Leaders deal with changing market forces, tight deadlines, and pressure to land new business on the right path.
To meet these demands, you must be able to rely on your team. So how do you ensure that you are getting the most from them when you can’t always be there to look over their shoulders or micromanage?
The right work culture makes the difference. You need to instill the right values in the team and get them all to commit to the mission through the right mix of employee appreciation and performance appraisals.
Promote Trust, Not Fear
When things get stressful, motivating through fear can seem like the easiest way to get results. Fear can work to motivate people, but it is not as effective as motivation that comes from a feeling of trust. A person that is acting out of fear is only working to avoid some type of punishment. When there is trust and genuine accountability, the motivation is more internally driven and therefore more effective.
Trust emerges when employees see that you are not only invested in the success of the company, but that you are also invested in their individual success. A good way to build this trust is to ask your employees if there is anything you can do to make them more successful. When they make these suggestions, try to act on them.
When your employees see that you are interested in their insights, and that you actually take them seriously, they will be more engaged. They will also be more likely to take ownership of the successes and failures of their department.
If you want to build trust, think about the ways you communicate and interact with the team. When you check in with your employees, ask them about the progress they are having towards their goals, see if they have any ideas that can improve the way things are done and get them to talk about their successes. You might not be able to build trust in a day, but it is something that can develop over time.
Set an Example
You want your team to be accountable, you want to establish trust, and you want people to work with integrity. How do you get people to embrace these concepts? To start, you should demonstrate that these are the attributes that you value. You have to be accountable, work with integrity, and you have to show trust.
Your employees won’t trust a manager that expects them to strive for ideals that are not reflected in their own leadership. We have all seen people that push employees to always act honestly and follow through on their commitments, only to never hold their own conduct to these same standards.
I remember a colleague that was always complaining about having to find out about problems with his team on his own, and that he couldn’t get team members to own up to their mistakes. Part of the problem was that the correct values were not coming from the leader.
He wasn’t encouraging open communication, and when the team ran into an issue, he never wanted to accept his share of the responsibility. Eventually, he moved on to another position, and one of the team members got promoted. Now that department has a much more cohesive team, and the employees go out of their way take responsibility for even the most minor issues. With a leader they trust, they are much more productive and they all support each other much more in their efforts.
You have to meet your responsibilities, and if something goes wrong on your watch, you have to accept your share of the fallout. When you have your regular check-ins with the team, make sure they understand their obligations and let them know that you trust them to get the job done. You also want to give regular feedback to team members, and you should be willing to accept feedback from them.
Highlight the Positives
There are times when punishment can’t be avoided, but it should only be used in situations where it is the only option. Instead of using punishments and fear to keep people accountable, try to motivate your team with positivity.
You can get more from your employees by being supportive and encouraging them with positive reinforcement. At the end of a tough project, let them know that you appreciate the effort they put in. When a person exceeds expectations, tell that you are impressed with their work, and that you value their contributions.
Imagine you have been working for weeks on a difficult and time-consuming project. The work gets done, you know you have exceeded expectations, and your manager provides no acknowledgement of the hard work, stress, and hours of effort that you put into reaching the goals of the project. You might move on to the next project without a word, but you probably feel under-appreciated.
As a manager, you have to recognize these situations and use them as an opportunity to employ positive reinforcement. A good way to do this is to spend a little time with the team when the project ends.
Tell them that you appreciate the long hours and that you recognize the effort that they put in. Tell them how impressed you are by their dedication and that you are really pleased with the results. This will provide your employees with an internal motivation that you could not get through the threat of punishment or the promise of financial rewards.
Your employees should take naturally to this type of workplace culture. You just need to set the groundwork and cultivate the values that will make for an effective team environment. It all begins with establishing accountability, trust, and appreciation within the organization.