Category: Leadership

Encouraging Your Team Members

Encouraging Your Team Members

“When you encourage others, you in the process are encouraged because you’re making a commitment and difference in that person’s life. Encouragement really does make a difference.” – Zig Ziglar

Your team members should never feel that they are merely a resource. A resource is something you use as long as it is functional. When the shelf life expires or is no longer as effective as it once was, you throw it away without a thought. Employees, workers and team members are not robots. Human beings have intellect and emotions. Failing to deal with them on those levels will ultimately backfire. You cannot program loyalty.

Sharing Rewards With Your Team

If your team members are going to share in the work, make certain they share in the rewards. If you are going to get a bonus for a successful task, share at least a portion of it with your team. More than one employee has felt betrayed by leadership when the boss gets a big bonus and those who do all the work get nothing. You don’t need to give them half or divide it all up among all your followers, but you should at least throw them a party, provide a free lunch, organize a team building event, or give everyone a pair of movie tickets or a lottery ticket. Do something to show they didn’t work hard only to see you take all the credit.

Related: Leadership Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Celebrating Team Accomplishments

Set both personal and team goals and milestones. Nothing motivates someone like public recognition. Although some may seem somewhat embarrassed by a public display, inside they are proud they have been recognized. There has never been a recorded study that quotes an employee who was honored in public with them saying that they never wanted that to happen again. Celebrate team milestones as well. It breaks up the routine of the workday, gives a well-deserved break, and motivates people to work harder when they return to work refreshed.

Making Celebration Part of Your Team Culture

You don’t need to decorate the office each day or have morning pep rallies, but the workplace should never be dreaded by your team. People spend most of their waking lives at work, with substantially less time for family, friends and activities they would much rather be doing. By the very definition, they come to “work” and you have to pay them to be there. People have to feel motivated by more than just a paycheck.

Be sure to have a welcoming environment where people feel respected. Celebrate special occasions to break up the routine, but don’t make celebration itself the routine or no work will get done.

Motivating Your Team to Action

Motivating Your Team to Action

“Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.” –  John C. Maxwell

As team leader, you cannot do your teams’ work for them. You have your own work to do. Your goal is to develop your team to the point where you can delegate tasks without a lot of oversight. To be a true leader, you must enable others to act responsibly and not encourage bad habits by compensating for them or overlooking them. The goal of a team leader is to empower others to work. To the extent that you can do this is the extent that you will be successful.

Encouraging Growth in Your Team Members

A positive attitude is essential if you are going to encourage your team. No one likes to fail and many take it very personally. While failure should never be rewarded, an understanding attitude and positive outlook can work wonders. A child only learns to walk by falling down many times. The focus is not on the fall, but on getting up. The goal is to walk…then to run.

Meeting with a team member one-on-one is important to positive motivation. Here again, you must use the power of listening. Avoid blame when something goes wrong and focus on the reason for the failure. You may learn someone needs more training, more self-confidence, or more freedom. You may learn someone does not have the tools needed to be successful. You will never know if you don’t ask questions and listen – or worse, if you berate the team member for a failure.

If someone is willfully defiant, then feel free to be stern and resolute. Take disciplinary action if necessary and document the conversation. If you allow someone to be defiant or lazy out of a misplaced concern for his or her feelings, you will be performing a great injustice against the rest of the team who are working hard. In most cases, people really do want to do a good job and they have a sense of pride when they meet a challenge.

Creating Mutual Respect in Your Team

You will never be worthy of your team’s respect if you don’t give respect. Respect should be given to everyone at all levels unless they deliberately do something to lose that respect.

Related: Leadership Outcome Based Team Building Activities

You need to build respect in other ways as well. Be visible to your team members. Show them you are available and interested in knowing everything about what they do. Develop and demonstrate your knowledge of the organization and details of the product, service, or operation. If you are perceived as being knowledgeable and can answer questions, you will not only earn respect, but will motivate others to learn as well.

Earn the Trust of Your Team

Respect inevitably leads to trust. Do what you say and say what you mean. Under-promise and over-deliver can help manage expectations. If you are given a task you know will take you one hour, say you “should” have it done in two hours. You never know when you’ll get a phone call that eats into your time or when an emergency may pop up. If you get done in less than two hours, you will be perceived as a hero. If not, you can call and apologize that it will be “a little later” without much trouble because you said you should have it done. You didn’t promise that you would have it done. If people feel they can rely on you, they will trust you.

Let your team know that you are not asking them to do anything you would not do yourself, or have done in the past. Work hard and be seen working hard. If you come in early and see others who are there early as well, stop by and simply mention that fact positively. A simple word of recognition will go a long way to earning respect. Without respect, you will never have loyalty and without loyalty, you cannot trust your team. Without mutual trust and respect, your team cannot accomplish great things.

Challenging the Process as a Team Leader

warren-benis-quote

“The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.” – Warren Bennis

Far too often, we cling to what is familiar, even if what we cling to is known to be inadequate. Most large groups are governed by the law of inertia: if it takes effort to change something, nothing will change. As a team leader, you must search out opportunities to change, grow, innovate, and improve.

There is no reward without risk however, so you must be willing to experiment, take risks, and learn from any mistakes. Ask questions, even if you fear the answers. Start with the question, “Why?” Why are things the way they are? Why do we do things the way we do?

Think Outside the Box

A paradigm is an established model or structure. Sometimes they work quite well, but often they are inadequate or even counterproductive. Sometimes it is necessary to “think outside the box” and break the paradigm. Don’t be afraid to ask the question “Why?” Ask questions of your team members, employees, customers, former leaders. Ideas and answers can be found in the least likely places. Often the lowest ranking persons in an organization can tell you exactly what is wrong because they see it daily from their vantage points.

Developing Your Inner Innovator

Innovation is more than just an improvement on a process or procedure; it is a total redirection or restructuring based upon stated goals and research. While it can be helpful to adapt an outdated procedure or task to today’s standards, often the procedure itself is the problem, not the manner in which it is implemented. Innovators reverse engineer policies and procedures based on the new vision and team goals, working from the target backwards, rather than from the status quo looking forward.

Related: Leadership Outcome Based Team Building Activities

To be sure, not all innovative strategies will be feasible or cost effective. Requiring an entirely new computerized network and infrastructure, for example, may cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and produce little improved efficiency over the old one. However, if you don’t start thinking “outside the box,” you will miss many valuable solutions that can and will work.

Note that changes should never be made simply for the sake of change. Change can be exciting, but it can also be unnerving and difficult for the team members. Constant change causes frustration. Moreover, if you seem to change too many things too often, you will lose respect, as your team members may feel you don’t really know what you are doing, so be sure to plan your innovations carefully. There should be solid evidence that a new way of doing things is likely to work before you invest money and everyone’s time.

Keep focused on the team  goals and be willing to break the rules if they need to be broken. Just make sure they really need to be broken and you don’t break something that needs to keep working! With proper research and planning, you can dare to be bold!

Seeing Room for Improvement

A strong team vision does not lend itself to mediocrity. A drive to excellence always seeks improvement. If you accept 95% efficiency as a goal, the efficiency will inevitably slip to 90%. If that’s considered “good enough,” it will become hard to keep it above 85% and so on.

Team goals must not be unrealistic or unattainable, or the followers will simply give up trying altogether, becoming dispirited and demoralized in the process. If 95% of people fail to meet a standard, then that standard is likely too high and must be changed. On the other hand, the bar must not be set so low that little or no effort is required to meet it.

Based on your team’s  vision, set high goals that are attainable but with some degree of difficulty, and reward those team members who meet the goals. If a large number of the team  is meeting the goal, raise the target. If only a very few are meeting it, lower it somewhat.

Investigate any potential bottlenecks that might be stifling progress and resolve them. Talk to your team members about possible solutions. The people who actually do the work are far more likely to be able to tell you why they are having difficulty accomplishing a task than their supervisors.

Lobbying for Change

To lobby for change, you need to influence people and excite them to your vision. You may need to persuade a reluctant boss or fight a corporate culture that doesn’t understand what you are trying to do. In that case, you need to demonstrate why your requested change needs to occur.

Do your research, and always enter a meeting by being prepared. Study the situation and present all of your findings in a short report, preferably with simple charts or graphs. Give them something they can easily understand. Have the details ready in case you are asked a question, but don’t overload people with facts. Show as clearly as possible how your plan will effect positive change.

If you are lobbying your own team members, the same is true. You may want to revolutionize a cultural change. Perhaps you are a shop manager and people are unmotivated. You may need to bring about change slowly, rather than with one big dramatic gesture. On the other hand, you may need to shake things up in a big way. Whatever the situation, you can successfully lobby for change if you attack the problem with a plan, sound reasoning, and infectious enthusiasm!