My mother said there were two conditions for a perfect gift. The perfect gift should be transformative. It should make a difference to the recipient. Mom also said a perfect gift was one that the recipient couldn’t or wouldn’t buy for themselves.
As a leader, you give lots of things to your team. You give them time and attention. That’s important. But there are four things you can give your team members that qualify as “perfect gifts.”
Give the Gift of a Good Example
Every day, you set an example of leadership. Make it a good one. Give your team members a mental model of what good leadership looks like. They can use it to become better leaders themselves and evaluate others’ leadership.
Give the Gift of Freedom and Control
Everyone craves autonomy. We want to make choices about when and how we do things, including at work.
Give your teammates the gift of the freedom to act. Many leaders I know, me included, find this very hard. We hang on to control because we want to make sure things are “done right.” We think it’s better and we’re scared to let go.
But if you let go, good things happen. The team member is happier. The team is more productive. And your job gets easier.
Give the Gift of Group Chemistry and Safety
The Google researchers called it “psychological safety.” They meant safety to share opinions and to be different. That’s important, but there’s more.
You can keep team members safe from stupid decisions made by others, even those above you on the organization chart. Keep them safe from the toxic behavior of other team members. Everyone on the team contributes to team culture and team morale, but, as a leader, you’re responsible for it.
Give the Gift of Growth and Development
People want to make a little progress every day. They want to do their job a little better. They want to feel like they’re learning and growing. You can help them.
You can help everyone on your team become a better worker, team member, and human being. Help them build their confidence. Challenge them to do better. Prepare the way so they can move on to better things.
There’s a Catch
There’s a catch to all this gift-giving. It’s not like Christmas, when we exchange gifts and we’re done for another year. The four perfect gifts you can give your teammates are gifts you must give every day. You must do it over and over. You must do it even when you don’t feel like it.
Your gifts will help the team and team members do better. Your gifts will help them grow and develop. And they will make your leadership experience richer.
Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work . . . and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging by Susan Fowler
Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of RESPECT by Paul L. Marciano
The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer
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