Do you perform better when you know others are watching? Research shows the simple answer is “yes.” But how do you make this work to your advantage as a leader?

A few days ago, while observing a Crossfit class at Arenal, I witnessed a great example of the motivational power of “watching.”

Since it was a beautiful day, the group grabbed their gear and headed outside. The instructor, Christina, had planned a rough workout, which included far more burpees and kettle bell swings than any sane person would want to do (though to be clear, Crossfit really isn’t for sane people).

About halfway through, Scott, who was at the very front of the class, stopped to catch his breath and shake out his legs and arms. Staring at the ground for a few seconds, he was clearly working up the mental toughness to finish the workout.

Then, all the way from the back of the class, Christina yelled out, “I can see you, Scott.”

That was all it took for Scott to get out of his head and back onto the pavement. When he finished the workout a few minutes later, he walked over to Christina, gave her a sweaty hug, and said, “Thank you.”

Of course, most of us know this strategy works great in athletics. Trainers and coaches are known for being tough and pushy. But few business leaders transfer this same concept to their teams.

Does this mean you should stand over your employees’ shoulders while they work, so they know you’re always watching? Nah. That would be creepy and nerve-wracking. But it does mean that paying attention, and ensuring they know you’re doing so, gives them something to live up to.

So, let’s break down the key factors that make this strategy work:

  • Camaraderie: Christina was out there with Scott, doing the same workout, not just standing around and judging him.
  • Desirable Goal: Christina knew his goal was to finish the workout as quickly as possible, and she wanted to help.
  • Intention. Christina’s intention was to support her teammate in achieving his goal, not just to get what she wanted from him.

Ready to give your team a boost? Get in the game with them, learn their career aspirations, notice what they’re doing exceptionally well, and point it out. You’ll be celebrating the achievement of their goals – and your big goal (or vision) – in no time.