When employees trust that they are valued, less management intervention is required for them to achieve significant results. The team will be more likely to stay focused, self-direct, and work together to overcome challenges. While methods of how to take care of a team will vary, here are a few factors: clear expectations, frequent feedback, sustainable work, empowerment through alignment, and accountability.
Clear expectations and frequent feedback
When an employee can easily reference the results and behaviors expected of them, they can use that to identify their own strengths and opportunities. When that is combined with routine, well-framed check-ins based on that information, it becomes easier to align and adjust, in both directions. Worry about mismatched expectations or a surprise conflict is reduced. This applies to a team as well.
Suggestion: if you don’t have a great framework yet, start with regularly meeting to discuss things that fall into these three categories:
Start. Collating this as you go will yield a nice set of expectations and goals to iterate on.
Focus on the right work
Be clear with what the priorities are, and how they align to what the users and customers need and key things that will help grow the business. When team members understand why something is important, they can internalize it and it becomes their needs that they’ll naturally work towards meeting. Also make hard cuts clear for those same reasons or because there isn’t bandwidth for them. Transparency is more than sharing relevant information and reasoning, though. It is also saying I don’t know, I’ll find out, and seeking guidance from experts. It isn’t delaying decisions for consensus, as much as it is empowering everyone to be decision makers armed with the right information and alignment. When they know they will have your support when they make informed decisions that adhere to your team’s established values and priorities, they’ll move quickly and more effortlessly. When more information becomes available, they know adjustments can be made.
Tip: Establish regular times for your team to work on what they know needs to be done to take care of themselves and their systems, too.
Set an example of working at a sustainable pace Many employees love what they do and more often than not will often follow others’ leads regarding work hours and output. You also might do this with your colleagues and leaders as well. Consider setting some boundaries for yourself, for example clear working hours, blocks of uninterrupted work time, and food or exercise breaks. Take vacations, build relationships, network within and outside of your organization, and talk about outside interests. Again, similar boundaries also can apply to your team, especially if you’ve established what its velocity is.
A good place to start: If you are working a little too much yourself, plan some leisure time and put it on your calendar – bonus points if that is visible to your team. Setting aside even 15 minutes a week with a plan for what to do will help you start to interrupt patterns of reactive work. If you have enough leisure time, layer in some learning or volunteering, or explicit focus work time.
Promote accountability I believe the benefits of natural or clear consequences for actions, whether positive or negative, are well understood. I also like to think of accountability not only in those terms of the results people create, but also as accountability for creating the results they want to see. When people are, for example, stalled on their way to reaching a goal or having a hard time with a particular situation, helping them see that they can come up with options for themselves can prevent them from feeling stuck waiting for circumstances to change or for other people needing to do something for them. When they realize that they can and should make things happen for themselves, that can be very freeing, but only if they’re ready to engage in that. Sometimes the best help is meeting them where they’re at before they’ll be open to other possibilities. My go-to responses: “Are you looking for advice, intervention, or just venting?” And then ask them open questions a lot, like “Yeah, what do you think about that?”, especially before giving advice or intervening, if not in lieu of it all together when they come up with a solution on their own.
I’ve worked in many different organizational cultures, some that focus intently on rapid results and see great gains, others that focus on culture above all else and make slow progress, and ones with no focus and a lot of chaos and rather unpredictable outcomes. I have absolutely landed on what works best for me, and that looks more like delivering amazing work at a more steady pace that encourages individual development and supports the families and communities they’re in.
To me, there’s no amount of additional money that could be made or market share gained that makes it worth the cost of missing out on the best parts of our human experience. And businesses will do well when they invest in and reasonably sustain their employees.