Building Employee Engagement with a Winning Culture

All You Need is Love (To Lead Your Team)

Kurt Wilkin

Leading a team requires a lot of skills – the ability to make difficult decisions, to push the right buttons, to navigate the inevitable problems before they derail the project, balance a variety of personalities, and keep everyone focused on the ultimate goal. Most leaders worth their salt can do these things fairly well. But truly great leaders go beyond what’s necessary to simply get the job done. They rise above by showing their teams some love!

That’s right, love doesn’t start when you get home from work to your family – your team needs love as well. So how do you show you care, you really care, in the business context? Here are a few ways to show your team some love today, tomorrow, and every day.

Have a greater purpose. Showing your team the passion that you have for your work helps them understand the greater purpose beyond simply getting the task done. What larger problem are you trying to solve? What greater impact will your company have on the industry? On the world? Having a greater purpose helps people connect to you and to the work, because it creates an emotional connection to the task at hand. When the leader shows passion and joy for a project, the team will be inspired to push forward, full steam ahead!

At HireBetter my team knows our higher calling, because they helped articulate it! We impact lives by connecting and empowering good people to build great companies. We’re proud of what we do and how we do it – with a greater purpose.

My personal purpose is to challenge and inspire those around me. I am blessed to be able to do this every day. Sometimes I get to live it as I sit with a client or CEO friend who is experiencing growth challenges. Sometimes it is with a candidate trying to figure out the next steps of their career. And sometimes it is on the youth sports fields where I get to challenge and inspire young men and women to learn new skills, play together as a team and overcome adversity! 

Leverage everyone’s talent. Have you ever felt like your skills and passions are not being utilized to their potential? Your team members may be feeling this way, even if they seem to be content with their roles. Here’s a novel idea: ask them how they feel their skills could be put to better use! Of course, you need to make sure this doesn’t come off poorly – like you’re saying the person’s skills aren’t evident. Frame it so that they know you want them to be more fulfilled by the work they’re doing. Leading your team means understanding everyone’s talents and leveraging those towards the completion of the final goals. Loving your team requires you to understand that you may be overlooking a team member’s passion, which may be holding the whole team back! In order to love your team, allow them to excel!

Care. People want to feel genuine connections with those around them. Your team members are no different. It’s important to demonstrate love by having authentic connections with your team. Put in the work: learn about their families and their passions outside of work. This isn’t simply a tactic – if you want to show your team some love, you should genuinely care about them and want to develop these relationships. When people are cared for, they feel like an integrated member of the group, and they see that you value them both as team members and human beings. Ultimately, this will make them want to work with you towards a common goal.

Make your expectations known. The easiest way to get derailed in a group setting is a lack of communication about goals. Without a clear set of expectations from the outset, misalignment is almost guaranteed! If your team doesn’t know what you want, they will place words in their head to fill in the gaps. They will create their own idea of what you expect, and most of the time it’s not the same goal. Ambiguity doesn’t help anyone. Part of any good loving relationship is clear communication. This is vital up front, but it can also be applied to situations where a team member fails to meet expectations. Talk to the team member. Ask them what happened and try to understand their perspective. Realign with the person by ensuring them that their results matter to you, the team, and the final goal.

Reward them. When people surpass your expectations, recognize them! Most people want to be acknowledged for good work, even if they are not obviously seeking it out. Of course, it’s important to reward your team members for innovative work. Incentive-based rewards, including money or added benefits, like an extra week off after the project’s done, are a great start. But it can be equally important to provide affirmation to employees who meet or exceed your expectations. Recognizing and appreciating an employee’s work is an important part of any team. Loving your team means implementing a system that recognizes great work with both tangible rewards and intangible praises.

Encourage them. Leaders are the member of the team who are tasked with looking ahead and keeping the final goals in focus. As such, they are in a perfect position to encourage the team by reminding them that the far away goals are doable. Loving your team requires more from you than simply correcting problems as they arise. It requires you to take time to reassure team members of how their work fits in with the broader project and how their work is vitally important to the team. Without encouragement, team members will get frustrated and jaded about the ultimate goals of their work.

When a team member fails, support them. Encourage risk-taking, even when it leads to failure. Encouragement is vitally important in these scenarios, helping someone understand what went wrong and how to learn from a mistake is an important part of love!

Let Go. If a team member doesn’t respond well to all of your efforts to love the team – if it’s clear that things just aren’t going to work out – don’t be afraid to set them free. Loving your team means recognizing when someone isn’t a good fit, or when the team isn’t a good fit for them. Help this person find happiness elsewhere, on another team or with a different employer altogether. Loving someone means helping them find where they are meant to be. If that isn’t on your team, that’s okay! Let them go, hopefully on to bigger and better things, and your team will be better for it.

Sure, a team could be successful without a leader that takes any of these steps. There have been good leaders that didn’t do all of these things. But great leadership requires more, and in this season of love, why not start there? This quote from the great leader Nelson Mandela is a good start: “If you want the cooperation of humans around you, you must make them feel they are important, and you do that by being genuine and humble.” A great team dynamic starts with you, the leader. So, in the words of Al Green and Annie Lennox: “Put a little love in your heart!”

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