(By James Robinson) I asked a good friend who deals with high-performing teams how he keeps everyone on his team happy. His answer: “Keeping everyone on your team happy is as simple as ensuring that each individual knows you are there to help them achieve their personal goals. It’s the small gestures that prove you’re motivated for them to win. You can’t rely on the macro conversation of giving a team an overarching message to let the individual know you will ensure their success and happiness.”
I think his answer was spot on, because through the years I have seen some of the best leaders leading their teams this way. This leadership style is summed up in the book An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization, by Lisa Laskow Lahey and Robert Kegan. Chapter 4 in particular outlines many principles I have used myself throughout the years.
First: Create a culture in which it is OK to make mistakes — but unacceptable not to identify, analyze, and learn from them. Do not feel bad about your mistakes or those of others — love them! Don’t worry about looking good, worry about achieving your goals. When you experience pain, remember to reflect.
I have often relayed to my team something I heard a football coach say: “Every mistake you make on the field I own, but the effort must come from you.” You can only improve if you “watch the film” — analyze the data on your performance and then commit to getting better. Tom Brady — the best quarterback in NFL history — still watches film of his games to continue to improve, and that’s a wonderful example for the rest of us.
Second: Evaluate people accurately, not kindly. Understand that you and the people you manage will go through a process of personal evolution. Help people through the pain that comes with exploring their weaknesses.
People react differently when you focus on their weaknesses. Think about watching the film from a football game in front of the entire team, where everyone’s weaknesses and mistakes are on full display. You have to be ready to receive correction in that environment.
I’ve adopted this mindset when dealing directly with my radio team. The true magic happens when the team comes to love this aspect of helping them grow — that’s what will lead to their being happy.
Third: Recognize that people are built very differently. Understand what each person who works for you is like so you know what to expect from them. Don’t hide these differences; explore them openly with the goal of figuring out how your people — and you — are built so you can put the right people in the right jobs and clearly assign responsibilities.
This is a key thought, because people can only be themselves in the job they’re in. You must push and challenge them to go beyond where they are right now. I once had an executive assistant, a mother of four, who displayed the right attributes to be a top seller. I helped her come to that realization and now she’s the top account executive in that city.
Fourth: Know how to perceive problems accurately. Understand that problems are the fuel for improvement. Don’t tolerate bad work. Don’t use the anonymous “we” and “they,” because that masks personal responsibility — use names.
This is the toughest skill to develop. A team member can bring you a serious problem — but does that really make him bad at his job? The problem might require an operational change that will affect him financially, and he will voice his opinion on that. And that doesn’t make him bad, he’s just naturally driven by his financial situation. We must help this team member see that a change will benefit him in the long run and ultimately help him reach his personal goals.
How can you keep everyone on your team happy? Each person must know that you are there to help them achieve their individual goals.
And finally, buy the book An Everyone Culture.
James Robinson is VP of Sales for iHeartMedia, Washington, DC. Ph: (240) 747-2757.