I know a college professor who once said to me “teaching would be great except for all the students.”
Do you sometimes feel that way about your employees? “My business would be great except for having to deal with all these employees!”
Creating a team that works well together, is effective, and supports each other is not easy. But, there are things you, as the leader, can do to minimize problems and maximize talents.
- Hire well.
When you are interviewing a prospective employee, take the time to outline your culture. Tell them:
- What the key values are that define your culture,
- how you expect those values to translate into behaviors, and
- how you evaluate people based on those behaviors.
Make sure they want to be part of a culture like yours.
For example, if an important part of your culture is to support each other, talk about that. Talk about how people ask for help and others pitch in so that the whole team is successful. Talk about how people appreciate opportunities to brainstorm ideas, rather than judge people for not knowing all the answers.
- Care about the people on your team.
When people know you really do care about them, they will go the extra mile to do the right thing. And by caring, I mean taking the time to ask about their families, to show interest in their hobbies, to appreciate talents they have above and beyond their jobs. To understand the issues and challenges they face in their lives.
When people feel cared about, they will go the extra mile to do the same for you and others. They will want to be part of a team that cares about them. They will want to exhibit the kind of behaviors that add to the culture rather than detract from it.
You hired these people for their talents and skills. Listen to them when they give you advice. Ask for their input on problems. Ask how they would go about solving issues or challenges. Then take the time to listen. You might be surprised at how people will step up and deliver when they know you trust them and listen to them!
- Recognize, point out, and reward the behaviors that create the kind of culture you want.
When someone pitches in to help a colleague meet a deadline, thank them. When a great brainstorming meeting happens, point that out and celebrate. When the quarterly goals are met, host a pizza party. Do what you can to recognize and celebrate the behaviors you want to see, and you will see more of them.
- Watch your reaction when challenges occur.
If you, as the leader, lose your cool when someone tells you a challenging truth, or when a mistake is made, your team will start to hide things. No one wants to be the person who bears bad tidings and then gets in trouble for it.
Speaking truth to power is hard enough. It is nonexistent when the person in power (you) punishes them for it. Thank them, change things in a constructive manner, figure out what isn’t working, and improve it. Include the team in making things better.
When people know you can handle the hard stuff, they will trust you more in every way.
Your team is no different than other people. Things just go better when everyone acts with care, consideration, and respect for each other.