Leadership: Create a great working environment for your team

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If you’re responsible for the performance of a group, then you’re a boss. And, your challenge is to create a great working environment for your team. Fortunately, we know what a great working environment looks like.

For a couple of decades, I asked the participants in my programs to identify a time when it was great to come to work and then develop a description of what those great times looked like. When we talked about leader behaviors for the rest of our time together we tested them against whether they would help create a great working environment.

No two lists were exactly the same, but the same descriptions of a great working environment were repeated over and over. Here’s my summary of them.

People want to know what’s expected of them.

Your job is to set clear and reasonable expectations, communicate them, and check for understanding.

People want to know how they’re doing.

Your job is to provide regular and usable feedback. You will do most of that in the workflow and some in meetings. Feedback should be a dialogue and not a monologue, problem solving and not blame-fixing.

People want to do interesting work.

Your job is to help them develop their skills so the work stays challenging. You should try to tailor assignments to each person’s unique and developing abilities.

People want to do meaningful work.

Sometimes that means connecting what they do to a much larger purpose. More often, though, your job will be to remind team members how their work makes a difference in the lives of others, like their teammates and internal and external customers.

People want to work with other people they get along with.

Your job is to help team members work well together. A big part of this is keeping your team members safe. They should feel that they can speak up to you, to other team members, and to the whole team. The people on your team need to feel safe from you and from each other. The tough part of this is confronting people about substandard performance and poor behavior so they don’t poison team chemistry.

People want to be treated fairly.

When people think you’re treating them fairly, they will work harder. They will pitch in to help get the job done. They’re likely to have better morale and take more initiative. People feel they are being treated fairly when the consequences of their actions match up with the impact of their actions and when you treat them with dignity and respect. They will usually judge this by comparing their situation and contributions to others on the team.

One of the trickiest issues you have to deal with as a boss is a situation where you have someone on the team who isn’t pulling their weight or is acting inappropriately. If we’re talking about somebody who’s consistently violated the rules and hasn’t shown any willingness to change, and has a history of rudeness or selfishness, you’d better deal with it. If you don’t, the other people on your team will feel like they are not being fairly treated

People want you to be consistent.

Your behavior should not surprise them. I’ve studied great bosses and I can tell you that there are great bosses with all kinds of personality styles, but they are all consistent in the way they deal with issues and people.

People want as much control as possible over their life, including their life at work.

When they have that control, both you and your team are happier and more productive. A key phrase is “as possible.” If they don’t know what you expect, tell them. If they don’t know how to do the work, coach and train them. If they don’t pitch in on their own, supervise them. Otherwise, let them get on with it. And let them make as many decisions as possible about their work as soon as you can.

This post was adapted from my ebook, Become a Better Boss One Tip at a Time.

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