Sharing the Challenge Means Sharing the Victory: The Two-Way Street of Team Leadership

thinkstockphotos-540241010

Many people work their entire lives to achieve a leadership role within an organization. They’ve put in their time, tirelessly working their way up through the ranks and then, it finally happens: they’re trusted enough to be given the responsibility of bringing a team together for the benefit of a business’s long-term goals. And yet, unfortunately, far too many people tend to veer off course with this almost immediately by assuming that respect is a given (which we’ve talked in detail about before), and by looking at “the team” as one thing and the “team leader” as something separate. They’re not separate, and they never were. The sooner this is understood, the sooner you’ll be generating the types of results you were after.

There IS an “I” in Team – It’s Just Silent

An old saying has told us for years that “there is no ‘I’ in ‘team'”, meaning that in order to become a successful, respected leader, you have to put aside your own needs and look at yourself as just one part of a larger whole. While this is certainly true, from the perspective of a leader there actually IS a pretty important “I” in team. It’s just that most people use it incorrectly.

As a leader, you don’t lead by delegating authority or even by simply demanding excellence from those around you. You lead by example. You always have (whether you realize it or not) and you always will. You set the tone for everything that happens. Think about it – if you like to joke around throughout the work day, your team members will probably joke around a bit, too. If you like to keep things a bit more on the serious side, the mood of your team members will reflect that.

This is a clear-cut example of the two-way street of team leadership, and it is one you NEED to know how to use to your advantage. Never, under any circumstances, should you ask something of your employees that you would be unwilling to do yourself. Don’t say to your new graphic designer, Timothy, “Hey, we’re a bit behind on this upcoming project and I need you to come in on the weekend.” Instead, say, “Hey, so that we can get caught up, I’m going to be coming in on the weekend and I would really appreciate it if you could find the time to as well.” This goes above and beyond just showing your team members that they’re appreciated. It lets them know that you’re not JUST the team leader, you’re a part of the team as well. Of course, you might not always be able to come in on the weekend yourself, but showing your willingness is more of the idea here.

Pay attention to the way this idea plays out in visual cues, as well. If you want your employees to dress more professionally in the office, don’t call them together and reprimand them for their current appearance while you’re wearing beach shorts and flip-flops. Doing so will end in slowly chipping away at that high-functioning team you worked so hard to build in the first place. If you show up every day at the office dressed in a suit and tie, just watch how your employees will rise to meet your dress code.

A Team Shares EVERYTHING

This idea also plays out in how you celebrate your accomplishments or lack thereof. By making yourself a more ingrained part of the team and sharing the challenges, it means that you truly get to share in the victories as well. Remember – you don’t work in a vacuum. When a project finishes successfully, people may want to give you the credit because “you told the right people to do the right things.” You didn’t. Never forget that you’re just one small part of a larger whole. If you were willing to share the challenges, you have to share the victories as well – this means that any success is the TEAM’S success, not yours.

In the end, the phrase “team leader” is actually something of a misnomer. People tend to think of it as immediately positive – you’re in a position of authority and that is something to be celebrated. While this may be true, it’s also something that can be far too easily abused – even unintentionally – if you’re not careful. If a chain (or team) is only as strong as its weakest link, you need to understand that the weakest link will ALWAYS be the team leader by default. Your number one priority is making sure that the entire team is moving forward through the way you treat your team members, the way you behave, and the way you show them that you’re all in this together.

Advertisements

Expressions of Appreciation

“Feeling grateful or appreciative of someone or something in your life actually attracts more of the things that you appreciate and value into your life.”
– Dr. Christiane Northrup

Have you ever felt under-appreciated? It is unfortunately a common condition in our culture. But, we can do something to combat its ubiquity. Like so many negative influences in our lives, we can turn this around and reverse its influence by doing the exact opposite. Actions may speak louder than words, but some words can have an unforgettable impact. Appreciating the contributions of others and making that appreciation known to them, will not only inspire them, but it will also add remarkable value to your own life.

Expressing appreciation to others is such a simple act that it is frequently overlooked. The opportunity is ignored, or we let it pass on by without saying anything, simply because it might expose our inner self to others. We ignore the potential to connect with someone else in this way because it is easy to do. We take the easy path instead of the better one.

Especially in a job situation, expressed appreciation can make a tremendous difference in job satisfaction and employee productivity. Expressions of gratitude for a job task that was particularly well done shows the recipient that she has made a positive difference. She has contributed something of value to the business. This can have a marked impact on even the least productive employees, as they start to see the importance of their place in the scheme of things.

Some people seem to have a hard time even saying thank you. For them, expressing further appreciation may take a little more effort, but for most of us it is a fairly easy habit to develop. Make no mistake, it really is simply a habit to be kind enough to say thank you, and tell someone why you appreciate their contribution. Good habits like this are fortunately just as easy to develop as the bad ones.

To develop this altruistic habit, simply adjust your thinking to include at least three expressions of gratitude every day. Set this as a goal as you get out of bed. Search your morning for something to be grateful for and someone to thank for it:

  • I appreciate that you make breakfast for me every day.
  • Thank you for your smile, it inspires me.
  • I love the fact that you are energetic so early in the day.
  • I wish I didn’t have to go to work so I could spend the whole day with you.

Develop the habit. It’s easy. American philosopher and psychologist William James said, “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” Fulfilling that craving is not a difficult task, but to develop the habit of doing so may take an adjustment of attitude. We need to stop thinking of gratitude as an incidental byproduct of life and start thinking of it as a worldview. It will condition our responses to be more in line with the importance of this deep craving that all of us share.

All too easy to forget, these expressions of gratitude are very simple ways to get the most out of life by making others, as well as ourselves, feel better about our daily routines.

Employee Recognition on a Budget: 5 Ways to Motivate on the Cheap

The first Friday in March is Employee Recognition Day, but you don’t have to wait until then to show your employees how much you appreciate them. Though the economy is on the upswing — finally — many employers are still feeling pinched, especially when it comes to budgeting for pay increases and other employee-motivating benefits. But even if you can’t afford a grand gesture, showing your employees how much you value their contributions is still a must.

Why is Employee Recognition So Important?

It may help to think of employee recognition efforts as an investment in your company’s success. While it’s true that motivated employees work harder and take more pride in their work, empirical evidence also supports the benefits of recognition.

A study of more than 4 million employees found that regular praise and recognition has a positive impact on employee performance, specifically resulting in:

  • An increase in individual productivity
  • More engagement between colleagues
  • Increased employee retention
  • A decreased number of on-the-job accidents
  • A better safety record
  • A greater number of positive comments and loyalty scores from customers

Now that you know how important recognition is, here are a few budget-friendly ways to honor your hard-working employees.

1. Just Say Thanks

A survey by Dr. Bob Nelson, noted author and motivational guru, asked employees to rate their most-desired and least-desired forms of recognition. Guess where “cash or cash substitutes” finished? Near the bottom. You heard that right. Only 42 percent of those surveyed deemed monetary reward as very or extremely important.

So what grabbed the top spot? Ninety-two percent of those surveyed rated “support and involvement” from their supervisor as the most desired motivator. Similarly, “personal praise” took second place with 79 percent describing it as very or extremely important. These statistics underscore the impact an employer can have, even without the backing of a huge budget.

Sometimes, it’s enough just to express your gratitude. Make it public by posting a handwritten note on their office door or wall, sending out a company-wide email, mentioning them in a newsletter, or praising your employee at the beginning of a meeting.

2. Break Time

Maybe you can’t afford to give them a raise, but can you spare an hour here or there? Instituting a recognition program based on off-time shows you care without cutting into payroll too sharply. Consider offering an extra hour at lunch, providing an early dismissal on a day of their choosing, or adding a few extra minutes to breaks every day for a week. If you can afford it, comp time is always appreciated and gives employees the break they need to recharge and come back re-motivated and ready to work.

3. Take ’em to Lunch

Recognize hard work by treating that special honoree to lunch. Find out their favorite eatery and order take-out, or go all out and have a sit-down nosh together.

4. Added Perks

Some incentives come at absolutely no cost to your bottom line, but can make a big difference to an employee. Reserve that prime parking space for them for a week — or a month, if you’re feeling generous. Ask one of the top managers or execs to stop by the employee’s desk and offer a personal “thank you.” Post a congrats message to Facebook or tweet it out — with your employee’s permission, of course.

5. Gifting

If you have a small slush fund available, purchase some small gifts from nearby businesses. What employee wouldn’t love being surprised with a free car wash, movie passes, or a gift card to Starbucks?

Whichever low-budget option you choose, be sure to tailor it to each individual employee. After all, thanking your workers in cookie-cutter style doesn’t exactly scream, “You’re special! I value you as an individual!” With a bit of forethought and planning, you can give morale — and productivity — a boost.