Pats On the Back Can Pay Off


I have been told that I need to give my staff some positive feedback. I’m not great at that – seems gratuitous. I’m busy and get my tasks done, no one pats me on the back. Why should I do more than expect them to do their jobs?

Thoughts of the Day: Acknowledging contributions is a great way to build rapport. Start a dialogue with someone about what they’ve done well, in order to find out how they’re really doing. In an environment of tight budgets and limited pay increases, appreciation can help boost morale.

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Include Every Team Member in Setting Goals

Common company wide goals – we don’t have them. We’re all self-interested in what we’re doing, and sometimes it’s hard to understand each other’s pictures. Not sure if we’re lacking the patience or the perspective we need. When we do make goals, they seem loose, they don’t get transferred to the entire team, and we don’t take them seriously. There are no consequences to not meeting our goals.

Thoughts of the Day: Even if you don’t have written goals, you do have goals, you just don’t know it yet. As owners it’s important that you take hold and decide what you stand for. There are always consequences for your actions or inactions. Remember that there is strength in numbers, learn to help each other get ahead.

Every day, people get up, go to work, get things done, and then go home. Intentionally planned out, or simply drifting along, most people manage each day to get moving and accomplish some things. Conscious and unconscious activities are the outgrowth of conscious or unconscious goals – to get moving, to earn some money, to be in contact with other people, to get something done.

Thinking through long and short term goals, actions and consequences allows one to act pre-emptively to achieve what’s desired. Written goals, backed up by a list of action steps needed to achieve those goals, tends to increase the likelihood of the goals coming to be. Working consciously through goals and actions can also increase the chance that undesired consequences can be anticipated, and avoided or minimized.

Human behavior starts with thinking selfishly, what’s good for me. For some people it evolves to, “How can I accomplish what I need while also thinking about the needs and wants of others?” Expanding one’s horizon beyond self-interest allows for the possibility of taking in additional ideas and contributions from others.

No one person has all the answers. A group working to solve problems and learn from each other’s experiences tends to result in higher level outcomes than does a single person working alone. In the process of working out bugs, communicating about what needs to happen, and sharing individual know-how, a higher level of performance emerges based upon the group’s collective abilities.

It does take patience to listen as one member of the group, and then another, talks about how their experiences are relevant to the situation at hand. It may feel as though there isn’t enough time to wade through the clutter of multiple participants inputting what they consider to be important. In the process of trying to saving time, it’s easy to overlook the nuggets that each team member can add to a group project.

People in the organization look to the owners for leadership and guidance. Behaving without regard for your peers, ignoring the goals and motivations of other team members, shutting off discussion – are these really the things you want to be known for? Or would you rather be seen as a person who encourages the talent around you, as someone who helps people grow by fostering an environment of cooperation and collaboration while working towards the greater good?

Consider compromise to find the balance between what you want and accommodating the needs of other team members. Allow for the possibility that helping each other may lead to new insights and experiences that could never have emerged if you were working on your own.

Use the process of defining and setting specific, tangible goals to your advantage. Discussion, documentation and negotiation are all great toold to help you better understand where your teammates are coming from, and to educate them about what you consider to be important. Ask all team members to join in it will remind them that they are crucial to the growth of the company, and will make them committed to achieving the goals. Use breakdowns in communication and teamwork to your advantage, treat them as learning and strengthening opportunities. Refuse to walk away when things get tough. Hold your team members accountable for doing the same.

Looking for a good book? Good Luck, Creating the Conditions for Success in Life and in Business, by Alex Rovira and Fernando Trias de Bes.


Enlist a Team of Leaders to Avoid Micromanaging

Someone suggested recently that I spend too much time plugging holes and fixing problems. I thought it was my job as owner to ensure things run well. I realized that I’m not my staff’s backfill; they are my backfill. Can you help me get my head around this change?

Thoughts of the Day: A pyramid cannot stand on its point; it needs to stand on its base. Build your pyramid by building a group of strong, cross-supporting people under you. Expect people to help each other become leaders. Unleash results that come from people who willingly deal with difficulties and challenges. Take the weight off your shoulders by stepping back.

Think of your company as a total structure made up of individual blocks, built up from foundation to pinnacle. No one block could hold up the entire structure, but when set together in a common structure, interlocked, cross-supporting, they create one of the strongest structures on the planet — a pyramid.
Give people more opportunity to come up with answers, not less. Give them more room to crack open problems, inspect details and learn by making mistakes as they strive to develop winning solutions. Hold everyone, individually and as teams, accountable. If they come to you for answers, provide guidance but challenge them to develop their own solutions.

Your goal is to have a group of people who see themselves as colleagues serving a common mission, each leading in their own way while collaborating to achieve common results. Build a team of people who are ready to lead and able to back up each other. That gets you free from the drudgery of the day to day. That means more time for you to work on the strategic opportunities and long-term development of the business.

Develop leaders by treating all the people in your company as leaders. Foster leadership by giving people control over decision-making. Ask people to brainstorm together how to get the company where it needs to go. Put everyone in charge of protecting and nurturing the organization’s future. There should be no more looking to one person for a solution.

Make it clear to everyone that they are in it together. If they work as a group, collaborate and support each other, they will tackle more issues, identify more opportunities and come up with better overall solutions.
When team members back off of a problem or get stuck, have them reach out to each other rather than coming to you for the answers. Facilitate conversations, if necessary, by asking team members to gather. Instead of playing a director role in the conversation, sit back and watch how the dialogue unfolds. Ask pointed questions if you think the group may be missing something: “What about … ?” “What if you tried … ?”. Then back out and let the team work on solving the problems.

Do provide an overall framework: “We need to be on a mission this year to achieve a, b, c.” Then ask everyone to come together to create their plan, detailing the goals and actions they believe will lead to the accomplishment of that mission. Think of it as laying out a challenge, and let the group formulate how they think that challenge can best be met.

Encourage people in the company to form many teams, or mini pyramids, breaking down barriers to cooperation and collaboration, in order to accomplish the work ahead. People working across disciplines can often solve problems that people in silos can’t even begin to understand.

Looking for a good book? A Team of Leaders: Empowering Every Member to Take Ownership, Demonstrate Initiative, and Deliver Results, by Paul Gustavson and Stewart Liff.