1. Engage in meaningful (and in-person) dialogue
When you make the effort to connect with your team members in person—individually and as a group—you’re establishing a position of caring that motivates individuals in all sorts of crazy-good ways. It’s easy to send short messages in emails, and then rely on these small exchanges for most of your communication. Or, you can focus on what needs to get done next and forget to take a breath, look around, and get to know your employees. Don’t fall into this rut. Instead, ask your team members about their immediate goals and project interests as well as their career objectives.
Also, remember: We’re all human, and most humans respond well to the real thing—in-person communication that says “you matter.”
2. Show your appreciation
One of the biggest complaints from employees is that they don’t feel appreciated. It takes no effort to say “thank you” for example. They are the two most underrated words in the dictionary. The second someone gives us a “nice job” or “you made a difference on this project,” it makes us feel like we matter in a way that gives our work a sense of purpose. If you’re not so inclined to give out verbal gold stars, an easy place to start is with a simple “thank you.”
The next step is to give meaningful appreciation. Thread the high-fives and “nice jobs” with a more detailed picture behind your acknowledgment. This way, your employees can understand what they’re doing well, and do more of it. Also, detailed praise shows you’re paying attention and not throwing around empty phrases. When people feel like they’re doing good work, they want to rise to the occasion even more.
3. Listen to everyone’s ideas
Your entire team has great ideas. They’re in the trenches all day, bringing their own experience and perspectives to the part of the project they’re focused on. For example, if there’s a way to make spreadsheets more efficient or cold-calls more productive, the team members know how. It’s tempting to stick with protocol because you know that works well. But these days the world moves so fast nobody can afford to stay with a status quo for too long. So instead, make it a policy to listen to new ideas (you could structure appropriate time periods for this, too), and this will tell everyone they’re a valuable part of the team. Give the good ideas a try; you never know what might happen—other than the team becomes more invested in their work and the project outcome, for starters.
4. Trust your team members
This is a harder rule to practice for some more than others. So try to default to the assumption that your team is made up of adult, responsibility-taking, competent workers that don’t need to be treated like children. (In the end, people act the way they’re treated.) In action terms, this means that when you delegate, really let go and let the individual own the task you gave them. You can also communicate trust by asking team members to make decisions for their part of the project, like:
- Suggesting when and if meetings should happen
- Anticipating road blocks and communicate those to the group
- Assuming that your team wants the best for the project. And if you sense the beginnings of some negative juju kicking up, invite discussions about office policy; see what the majority thinks.
5. Be spontaneous and have a little fun
Everyone wants to have fun at work—even though everyone defines “fun” a little differently. Still, if you can keep the previous four tips in action, then fun—or a sense of enjoyment and being able to be yourself at work—becomes a more natural part of everyone’s job. Fun happens when people feel well-connected with a team where there’s mutual respect, open communication, acceptance of who people are and everyone’s collaborating and working toward the same goal. When teams are working well together, it makes it easier to be spontaneous and have some fun – whether it’s a last-minute Football Friday party after a project launch, or a brief pause in the afternoon to tell stories and have a few laughs over topics that have nothing to do about work.