Leading is a privilege as well as a responsibility. Your team will generate incredible results when they’re pulling together, stretching themselves, helping one another, and driven by a common purpose. You can’t manufacture this or “make” people perform this way. You have to create an environment where it is more likely to happen. Your leadership opportunity is to steward that environment.
One of the least appreciated aspects of leading a winning team is to honor them. Much has been written about recognition and rewards but I recommend you take this to a higher level. Giving honor to your team will leave a long and lasting legacy.
Here are three ways you can honor your team:
1. Believe in Them (and say so)
People have a way of growing into how much we believe in them. You see this in parenting, in youth sports, in community roles, and in business. We’re wired to respond to our #1 fans, especially when they have confidence in us through thick and thin.
Find multiple ways to say “I believe in you.” Say it aloud to individuals and in group meetings. Include it in emails and memos. Combine it with big Thank You’s.
Don’t keep this belief to yourself. It’s critically important that you speak well of your team to others in your organization. Praise them publicly. Commend their accomplishments within their hearing, even if it’s cc:ing them on a “well done” message to a senior leader in your company. Give them fuel for their pride of ownership and accomplishment.
Believing in your team is especially important when they are immature or still learning new skills. They’ll feed off your faith in them. Don’t wait until “they’ve earned it” or you’ll be waiting much longer.
Note: You actually need to believe in your team. This must be sincere. Don’t bother to say it if you don’t believe in them, because people have an internal meter finely tuned to detect BS.
2. Fight for Them
Ask what they need, and get it for them. Find new ways to build on their strengths. Arrange for people to work on new initiatives and get their ideas heard. Line up training and learning opportunities. Go after promotions and recognition for them. If your organization is going through changes that affect roles, including downsizing, go extra miles in outlining the skills, capabilities, and adaptability of your team members.
Find ways for them to take on new work. Every time you say “People are our most important asset” make sure some concrete action follows, so you don’t breed cynicism.
3. Celebrate Accomplishments and Deliverables
Most teams are so busy with a portfolio of work that we rush to the next thing. We reach a good milestone but can only think of all the stuff still undone. Understandable, but sad. Use your leadership chops to break this paradigm.
First, write yourself a note or set up a recurring task which says “Who can we commend today? What milestone has been reached?” Use this as a prompt to pull your head out of your own busyness to look around and consider accomplishments.
Use the whole range of celebration, from the personal “Well done” and high-five, to notes of appreciation, to small gifts, to large milestone parties. Many companies set aside a fund for small cash awards. At the end of the year pass out prizes, even goofy stuff, to honor the people who did the work. Is your team too “virtual” to get together physically? Be inventive about virtual gathering places and ways to celebrate.
If you’re saying to yourself, “But I’m not very good at that kind of thing” then find someone in your group to help you! Getting others to help you strengthens the team culture of recognition and celebration.
The payoff from these three will far exceed the investment. Plus, everyone will have a little more fun, which makes it a nicer place to work together.