Business leaders today have a lot on their plate, maybe more now than any other time in history. As both blessing and burden, today there’s a plethora of resources (theoretical and practical) at a leader’s disposal to help them manage, engage, and build teams. Because technology is a driving factor in the workplace and is continually advancing, management practices and workforce conventions are always in flux to incorporate the latest trends.
In addition, today’s working environment is rapidly changing as the population demographics shift from retiring Baby Boomers to a surge of Millennials, Zennials, and Gen Z filling the ranks of organizations. Because these younger generations have personal values systems differing from past workers, priorities of the individual values systems have to be considered when motivating and incentivizing individuals comprising the team. With so many fast-changing and increasing resources available, and so much buzz-worthy chatter on the topic, where does a leader begin?
Though sage advice from leadership gurus and stimulating team-building activities are at your disposal, there are several fundamental boxes that every successful team lead should check to increase employee engagement:
1) Understand your group’s dynamics - a group begins as individuals, then develops into a cohesive unit with the right nurturing. Just like individuals have personalities, a group can also have a personality. Often times a group forms a temperament around the majority of the styles of the group. Other times the group takes its identity from the top down, but in all cases, each group has an individuality all its own. Do you know your group’s style?
2) Understand the individuals that comprise your group - although the group is greater than the sum of its parts, the group’s parts are worth exploration because they can make or break the success of the group. The personality strengths, limits, values, and skillsets of each individual should be discussed so each person can be placed in areas of natural abilities. Also, potential personality conflicts can be addressed, and emotional intelligence enhanced through the empathy of understanding similarities and differences. Do you know the individual styles of your group’s members?
3) Call your workgroup a “team” - a workgroup and a team are similar, yet different. Calling your group a team can help encourage a winning spirit. A team has positive connotations and stimulates “buy-in” as members may view their coordinated efforts as achieving a purpose toward a common goal with mutual accountability.
4) Communicate the team’s mission - a team’s mission statement should be similar to the mission of the company. Make sure your team’s mission is aligned with the overall corporate mission. Bringing your team in to whittle down the mission statement will help everyone remember and own the mission.
5) Communicate CLEAR goals and measurable objectives - you were probably taught to create SMART goals, and yes, S – specific and M - measurable goals are of supreme importance, yet today’s working environment also calls for CLEAR goals, adding C - for collaboration in teams, L - for limited in scope and duration, E - for tapping into the worker’s emotional passion, A - actionable, for breaking down goals into small actions, R - for refine-able, to refine your goals along the way.
6) Provide feedback; be a coach; be a cheerleader - the common thread in feedback, coaching, and cheering is communication. Constant communication with your team is essential whether you are critiquing, instructing, or applauding.
7) Reward group goal achievement - rewards build trust and show that the company has an employee-centered culture. If your stellar team has slam-dunked the project, there are many ways you can reward the team. Know that today’s younger generations are not only rewarded by money; they seek “purpose beyond profit” as Deloitte's study reveals. Flextime, skills improvement, professional development, opportunities for leadership, community service, and social time are sometimes more desirable.
8) Honor individual initiative and leadership - to demonstrate your organization’s loyalty to its employees and to incentivize others toward hard work, problem-solving, or ingenuity, make sure you advance people based upon their performance in previous roles. This will encourage others to step up and go the extra mile for the team, as well as provide empathy for future team leaders toward subordinates.
Use the Group Dynamics Report* to take the “pulse” of your team.