If you ever spend time wondering what your team members need from you, you’re not alone. Most leaders have struggled with figuring out how to do a better job supporting their staff members. True leadership is hard, and those who take it seriously know it means working on self-improvement and motivating your team to do the same.
Providing a fulfilling work environment is about more than parties and platitudes. It takes commitment and focus to help your team members be their best selves every day. So where do you begin?
The first step to being a great leader is understanding what makes you tick. If you don’t know what’s important to you, you won’t spend your time on the things that truly matter.
By figuring out your personal strengths, you’ll understand better how to be successful in your day-to-day tasks but also how to strengthen relationships. There’s a reason that counselors use personality assessments such as DISC or Emotional Intelligence to help individuals and couples in their efforts to improve themselves and their communication. By exposing not just what we do well but also where our thinking is limiting or self-destructive, these sorts of assessments can be a wise early step in efforts for self-improvement. And as a result, self-awareness positions you for greater productivity, stronger relationships, and a more fulfilling life.
Next, decide what matters. Are you living your life in a way that is inspiring to you? Do you have goals and dreams as of yet unfulfilled? Is time slipping through your fingers as you drift somewhat aimlessly through your days? It’s important to evaluate your life through the lens of your values and beliefs to determine where course correction is needed.
Then, be intentional. Consider who in your life matters most to you. Is that your team? Your parents? Your spouse and/or kids? Once you consciously identify who those people are, you can honestly critique your current willingness to prioritize them.
So, when you’re making decisions, ask yourself: are you considering their well-being first? Or are you making decisions based on other pressures without truly applying those long-term values? If you find there’s a mismatch between who you say is your priority and who you treat as your priority, congratulations. You now know one area you need to address and quickly. This is oftentimes a hard habit to change, and you very well may benefit from help and accountability to put new behaviors into place.
Now make it happen. Motivational speaker and bestselling author Greg Reid says it well: “A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.” By creating a life plan and by reviewing it regularly to ensure you’re on point, you allow yourself the freedom to spend time doing what is important and saying no to those things that aren’t.
Once you’ve figured out how you want to spend your time, you can help your team members get focused. By creating an environment where individuals feel they are valued and contributing to important goals, you’ll find you have a happier and more engaged team.
Providing a safe place to work is an important facet of company culture. Individuals need to feel they can do their jobs without worrying about bullying or harassment. But that’s a bare minimum standard and won’t give your team members what they need to stay engaged. People have a strong psychological need to belong to something. Shared goals and values are critical to helping people connect to their work, and an environment of mutual respect goes a long way toward helping individuals feel empowered to do their best.
As humans, we find great value in the opportunity to do meaningful work. People want to know they’re making others’ lives better and contributing to important goals that support the organization long-term. By identifying your vision, building buy-in among your staff members, and showing the connection between their efforts and the desired outcomes, you can foster an environment of engagement and excitement amongst your team members.
Business coaches have long taught that great leadership means focusing on what people do well and helping them do lots of it. Positive feedback’s impact on performance cannot be overstated, and a work environment where team members are shown appreciation and acknowledgment of their value will ultimately lead to a happier, healthier, and more productive team.
That said, sometimes constructive feedback is needed, and a good manager won’t shy away from delivering that feedback.
Historically, managers have been taught to give positive feedback, then negative, then positive again, but there’s a reason many leaders don’t use the Feedback Sandwich these days. By trying to make it easier on the manager who’s uncomfortable with tough conversations, the Feedback Sandwich method ultimately undermines the value of the conversation and makes it hard for the team member to adequately process and apply either the positive or the negative feedback. Tough conversations need to be dealt with head-on, and an effective leader knows how to address performance issues directly with their team in a way that helps them improve rather than demoralizing them.
In addition to giving feedback, you should enable your team to give feedback to each other throughout the organization. By creating a culture of feedback, you empower your team to constantly help each other be better. Problematic behaviors can be dealt with right away, business issues can be addressed and overcome, and people are freed to appropriately and professionally disagree, which ultimately drives collaboration and innovation. There are a few tricks to doing this well, including making sure the situation is appropriate for giving feedback and that the team member is in a good “headspace” to hear it. Also, feedback needs to be specific and fact-based rather than based on perceptions. If it doesn’t give the individual something they can take action on, whether it’s doing more or less of a certain action, then it isn’t helpful or meaningful.
So what about you? Are you supporting your team? Do you know how to tap into your best self and how to help your team tap into theirs? Are you having trouble giving feedback in a way that drives positive results?
We can help. If you want to improve your leadership skills and help your team maximize their potential, talk to one of our executive coaches today!