If you are interested in finding out exactly how successful you can be with the team you have, there are a few foundational conditions that have to be met. Create the right environment, and you will achieve milestones. Keep trying to force production in the wrong environment, and you can expect a few sputtering fits and starts until the whole thing just seizes up before the inevitable crash and burn.
Step one in getting the most out of your team is figuring out what matters most to them. Here’s the rub … they may not even know. Many employees are so conditioned to “trying to make the best of it” at work, they never really think about what could be done to truly inspire and motivate them.
Sure, they gripe. To you, to each other, to social media … but complaints are not always what people really care about. Think about politics for a moment. For four years you will read diatribes online about specific issues, then, when the time comes to actually pick someone, their choice is made for entirely separate reasons. Human Nature 101.
But don’t be discouraged, there are some good people who specialize in studies giving employers and managers a good baseline for learning what matters most to your employees. Start there.
People want to belong, to matter, and be important. Humans are tribal, for better or worse. We want to be part of a successful team. We’ll even tolerate being a part of a failing team if there’s some hope for a better future. Belonging is not just about the right color t-shirt or company name tags. Those are just props. Belonging is a feeling, something deep that draws people together and provides identity and strength.
How can you create that sense of belonging? It starts with something clear to cling to. Think about sports team fans. The most popular teams tend to have an “identity” closely aligned with the character and reputation of the town. Fans revel in that connection. Potential fans gravitate toward it. In business, that identity comes from culture and vision. Where you are going, what you are doing, and how you plan to get there each and every day all contribute to your culture and vision.
Don’t be afraid to allow your vision and culture to be obvious. Plant your flag in How We Do Things, and you will attract the right sort of people for your team. You will also encourage those who don’t appreciate the vision and culture to find another they like better.
Definitive cultures need strong leadership. You don’t have to be Conan the Barbarian or Josef Stalin to be considered strong. Principled, wise, and secure work even better. Let people know you understand where you are all going and you appreciate their genuine contribution to getting there.