Mere Leadership: Improving Your Team

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Mere Leadership: Improving Your Team

We’ve reached the final episode in our “Mere-Leadership” series. Many of the people who listen to this podcast are leading people in some capacity, so we’ve come back to this topic of leadership every other podcast or so to try and help equip you with some of the very basics of leadership. There is much, much more to leadership than what we have shared, but there is certainly not less than what we have shared. We’ve previously talked about who leaders are and what leaders do. In describing what leaders do, I’ve shared 3 of the 4 actions that leaders take. The first action was that leaders understand their teams. I’ve highlighted this action first because I believe it is the one most leaders miss. We are tempted to lead without understanding – so understanding your team is a call to act with accurate information. A second action that leaders take is that leaders direct their teams. This may seem to be the most obvious of actions for a leader, but that is not always the case. Many people are leaders in title, but not in practice. They do not direct, and thus their teams don’t know exactly what they are supposed to be doing or where they are going. Leaders must direct. But to direct well, we are led to the third action, which is that leaders monitor their teams. A leader cannot know if his or her team is following them if they aren’t dialed into the activities, morale, and results of their team. It’s possible to be aware of these things without micromanaging your team, and we talked about some of tactics to accomplish that back in episode 6.

This brings us to the 7th and final episode in this leadership series, unpacking the 4th action of leadership which is that leaders improve their teams. I’m really excited to talk about this action, because I think it is also a very overlooked action of leaders. Teammates are not meant to be seen as robots or as pieces of machinery with their only worth lying in their output. These teammates are human beings made in the likeness of their Creator. They have dignity, value, and purpose. Leaders are stewards of these teammates’ potential and thus Leaders should be looking for ways to bring out the best in each teammate, raising their effectiveness along the way. I’ll share 4 ways today that you can improve your teams.

Leaders improve their teams through encouragement. Teammates need encouragement. We live in a “glass is half empty” kind of world. People are prone to focus on what is missing rather than what is present. People can also tend to dwell on their failures instead of celebrating their victories. We’ll talk about learning from our defeats a little later in this episode but start with celebrating your teammates victories. Highlight the things your teammates are doing well. If you are genuine, you simply cannot overpraise your teammates. But it is wise to find out what form of encouragement speaks most powerfully to your teammates. Some appreciate words of affirmation. If this is the case, tell you how much you appreciate them – not just in general terms, but with specific examples that lets them know you are aware of their actual contribution. Others appreciate recognition among peers. Don’t be afraid to brag on teammates in appropriate settings. Be careful to be evenhanded in your praise, but take opportunities to share with others the great things teammates are doing. There are still others who appreciate additional responsibility as a way to encourage them. If they’ve done well with a few things, they may want to be rewarded by handling bigger things. This increased responsibility may merit a title change, which ends up also speaking to those who appreciate recognition among peers. Last, but not least, monetary rewards are great ways to encourage your team. This could certainly take the form of raises or bonuses, but sometimes it could be as simple as their favorite candy, or a gift card to their favorite restaurant. Regardless of how you do it, look for ways to encourage your team. This can increase their well-being and can certainly increase their productivity.

Leaders improve their teams through cross training. Your teammates are often capable of so much more than you realize. They are brimming with potential, and cross-training can help bring out this potential, not to mention the positive benefit of helping alleviate stress among your other teammates. How does it alleviate stress? If multiple people on the team know how to do multiple things, they can back one another up when one is overworked or out of the office. Now many leaders recognize the value of cross-training, but very few actually do it. Training is one of those things that is important, but not urgent. So it often gets pushed down the road because of other urgent items (some of which are important and some aren’t). Setting up appointments on your calendar for cross-training is one way to increase the chances of it happening. Another is having a regularly occurring weekly time on a slower day of the month to work on training. Cross-training will not happen automatically. You’ll have to make time for it, but the benefits are significant for the trainee and trainer both.

Leaders improve their teams through coaching. I mentioned that we would discuss the opportunity to learn from failures, and coaching is where that happens. Coaching identifies the right behavior when you see it even more than pointing out the wrong behaviors. It involves both, to be sure, but people will tend to respond better when you are pointing out what they are doing well. This is different than encouragement because it is very tactical and specific. A football coach watches game film and points out what the team did well and what they didn’t do well. We have an opportunity to do the same in the workplace. I’ll say it again, coaching is not picking people apart. You only have so much constructive criticism capital, so use it wisely. A good leader will know what is worth pointing out and what is worth letting go. When in doubt, put yourself in your teammate’s shoes and ask the question, how would I want to be coached in this instance?

Leaders improve their teams by reminding teammates to rest. This may seem counter intuitive. How do you improve people by encouraging them not to work? The quality of your teammates’ work can improve through rest. As I said earlier, our teammates are not machines that we are trying to run into the ground. They are people who get tired and burned out if they work too much. So encourage your teammates to use their vacation time. It’s true that we always pay for our vacation time before and after we leave with being rushed on both sides of it – but the opportunity to reflect, to spend time with family, and to recharge are worth the before and after vacation blitz of activity. Do you model a rhythm of hard work and strategic rest? If you are not setting an example of taking vacation time, your teammates won’t either. Remember that leaders are pacesetters who set the tone for those that they lead. So you’ll have to model this for your teammates to see it. One super-helpful way to take time off is the art of the half-day. Half-days allow teammates to come in and get some of the essentials done – but then go home to work in the yard. Or maybe they sleep in to get some extra rest and come in after lunch. Either of these half-day structures can help refresh your team while keeping them from getting too far behind. Regardless of how you approach it, improve your team by encouraging them to rest.

At MBC\Foundation Bank we’re pursuing these leadership principles. We haven’t arrived, but we are making progress each day, each week, and each month. If you want to be a part of a team that is equipping leaders to think this way, we’d love for you to contact us. We actually have openings in our Jackson Office and our McKenzie office. If you’d like to learn more about those positions, feel free to start an online chat to find out more. We hope you’ve enjoyed this leadership series. In conversations with small business owners, I’m often told they would like tips on time management. So that’s where we’re going next. We’ll continue to give you updates on what’s going on with the economy, but we’ll sprinkle in a new series on the stewardship of time, so you can look forward to that. If you’ve found this podcast helpful, we invite you to share it with your friends and family on social media and subscribe on your favorite podcast app. And until next time, God bless you.

-President Chad P. Wilson, CFP

Today’s episode of “Money Matters” was written and recorded by President Chad P. Wilson of McKenzie Banking Company / Foundation Bank on September 22, 2022. This episode does not constitute financial advice. Please consult a financial professional to discuss your specific needs. MBC/Foundation Bank is an Equal Housing Lender, Member FDIC.