Leadership is one of the few jobs where you can make the world and work better for other people. You can turn out great work that makes a difference for others. You can help team members grow and meet their own goals. You can help them do important work with people they like. You might be thinking “But there are only 6 people are on my team. That’s not much.”
It’s not much, but it’s enough. For years, I studied top-performing supervisors in all kinds of organizations. I went into organizations that were supposed to be great places to work. Many of the teams were great places to work. Others were not. The reverse was true, tool. There were teams with high productivity and high morale in truly awful organizations. The boss was the difference.
CEOs get a lot of credit, but the person who has the biggest impact on any worker’s productivity and morale is that person’s immediate boss. If you’re responsible for the performance of a team, that’s you.
You can touch lives and make things better. Here are five things you can to do make your team a great place to work.
Give people as much control as possible over their work life.
Human beings want to do things for themselves. That includes you. That includes your team members. So, give them as much freedom as possible. Let them make decisions about when and where and how to do things. Part of your challenge will be coordinating all those decisions. Getting out of the way is one of the most important things you can do.
Help team members understand how their work is important.
There’s an old story about three stonecutters. One sees his job as cutting stone. Another sees his job as being the best stonecutter in the country. The third, though, sees his job as helping build a great cathedral.
Whatever kind of work you and your team do, there’s an equivalent to building a great cathedral. Sometimes, people will get it themselves, sometimes they won’t. If you’re the leader, you need to tell them why and how their work is important.
Help them understand who uses the results of their work and why matters. Have them go out and meet with their customers, internal or external. Bring in some customers to tell your team why they appreciate the good work your team does.
Pay attention to team dynamics.
People want to work in a safe place with people they like. Help that happen by paying attention to how the team works together.
Create a sense of psychological safety. Team members should be able to speak up and criticize ideas, even your ideas. It should be safe for them to voice an opinion counter to the rest of the team. They should be able to share an idea that other people think is dumb without being fearful. You’re the one who makes sure that happens.
One toxic team member can destroy the atmosphere on your team, so pay attention to the little things. Address issues of poor performance or disruptive behavior should be right away. The longer you let them wait, the worse it’s likely to get. Those problems won’t heal themselves. Deal with them as soon as they come up. If you need to help a team member find another place to work, do it.
Help team members grow and develop.
People enjoy learning and growing. Sometimes, they want to grow in a career sense. Your job is to help them. Sometimes, they want to get better at the work they’re doing today. Your job is to help them.
Help your team members make progress.
Everybody wants to make progress. We want to do a little bit better today than we did yesterday. We want to do even better tomorrow.
Help your team members make progress. Help them make progress in their work. Help them make progress in their relationships. Highlight the progress they’ve made and praise them for it.
If you’re responsible for the performance of a team, you have opportunities to make work and life better for everyone. Let people have as much control as possible. Help them understand how the work they do is important. Maintain healthy team dynamics. Help team members grow and develop. Help everyone make a little bit of progress every day.