It’s an often-repeated phrase, but it’s still a good one: There is no “I” in team.
The baseball writer Mark Harris once used the metaphor of a baseball manager showing his team how impossible it is to catch a fly (the insect, not the ball) with an open palm, because it will always escape through your open fingers; but with each digit — each member of the team — coming together and closing in on it, you’ll catch (and retain) the fly.
Of course, any good manager knows that teamwork is the key to a successful business; but how do you instill and encourage the passion that fuels that teamwork? Here are some tips for instilling — and motivating — your team so you’ll all be on the same path toward success.
Learning to Put Your Ego Aside
For many managers, this is the hard part. Of course, we all have egos, but some are more developed than others. As a team leader, it’s not only good, it’s absolutely necessary to have a well-developed ego and sense of confidence. The wise leader, however, knows when it’s time to let the team take over and do its job.
In the end, you’re not just building a team — you’re building a passion for your company and your workplace, just as a coach builds the passion to win among his players. As a leader, you’re there to coach, support and guide. You provide the road map and help team members use their individual tools and talents to achieve common goals.
Think about it: Coaches don’t win championships — teams do. There comes a point when the best coach knows when to stop talking and let the team get out there and use its skills to win. This means, as a business model, it’s important to constantly remind yourself that, in practice as well as theory, you need to put the team out there on the playing field, ahead of the coach. That’s the only way you’ll keep winning games.
Make It Personal
When you come to work every day, you don’t leave your individuality at the door. Too many employers make the mistake of looking at their employees as if they were automatons, without personalities or individual talents or interests.
The wise manager learns how to leverage the talents, interests and passions of each team member. It’s all a domino effect — and here’s how it works, step by step:
Step 1: Learn to Listen
By listening to your team members, you’ll discover their individual interests and talents.
Step 2: Tap into and appreciate those individual interests and talents
Once you find out about each team member’s interests and abilities, you can find a way to leverage them for the good of the team. Likewise, your acknowledgement and appreciation of those talents and interests can go a long way toward motivating your team members.
Step 3: Channel those interests and talents into a common goal
This is just like mining nuggets of gold. Once you start digging, you’ll be amazed at the wealth of valuable abilities that you can bring together for the good of the team.
Training and Growing Together
Now, with your cards all on the table, it’s time to concentrate on training and growing together as a team. Going back to the metaphor I mentioned earlier, this is comparable to bringing together all the fingers of your hand and making them work together, closing up all the gaps so that nothing slips through.
Here’s how to close those gaps:
Constant communication: Just watch any professional sports team, and you’ll see the coaches and players in constant contact with each other. No good coach sends players onto the field without ample communication. Likewise, a good coach also answers questions, and continually keeps lines of communication open so that everyone is on the same page of the playbook, following the same strategy.
An atmosphere of trust: The best managers get an intuitive sense of when it’s time to stop managing and start listening to team members. You’ll find out a lot of things you’ve missed merely by listening, asking questions, and showing your staff that you trust their individual judgments and expertise. Likewise, trust and appreciation go hand-in-hand. An employee who feels trusted also feels appreciated.
One crucial point concerning trust: Don’t micromanage. Nothing kills team motivation and trust faster than a feeling of constant scrutiny. Micromanaging breeds mistrust and hostility — and it’s commonly cited as a major reason for staff turnover.
Grow your abilities through challenges: It’s sometimes good to push your team into new and unfamiliar territories so they don’t get lazy or complacent. You can do this by taking on a challenging new client, or by adding new (and ultimately beneficial) services.
Practice: Just as athletes have to practice together as a team, it’s vital to constantly grow and build your staff’s teamwork skills. Here are some team-building tips:
A good productive meeting involves plenty of interactive communication, debate and a lively question and answer session.
One note about staff meetings
Too many companies merely bring in outsourced corporate cheerleaders to provide generic pep rally rhetoric. Instead of doing this, it’s better to respect the intelligence of your team members by making things relevant. Communicate exactly what’s going on and let your team members pose any questions or concerns. And always make sure to maintain an atmosphere of positivity and encouragement.
These can include casual clothing days, pizza meetings, bonuses and perks (such as free concert tickets or dinner certificates). Any personal perk — like remembering employee birthdays or awarding achievements with small gifts — can make a team member feel appreciated and valued.
During off-time, many small businesses arrange team activities such as picnics, sporting events and other enjoyable activities that can help promote feelings of bonding and unity.
Putting It Into Action
- Do you spend more time talking or listening in your one-on-ones with your team?
- What are you doing to grow as a leader within your organization?