousal levels are the optimum balance between support and pressure. Where this point is, varies from one team to the next and is different for every case, and the impact of arousal on performance is dependent on skill level, personality, EQ and the complexity of the task. However, there are some clear pointers on how to create a supportive climate where the tension levels are optimal to ignite high performance in a team, and leaders can create a supportive climate by implementing strategies which focus on keeping employees happy, recognised and not overwhelmed.