In my post Not Everyone Loves Putt Putt, I advised leaders to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of hosting an offsite gathering that’s “fun day” or social in nature. In a well-intended effort to promote team cohesiveness, these outings sometimes fall short.
So what’s a leader to do if the team isn’t interested in an offsite, or the budget doesn’t permit one? Here’s a list of no-cost ideas that will help leaders energize their teams in one of three ways:
- One-to-one connection
- Connecting team players
- Remove barriers
One-to-one connections. Do you routinely have scheduled 1-1 meetings with your direct reports? If not, this is a way to infuse immediate energy into the team leader/employee relationship. People like to feel heard. What better way than to devote 30 minutes of your time listening to your employees on a consistent basis?
The key is consistent, scheduled time. If you maintain a regular schedule, mentor employees to make a “Things to Discuss with Name of Boss” file. That way, they’ll be prepared with discussion topics. Of course, some things can’t wait until the 1-1 and that’s fine. If you have more than 15 direct reports, this might not be feasible, or the 1-1 time might be spread out, but it will still provide that continuity that’s key between a team leader and his/her direct reports.
Connecting team players. Consistent 1-1 time creates positive energy between the leader and direct reports; holding regular department meetings creates energy amongst team members. Team leaders need to set the tone and the structure for the meetings: have an agenda and a process for tabling “off topic” remarks. Create an accountability matrix for ideas that are generated.
One team leader that I’ve observed is very consistent in his approach: at the beginning of each calendar year, he puts 4 quarterly team meetings on the calendar. These are absolutely not canceled unless there is an emergency in the business. (“We’re too busy” doesn’t count as an emergency.) In between the quarterly meetings, there are one-hour “Roundtables” conducted every other week in which staff members rotate giving 2-minute updates of their current project.
Remove barriers. A third way that a team leader can infuse energy within the team is to act as a barrier remover. There’s nothing so demoralizing as bringing road blocks to your boss’s attention, only to have them ignored, minimized or swept under the table. Always be on the look-out for obstacles your team members are facing. Ask them: “what’s preventing you from getting this done?” and “what can I do to help you move this project forward?” Be aware that sometimes the barrier is internal, not external. If you really listen to your staff, you may find that what’s preventing someone from forward progress is an interpersonal issue with a co-worker, or lack of confidence.
In a sense, I suppose these three ideas aren’t really “no-cost” because you do need to expend effort and planning time to enact them. Yet, I believe the dividends will pay off handsomely in the way of a more focused, energized team.