"I think I need to push my team harder."
A client was concerned that his team wasn't doing enough to achieve their goals. He thought he needed to be "tougher" on them.
Maybe you've had similar thoughts.
Yes, there's a time when you might need to light a fire to get better results. But there could be other issues you're missing:
* The team needs to understand how to work together better. Pushing a team that's not performing well to begin with makes matters worse. It's like trying to drive a car faster on a flat tire. Fix the tire first.
* They may need a break. Perhaps they haven't been able to recover sufficiently from the work done on a previous project. People need time to refuel. Give them what they need to help them recharge. (Some managers confess they haven't taken the time to acknowledge the success of a past project because they moved on to the next so quickly.)
* The team lost sight of the goal. They've become too fixated on metrics, processes, action items, to-do lists or even office gossip. Refocus the team on what's most important. If you don't, who will?
Leading a team can seem complicated with so many different generations and personalities in the workforce. When you delve into the issues about what you really want your team to do, it raises bigger questions about what "work" really means.
For example, many Baby Boomers view work differently than Millennials. Boomers tend to be competitive and possess a "work yourself into the ground" mindset, while Millennials seek collaboration and flexibility. One is not necessarily better than the other. There are simply differences.
So if you want your team to "work harder," what does that really mean?
To some people, working harder means working more hours. To others, it means doing more in less time. Still other people may view "working harder" as doing those things they really hate to do (e.g., delivering difficult feedback, dealing with conflict or giving more talks).
Are you pushing yourself?
Leaders who feel the urge to push their team typically have high standards themselves. They expect their team to perform at the highest level. And they tend to push themselves. Some too far, to the point where their personal life and health suffer.
Truth is, good leaders are skilled at helping the team raise the bar or break through status quo. But they don't have to push. They inspire.
If you want to inspire your team, you don't need a motivational speech. Instead help your team see a clear goal ahead. Involve them in determining how to achieve that vision for the future – whether it's a successful project, department or organization.
I'm reminded of the Chinese Proverb:
"Tell me and I'll forget.
Show me and I may remember.
Involve me and I'll understand."
When you find yourself wanting to "push" your team, help your team increase their understanding — the "why" behind their work. Consider different ways you can involve them in the process of achieving results.
Don't push for performance. Invite their involvement.
Need some ideas?
* Hold a special team meeting to brainstorm new ideas to help you move forward differently. (Reminder: Resist your temptation to chime in. Let them talk.)
* Pull one team member aside to get their personal perspective on a challenge.
* Ask a team member to assume part of your own leadership role. (Delegation is good!)
* Invite a guest expert or stakeholder from another area, within or outside your organization, to your next meeting so your team will benefit from their knowledge as it relates to the team's goal.
It doesn't have to be complicated. Just stop what you're doing for a minute and jot down a few ideas of your own.
Implement one idea by the end of the week.
What can you do to help increase your team's understanding?
What will you do differently so they really know what's at stake and how critical their role is in the process?
On the Lighter Side
Push something hard enough and it will fall over.
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"Reprinted from 'WorkMatters,' a free ezine produced by Gayle Lantz featuring tips for leaders and executives who want to grow their business, their teams, and themselves. Subscribe at: WorkMatters.com/signup."
About Gayle Lantz
Gayle Lantz is a leadership expert and president of WorkMatters, Inc., a consulting firm dedicated to helping leaders think and work smarter.
She is author of the award winning book, Take the Bull by the Horns: The Busy Leader's Action Guide to Growing Your Business…and Yourself.
A sought-after consultant, coach, facilitator, and speaker, Gayle works closely with executives and leadership teams to expand their vision, think and act strategically, and inspire change. Together, they increase business results and help make work matter at every level of the organization.