BRING YOUR TEAM TOGETHER
Over the years, I’ve seen three key ways that accomplished leaders inspired and pulled their whole team together, gaining focus and function. As a team member, I’ve also experienced how breaking these three rules can break your team, losing you respect and influence and making your team unproductive.
#1: KNOW THYSELF — AND BE THYSELF
Inauthenticity in a leader can have severe consequences. I learned this lesson working with a coach who was so focused on imitating the success of his mentor that we had no idea who he was. Every day he started meetings inauthentically, trying to be someone else.
When you don’t know how to be yourself, your team can’t be comfortable with you. Because that coach didn’t know what he stood for, he never had the attention of the team. He took different positions and attitudes every day. His discipline was inconsistent, too. As a result, he lost credibility, he lost our trust, and he lost the team’s interest. Eventually, he got fired.
Leaders: inspire your team by knowing and sharing what you stand for.
The best leaders know who they are, and they let their teams know what is important to them. One of my favorite coaches was socially awkward, but as a coach, when he stood in front of the room, he was himself. He talked the way he was raised, he wore what he liked to wear, and he identified the things that to him were important on his team.
His message was consistent, week in, week out. Every game, every practice. No matter what our success was, the tone of everything was his.
He said to us, too, “I want your personalities to shine. I don’t want you to cover up who you are. I need who you are so we can succeed.” When you are yourself as a leader, people can respect you. It made a huge difference. We had fun. And we won.
Takeaway exercise: Ask yourself —
- What’s important to you?
- What is your goal?
- What is your team trying to achieve?
- Do you want to grow, get promoted, make more money…?
- Are you frustrated or distracted from reaching your goals?
- Are you motivating your team to be the best that they can be?
Don’t be afraid to answer truthfully.
#2: COMMUNICATE THE PLAN — CONSISTENTLY
In my experience, when team members do not know what the plan is, and the next step to take, it eats away at the team. My inauthentic coach would never tell us the plan until the absolute last minute. We didn’t know whether our goal was to win a game or the division, and finding out at the last minute didn’t help. He would keep us in the dark about why players were getting fired or promoted, or about other moves, which created fear.
Instead of putting forward a consistent plan and details for how to get there, he wove in and out of larger goals and smaller goals, putting so many things on the wall that we didn’t know what to look at. “Team first; the six things to do when you walk in the door; the six things to do when you walk out,” etc. We didn’t know what to focus on. That confusion created friction and fracture. As a team, we weren’t aiming at anything and as a result, we struggled on the field.
Leaders must communicate a clear plan. Teamwork and productivity are enhanced when everyone understands how their piece fits into the bigger picture.
Let your people know exactly where you are going and what you are doing to get there. Your team members will operate independently and more effectively.
Give your team some predictability too. Details of your plan can be as minor as a regular schedule: “Every Friday we have a 7 am meeting but you’ll definitely get out of here by 3:00.”
Effective leaders clearly communicate a vision and a plan to get there. When you do this, your team feels involved and wants everything to succeed.
Takeaway exercise: Ask yourself —
- Am I being consistent; are my employees getting the same message every day?
- Would people on my team know our priorities and what to do if I wasn’t here?
#3 HAVE FUN EVERY DAY — SCHEDULE IT
It’s been my experience that the best-performing teams have fun together. As a leader, one of the ways to keep your team’s attention and enthusiasm up is to build fun into your workday. If it’s all work, all seriousness, then after a while no one wants to listen to you. Enough people are too serious and won’t have fun for themselves, so as a leader, you need to initiate it.
On one team, every Saturday meeting we’d have “Saturday Slappies” and laugh our cans off. These were fail videos showing bad moves over and over. Or we’d do interviews where our teammates would face their fears. One guy who hated roller coasters, one of the toughest men in the room, had his fear caught on camera going to a theme park, getting on a rollercoaster, and screaming like a child. We laughed, and he laughed at himself. Another player who was afraid of snakes, one of the baddest guys I knew, went to the zoo and started screaming and running from a garden snake. We would also go golfing or bowling after training camp.
Teams that laugh together work better together.
As a leader, how can you encourage your team to have fun and laugh? Plan it, put it on the schedule. Even scheduling a joke to start a meeting. Even a bad joke. Make ‘em laugh.
- How can you bring fun to our team?
- What can you do, at work or away from work, to enhance camaraderie?
As a bonus, the first two rules make the third one easier. Your team can’t have fun when they are confused or distracted; they will be more apt to complain or gossip. When you are authentic and everyone knows the plan, it’s easier to laugh—and work—together.
Whatever type of team you lead, being yourself, communicating the plan (and the next detail) consistently, and scheduling in the fun all make for a more productive and effective work environment.