Do you want better engagement and productivity from your team? Perhaps you are doing one (or more) of these things that alienate team members, zap engagement and don’t get you the results you desire.
1. You don’t share information
Teams expect leaders to have information. When you don’t share information with your team, they assume that you are withholding information. As a leader, you know that often you don’t have any information and may not have any authority to make a decision or provide input into corporate decisions, but your team may not know that. In the absence of you sharing that with them, they assume that you have information that you are not sharing with them. Help your team to understand what you know and what you can share. There may be times when you do have information, yet you aren’t able to share it with your team. Let them know that you are not allowed to share information with them, even telling your team that you are not allowed to share what you know is information for them, and helps build your trust and credibility with your team.
2. You answer more questions than you ask
Often we see our jobs as leaders to have the right answer and provide answers for our teams. Sometimes that is exactly what a team needs, but for teams to remain engaged and empowered they also need to ability to come up with answers on their own. If you are the kind of leader that always speaks up in a meeting with an answer, you are teaching your team that you don’t need them to weigh in, you have the answers. If you instead leave some space for others to answer, or encourage different points of view by asking thought provoking questions of your team, you may be surprised by how creative and innovative your team is when asked. Part of your job as a leader is to develop other leaders, allowing others to work out an answer is one of the ways you can do that. If your team comes to a conclusion that you don’t necessarily support/agree with, ask some questions about your areas of concern to see if they have a way to address those concerns, or if that was something that was truly overlooked.
3. You don’t give them authority to make decisions
People like work that matters. They like to make a difference everyday. One way to help people be more attached to their work is to allow them some authority in their day to day work. Allow people to own the things you give them to work on. Allow them some authority to make decisions and be accountable for their work and support them to take ownership of the tasks you give them. This means when you give the something to do, don’t insist on telling the exactly how to do it. Certainly support your team in the work you give to them, help remove barriers they run into, but don’t insist that the way they go about work is the way you would go about it. This is best accomplished when you don’t make the next mistake and set good expectations.
4. You don’t set good expectations
You know what you want, but do your people know? You think it should be obvious, but have you made it obvious? Sometimes as leaders we forget that our teams may not be privy to all the meetings we are in and information we get everyday. We give them a task that seems clear to us, but we don’t ask our teams to play back to us what they understand that task to be. We assume that they have the same understanding as we do. This can be a huge mistake and leave good people stuck trying to piece together things that are not at all obvious to them. If we have had a really bad day as a leader, we may not be open to questions the team has or get irritated when they ask too many questions about something we have given them. When we do this, it teaches our teams not to ask for clarification. No one likes to be made to feel stupid or less than when they ask a question and it only takes once or twice with you having a bad day or being short to teach your team that you have no tolerance for people that ask questions or try to clarify tasks. This can lead to all kinds of unintended consequences.
5. You don’t know what motivates them
Do you know what makes your team want to come to work? Is it really just the money? Are you sure? If it is just about the money, why do they come to your company versus the one down the street? Think about your position, what keeps you coming to work every day, is it just about the money? Most people find some component of satisfaction in the work they do, in the relationships they have at work, in contributing to a larger goal. Find out what motivates your people, what interests them about the work they are doing. If you can connect what your team is motivated by to jobs and functions you have, you can engage team members in a powerful way.
6. You don’t know what they expect from you
Do you ask your team what they need from you? Do you know what they expect from a leader? Many of us make assumptions about what our teams need based on what we would need. When working with others, this is not always a safe assumption. We all have different backgrounds, different levels of experience, different personalities and points of view and all of those things go into determining what we need from our leaders. You may need to adapt your style to match what your team needs from you and keep in mind that what they need on a task or a project that is brand new may be different from what they need from you for the stuff they have been doing for a long time. Check in with your people, figure out what they need from you.
7. You don’t listen well
This is a big one. People want to be heard and acknowledged. That means, putting down the phone, taking your fingers off the keyboard and really listening with your full attention to what people are telling you. Sometimes just allowing someone to talk to you while you are fully present in the moment is what they need from you. We don’t always have answers for our teams, but we can always take time to listen. If you can listen without rehearsing your answer while they are talking, or planning your counterpoints to the things they have said you will go a long way to making your team members feel heard and valued. Think about how it feels to you when you speak to someone who is only half listening versus when you speak to someone that is totally engrossed in what you are saying. You feel the difference. Your team can too. If you take the time to actively and fully listen, you may learn some things you wouldn’t have otherwise. In this world of real time answers and multi-tasking it is tempting to say you don’t have time to stop and listen like that – recognize that is a choice you are making to not listen and it is one of the choices you make that alienates your team. Try really listening for a week, choose to make the time, and see if your interactions with your team are not better than when you give them half a listen.
Do you fall into one of these team alienating habits? Being more aware of the issue is a great first step to changing your behavior. How will you do better with this today?