Too often managers and leaders struggle with achieving optimal results from their team. They know the team can perform better, and they know the team’s potential isn’t being met, but many managers try and fail in their attempts to bring out the best in their team.
Even worse, some efforts end up producing the opposite effect, wearing down the already thin bond between leaders and the individuals of the team. And any further distancing of team members easily leads to a breakdown of morale and the eventual destruction of the group as a whole. And we all know how important team morale is from our last article “Top 3 Signs of Low Team Morale and Solutions”.
Fortunately, it is quite easy to implement the solution to these problems. Getting the best results from your team with their full potential can be achieved as long as you keep 2 general principles in mind.
In order to bring the best out of your team, it’s paramount that we play to the strengths of each individual team member. And that starts with learning what those strengths are.This can be as simple as asking questions such as “What part of your overall responsibility do you enjoy most?” or “What do you feel you have the most confidence in doing?” A study conducted by Professor Bryan L. Bonner from the University of Utah and Professor Alexander R. Bolinger from Idaho State University showed that teams who inventoried their knowledge base performed much better than teams that had not when it comes to solving problems. “Those teams were more likely than the others to use their knowledge to devise strategies for solving the problems, perhaps because the process of collectively assembling knowledge increased members’ understanding of the task and what it meant to be expert at it,” wrote Bonner.
The successful team devised strategies to solve the problem; it’s theorized that the collective gathering of knowledge helped each team member understand the overall tasks that were required to be completed.
Once we’ve figured out what the strengths of our team members are, we can then start using them effectively.
One of the easiest ways to allow team members to play into their own strengths is by connecting them with others who allow them to do so. This can be as simple as partnering up members that complement each other’s strengths and personality. Or it may involve putting them into an environment that allows them to use their full potential.
Keeping this important principle in mind will make sure that each team member gets to tap into their critical abilities and contribute to the team in their own way. Their contribution will be easily noticed by others since it will be their best work.
As a side benefit, this principle practically eliminates the need to justify one member’s contribution and workload to others.
“Multipliers take the time to understand the capabilities of each individual so that they can connect employees with the right people and the right opportunities—thereby building a virtuous cycle of attraction, growth, and opportunity,” writes Liz Wiseman in an article for Harvard Business Review.
If you have a basic understanding of Game Theory, you can easily see why empathy is such a powerful tool for team leaders.
In the case you’re unaware of what Game Theory is, an economics essay published in March of 2015 in UKEssays defined it as “the study of the choice of strategies by interacting rational agents” or “an interactive decision theory.”
What that basically means is it’s the formulation of strategies based on the anticipation of strategies and responses by others. Game theorist can expect a 90% success rate in political predictions, all thanks to the powerful strategies from anticipating the opponent's moves.
Empathy works in very much the same way.
We are in effect putting ourselves in the shoes of others and seeing, feeling, and living their lives, or at least attempting to.
The perspective gained here helps one to understand each team member on a much deeper level. This will be reflected in the way leaders interact with the team and the perception the team as a whole may have of their leader.
A classic example involves the way the leader communicates with the team. An empathetic leader would recognize that the team has been putting in hard work. This leader would also understand that each member of the team is likely often preoccupied by obligations outside of work. So if overtime is required for a certain project, a leader who wants to bring the best out of the team would communicate to the team in an empathetic way with those factors in mind.
Everything from recognition, providing space for creativity, tolerance, and so on, all comes about from empathy. And achieving this is as simple as putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes and treating them the way we’d like to be treated in return.
“Empathy will drive better performance; this is a huge motivator,” says Richard S. Wellins, co-author of Your First Leadership Job: How Catalyst Leaders Bring Out the Best In Others.
These 2 principles will go a long way in helping leaders bring out the best of their team. You may have noticed that the common theme between these 2 principles is that they both require the leader to truly understand his or her team.
No leader that’s disconnected from the group can lead a successful group. In order for the team to thrive, the leader must be right in the midst, in the trenches with the rest of the pack, leading by example.