Six Team-Building Phrases Used by Great Leaders

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” ~Andrew Carnegie~

Client Gina Asks:

As a leader, I want to have a stronger impact on team morale. Some leaders seem to always have the right words to make people feel supported and energized. Can you give me some tips on what to say to keep my team inspired?

Coach Joel Answers:

Great leaders make sure to use team-building phrases each day. To become a better leader, use them not only with the people you supervise, but also with other colleagues. These phrases, when used by leaders in any field, will build strong working relationships that bolster the effectiveness of the whole team. Use them, and others will also perceive you as a stronger leader—someone who empowers others and values their contributions.

  • “What can we achieve?” Asking this question will help team members develop a common vision for a project. To ensure the best chance of success, all team members must believe in the vision. Posing this question will reveal areas where people lack confidence and problems that need to be addressed. It will also help to define a realistic goal, as team members’ distinct areas of expertise will give them important input about what you can accomplish together.
  • “What can I do better?” This question is one of the most important (but often overlooked) phrases used by great leaders. A great leader welcomes constructive feedback about her performance. Asking this question rather than passively waiting for feedback makes it feel safer for employees to share their input. In turn, the leader has the opportunity to strengthen her performance based on this feedback.
  • “Thank you.” It’s easy to say “thanks” in a brusque way, but sharing genuine gratitude requires more thought. Say exactly what you’re thankful for, in a moment when you can focus your full attention on sharing your appreciation. Make eye contact and smile, which will give greater emphasis to your words. And whenever possible, share your thanks in front of others on the team, so team members will come to notice and appreciate each other’s strengths more.
  • “What’s your opinion?” All employees want to feel that their opinions are valued. By asking this question of team members frequently, you’ll help bring a greater diversity of ideas to the table. Posing this question to specific individuals at meetings will help spark dialogue about ideas that need to be hashed out.
  • “I need your help.” Rather than issuing demands, come to employees with a request. Let them know that you need (and appreciate) their skills to get the job done. They’ll take much more pride in their work when you frame requests in this way.
  • “What drives you?” Great leaders want to know what their employees are passionate about. They want to know what energizes them, what motivates them to do their best each day. This knowledge helps them to delegate work appropriately, so each employee has the chance to do more of what fuels her. Plus, finding out what employees are passionate about will aid you in succession planning, preparing them to take on more responsibility in that area.

Leaders who frequently use these phrases will see the team’s performance improve alongside their own. Practice using these phrases at team meetings and in everyday interactions in the workplace. Your employees will come to see you as more personable, supportive, and team-focused, and they’ll feel more driven to work as a team in turn.

Try using all six of these phrases this week, and take notes on the interactions they spark. Email Joel with any questions about your results.

Talkback:
How did people respond when you used these phrases? Do you have other go-to phrases for boosting team morale?

To Improve Your Team’s Output, Look at it Differently

“To Improve Your Team’s Output, Look at it Differently”

Today’s guest post is by Mike Figliuolo, co-author of Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results (you can get your copy by clicking here). You can learn more about Mike and the book at the end of the post. Here’s Mike:

Why do you pay your team members? If you asked them, they might answer “You pay us to work.” If you ask an office-based worker what “work” means to them, you’ll get a list of typical workday activities. They read and write emails. They write reports. They go to meetings and attend conference calls. Those activities that sound appropriate enough, but they don’t give a complete picture of what “work” means to you.

There are two different definitions of “work” in the dictionary. Your team members likely subscribe to the one that defines “work” as “mental or physical activity as a means of earning income; employment.” Given you’re responsible for your team achieving its goals, you probably lean toward the other one which defines “work” as “activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.”

The two definitions are similar in that they revolve around physical or mental activity but they differ significantly on the purpose of the work. The implication here is you must hold your team members accountable for the results they achieve – not the activities they perform. That accountability contributes to the collective results your team delivers. Activities your team members think of as “work” are the inputs that go into getting the real outcome you desire – results that lead you to achieve your goals. Those are the outcomes to assess when placing team members on the Leadership Matrix.

Assessing the Output of Your Team Members

The output question leaders need to focus on is “are my team members producing the results I need given all the investments – pay, equipment, supplies, my time and energy – I’m making in them?” Assess each team member’s output – results that contribute to your team goals. To conduct this assessment, you’ll evaluate five elements of team member output:

Quantity:
What is the quantity of results compared to what is expected or asked of them?

Quality:
How is the quality of their final work versus what is expected?

Timeliness:
How timely is the work they deliver versus expected deadlines or durations?

Intangibles:
To what degree do they improve morale in their immediate team?
To what extent do they improve relationships with stakeholders and colleagues outside their immediate team?

By understanding the results someone delivers at a level deeper than the easily measured numbers, you’ll have a sense not only for what they’re delivering but also how they’re delivering it. That new look at the “how” of their results will help you coach and develop them more effectively.

If you’d like to assess your team members and see where they plot on the Leadership Matrix, take our simple assessment. It will give you a sense for not only the results you get from them but what your investment of time and energy is as their leader. That combined picture will give you a much clearer approach to getting the best out of the members of your team.

Mike Figliuolo is the co-author of Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results and the author of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership. He’s the managing director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC – a leadership development training firm. He regularly writes about leadership on the thoughtLEADERS Blog.

 

5 Ways Team Building Activities can Benefit Your Company

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“Remember upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.”

~ Alexander the Great ~

During the past few decades, corporations have changed the environments of their workplace; they have switched from a very competitive environment to a cooperative one. Why would they want to do this? Competition sparks motivation, which means more productivity, right?

This may very well be true; however, the benefits of having a cooperative work environment outshine those of a competitive one any day.

A cooperative work environment leaves room for team building activities and personal effectiveness. In return, team building activities lead to many amazing changes at the office.

1. Increases Creativity

Often times, employees are stuck in a groove where they perform the same type of tasks in the same manner from week to week. These actions allow for little to no creativity because they create a cycle where the employee feels stuck.

Team building activities have the ability to change this because they remove employees from their regular day-to-day tasks by giving them a not-so-ordinary project, which gives them the ability to use their imagination to find a solution.

In the end, team building activities show employees that creativity is welcome at the office. Letting employees know that creativity is not only welcomed but also encouraged at work should be a goal for employers because creativity can lead to innovation, which leads to higher productivity.

2. Team Building Activities Will Boost Employee Engagement

Communicate is key to success. If you want to have a successful relationship with your family, significant other, or friends, you need to foster communication with them and the same goes for a successful workplace.

Moreover, team building activities lead to employee engagement, which leads to increased productivity. Employee engagement and effective communication go hand-in-hand. Those who feel like they can communicate effectively with their co-workers will be more likely to promote employee engagement.

Often times, firms experience the opposite of this and the result is catastrophic; co-workers end up working against each other, which puts the company in jeopardy. However, when paired into teams, co-workers work together to reach the same goals.

3. Increase Profits

The end goal for a company is to make profits, right? Most likely the answer to that question is yes; however, if a company solely focuses on that aspect, they will be destined to fall apart. Instead, firms can focus on employee satisfaction and their happiness.

When firms focus on activities that promote employee satisfaction and engagement, they are more likely to have a smaller employee turnover. Having a high employee turnover is bad news for a company; it means that they are losing thousands of dollars in recruiting and training and it also means that their employees are unhappy.

Employees are more focused on productivity when they are satisfied with their work environment. Therefore, it is key to ensure a creative and healthy company culture that promotes effective communication through team building activities.

What Are Your Thoughts?

There are tons of other reasons why team building activities benefit companies. Can you name a few? Leave your suggestions and questions in the comment section below!

Jeffrey Fermin is Officevibe’s cofounder and is in charge of all marketing efforts and business development for the company.

Image courtesy of ratch / Fotolia.com

Team Decision Making:
Tips for Better Career Decisions

Team Meeting

“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”

~Peter F. Drucker~

Being a business leader in today’s climate means more than managing the day to day operations of your unit or enterprise, it means understanding how to get the most out your human capital while acknowledging your limited resources. This means taking on the responsibility of looking out for your team and owning up to them when you need their help. Doing this is harder than it may seem, as people do not automatically trust and respect their leaders, but instead need to build a trust and rapport that allows them to understand why you may be turning to them on an issue. The more you do it, though, the better the results.

Many managers (but few leaders) believe that making quick binding decisions is the essence of being a successful leader. This is of course not true. It is imperative for the leader to be able to assess situations quickly, know whether they have adequate information, and make a decision. The key of course in that statement is knowing whether they have enough information.

Team Decision Making
The key considerations in decision making are assessing the time available to make the decision, reviewing the information that has been provided and determining if you are the best person to make a decision. In considering the last point many managers want to push the decision up to their executive team but few consider looking back to the expertise of their own staff.

There are many benefits to taking decisions back to your team. Some of the key benefits include increased engagement of staff, consensus decisions that when implemented already have buy-in from the staff that do the work, and finally and most importantly: better decisions.

If your work unit has been tasked with developing a new marketing strategy, you can ask staff to provide you with all the reports and data and you can make a decision about what you think is the best way to market the business or product. On the other hand you can gather everyone together that provided the information and make a decision together. Often leaders find that while a data set may show information that would lead you to make one decision, a conversation among staff about the decision may provide new insight that will move you in a different direction.

Using the marketing strategy for a product as an example, sales data may show that there is increasing demand for the type of product you are selling. However, you may have a separate staff person that has looked at demographics and they may show positive growth in the age range of the target market but notice that the geographic target of the marketing campaign may be directed at an area that does not match the demographics.

This is not a universal solution for all decisions and a good leader can assess which decisions can be done by consensus, which require a group discussion with the leader making the final decision, and which must be made by the leader alone. A further thought on this is that as stated the leader must take the timelines of a decision into consideration. Consensus decision-making may make better decisions some of the time but they take longer as people must be informed on the issue and then come together to discuss it.

Team Dynamics and Engagement
A leader that is new to a work unit or team cannot start making consensus decisions immediately. The cement that lets it work is trust. The leader has to trust that their team is capable of working together to create a better decision than the leader would have on their own. Conversely the team needs to trust the leader and their workmates enough that they feel that they can express their opinion without retribution or condescension.

The situation that this presents is a little bit like the chicken and the egg but the new leader can foster the environment and inform themselves of issues as they begin to work in this way. Start out with easy decisions that have smaller impact and move up from there. Reward people that speak their mind (so long as they have evidence to back it up) and discourage those that try and close down a conversation if they disagree. A good tactic here is when someone disagrees, ask them to lay out their key concerns and tell why they are relevant to the discussions. This brings them into the discussion and makes those that want to express themselves feel supported by the leader.

Generally, the end result of continuous use of this form of decision making is increased engagement in work and increased trust both within the unit and more importantly between staff and the leader. As most leaders know, with an engaged workforce that trusts their leadership, productivity will increase and staff turnover will decrease. Not bad outcomes for just making room for a little conversation. 

Author: Georgina Stamp works in the interim management industry for Marble Hill Partners. Georgina understands that business leaders have important decisions to make and harnessing the knowledge of your team is part of the role.

Image courtesy of Monkey Business / Fotolia.com

Trust Me
How You Can Build Trust in a Non-Trusting Environment

Meeting
“Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people. But it takes time and patience.”

~ Stephen R. Covey ~

Client Rebecca Asks:  I’m fairly new here and my company seems to rank pretty low on the trust scale. I want to create a more open, trusting environment where my people feel free to share and grow. How can I use your executive coaching tools to work around my corporate culture without making waves?

Coach Joel Answers:  Executive coaching and the work we do together can give you the tools you need create the environment you want, regardless of your company’s philosophy or operating style. So let’s talk about what trust actually looks like and the tools you can use to build it within your own team. Here are four key trust factors that I’d recommend putting at the top of your list:

  1. Be consistent
  2. Show respect
  3. Create transparency
  4. Have their back

1. Be consistent. Why is consistency important?  Sometimes people associate consistency with someone who’s a plodder, boring or lacking initiative. I see it differently in the corporate environment. When you’re trying to build trust, it’s letting people know where you’re coming from, reassuring them that you’re not going to change your mind about key issues and assignments without warning. Your people will produce their best work when they know you’re giving them guidance without restricting their initiative or creativity. .

2. Show respect.  A lot of managers, especially those who are relatively new on the job, are anxious to get the respect of their team. But you have to give before you get. There are many small ways you can show respect for your people. Ask their opinion about projects and work assignments. Show respect for their time. Start and end meetings on time. Keep appointments and don’t cancel at the last minute unless it’s an emergency. Respond promptly to their emails and phone calls.

3. Create transparency. In a lot of companies where the overall trust level is low, people feel left out of the process. You can start to reverse this trend by being open and honest about decisions. Open communication is a powerful tool. Don’t just tell people when a decision has been made; show them what’s behind it. Share the big picture so people know about company as well as departmental goals and objectives. Unless facts and figures are confidential, share them with your people on a regular basis. Above all, avoid having a hidden agenda.

4. Have their back. People need to know that you have their best interests at heart. Make a list of your key people and, at least once a week, ask them how things are going. Then really listen to their answers and engage in a dialog. Speak up for your people in meetings. Be their advocate. Give public credit for good ideas within your department and promote their ideas to company leaders whenever you can.

An environment without trust is an environment with poor motivation, low productivity, and high turnover. By using these four coaching tools, you can build a strong team and create a workplace where your people feel valued and challenged to do their best.

Is your workplace missing the all-important trust factor? To jump-start your own action plan, begin creating these 4 steps immediately. If you have any questions, please contact Joel.

Talkback:  What have you done to build trust in your work group? What advice would you give someone whose company environment was low on the trust scale? Share your ideas here.

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net