I am often asked the secret to building and inspiring great teams. The answer is not always simple and can be as varied as the people in your organization. But one fact is always true: a good leader listens to their team. They’re someone who plays to their strengths, knows them as individuals, then takes all those unique pieces of the puzzle and merges them into a team that is not only cohesive but also united in their mission and goals.
Growing up in a small North Carolina town, I never imagined I’d end up leading a national healthcare company’s most successful division. My career path was anything but linear, starting in design and fashion, then working with major transportation companies. I found my way to Aeroflow Healthcare six years ago, holding several positions, and eventually launching the Mom & Baby Division. It’s a role I truly love; my team and I get to serve as advocates for hundreds of thousands of moms. Answering pregnancy questions, getting them breast pumps through insurance, and developing plans for transitioning back to work are just a few of the ways we help our moms.
To keep my team inspired and motivated, it is critical I’m creating a culture that’s positive, productive, and, most importantly, enjoyable. I’ve found these six elements are essential in fostering a healthy work environment.
Six Tips for Building Passionate and Productive Teams
1. Say Thank You
It may seem like a no-brainer, but we’ve all forgotten to say ‘thank you’ once before.
Whether you’re behind on a target, stressed, or distracted, don’t forget to thank your employees when they deliver. No matter what the result, be sure to recognize that your employees are spending time working hard to achieve your business goals, and thank them for it.
2. Get to Know Them and Invest in Their Skills
While you may have five, ten or even hundreds of employees in the same role or job, that doesn’t mean that they all operate the same way, or even share similarities in their approach to delivering results. When bringing on a new team member, spend time getting to know them, understanding their skills and what challenges they face. Once you understand what they enjoy, what they excel at, and what they struggle with, you can cater to their skillset. Not only is it what’s best for your business, but it means your team will be more successful and enjoy their work – while knowing their manager truly cares about them and their career.
3. Ask For (And Be Willing To Hear) Feedback
Create an environment where your employees are comfortable offering you feedback. One way to do this is to set up bi-weekly or monthly check-ins so all parties involved have a regular opportunity to share feedback of any kind. If they do give you feedback, don’t get defensive. Instead, truly consider their perspective. They probably wouldn’t have brought it up at all if they didn’t feel strongly about it.
Everyone wants to feel like they’re doing something meaningful. Identify your company’s, or specific team’s, long-term vision, and communicate that to your team. Aeroflow’s mission is to improve our patients’ quality of life through compassion, excellent service, and exceptional products; and, for my team, this applies specifically to new and expecting moms. Our long-term goal is to increase rates of breastfeeding nationally, and everything we do at Aeroflow Mom & Baby ladders up to that vision. It’s never changed, and it never will, and that allows my team to come into work every day passionate about achieving these goals, with a clear idea of not only how we’ll achieve this, but why it matters.
5. Support Their Passions
Everyone is passionate about something – whether it’s being a parent, staying fit, traveling, or continuing education. Try to be flexible with your employees so that their work doesn’t get in the way of what they love. Whether a team member wants to leave early one day to see their favorite band play, or to adjust their daily hours to accommodate picking up the kids from school, being flexible around their work schedule and personal needs is a game-changer. They’ll appreciate that you care, and will be more productive and motivated when they’re in the office.
6. Relax and Be Respectful
We’ve all had bad days, stressful days, or days full of failure. But what defines you as a leader is how you handle those days. Regardless of the situation, before reacting impulsively, take a breath, and wait to respond until you can do so in a respectful way. I might take a walk around the office or will sleep on it. No matter what happened, taking it out on your team or being disrespectful doesn’t help anyone – it only creates a rift in trust that you’ve worked hard to build.
Overall, remember that as a leader, you are only as good as your people. The way you treat them not only impacts their success and productivity (and ultimately, your business’s success), but it encourages happy, motivated and loyal employees.
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