People & Human Resources

Team-tuning: Five ways to rev up your team

Eve Ash /

Have you ever seen people quietly celebrate when they learn that their manager won’t be in the office that day? This is a bad sign. It means that the manager is known as someone who hassles, interferes and is generally a drain on energy.

That’s far from ideal. In fact, it possibly ticks every box of what you don’t want.

As a manager, it isn’t necessarily your job to be popular – we have all seen mateship go too far and create a culture that is too relaxed and unaccountable. But it is your job, as a manager, to motivate and inspire your team, to get them to perform at their best and to enhance their skills and capabilities.

This all requires a lot of energy and encouragement and it is a rare set of skills. Here are a few things that can really help:

1. Clarity – make sure everyone knows what is expected of them

There is nothing more deflating that putting a mountain of effort into something only to find that it’s all been wasted because the manager forgot to explain a few details or explained the foundations of the project incorrectly.

Clarity around what is required, as well as highlighting what should be excluded from someone’s workload is a great way of giving your team the security they need. It allows for a focus of energy that results in increased efficiency. Everyone is happier when they’re on top of their workload and have clarity over what’s required of them.

2. Responding well to adversity

In business and life there are obstacles that have to be overcome. Micromanagers find this particularly stressful – obstacles not only disrupt their meddling but also reinforce their view that meddling is required. It’s a vicious cycle. Conversely, the energetic manager knows that the next obstacle is just around the corner and the best way to approach it is to encourage everyone to help out.

The two ways to create energy are to: (1) add it to the mix or (2) prevent it from seeping away. If obstacles are framed by the manager as a chance for the team to prove to the organisation how good they are, to do something great and to work together then the obstacle is no longer an energy drain but an energy gain.

If the manager can respond quickly, and once again make sure that everyone is clear on what needs to be set as a lower priority while the adversity is being dealt with, there will be huge buy in from the entire team.

3. Yes, and…

In Dan Pink’s book, To Sell is Human, he explains that the word ‘but’ is surprisingly damaging in terms of negotiations and moving people from their current position to a new one. If someone in your team comes up with a suggestion and your response is “Yes, but we can’t do it now as we don’t have the resources” you haven’t done anything wrong, but you have stopped that person’s enthusiasm in its tracks.

The alternative is to say, “Yes, great idea, and to make it work we would need to gather some resources and cancel some other programs.” By removing that word you maintain the energy but still point someone to the reality that it isn’t really feasible right now. Instead of creating a roadblock you actually move them further down the problem-solving path of their own idea, which is empowering and exciting.

4. General energy (fun)

It’s a big ask to say that people should jump out of bed every morning and yell with thanks to a higher being, but it is important for a manager to keep their emotions in check. It’s more than just biting your tongue when you feel like screaming a profanity, it’s also about keeping some fun in the air.

You don’t have to be a comedian, but you can encourage fun and excitement in your daily interactions. Mix things up in the office from time to time and don’t be afraid to drop some surprises on the team. One company recently bought 12 bottles of champagne and lined them up in the office with a card attached to each. Each card had a team milestone written on it, providing a piece of visual excitement for everyone to see.

5. Getting the most out of everyone

Most discussions and meetings within office groups are dominated by two or three leaders within the group while everyone else sits there in silence. Occasionally one of these silent members will talk behind their hand at the conclusion of the meeting to tell others what direction the meeting should have taken.

An energetic manager will create a climate where people talk and provide contributions without fear of the invisible social hierarchy that says only the confident can comment.

Asking for contributions from people in a way that they feel confident to be honest is a skill – but most of us can tell when someone is holding back. When we get this sense it’s a good idea to push that person into opening up properly, but unfortunately this is rare. It is often the quieter members of the group that think more deeply than the extroverts who feel more comfortable launching their ideas off the cuff.

It’s far too easy for managers to blame their unenthusiastic team for a lack of energy and excitement in the office. Managers are leaders, motivators and instructors and need to be the spark for energy. Guiding people, limiting wasted effort and allowing room for creativity and idea sharing goes a long way to injecting energy into a team that feels like it’s in a rut.

Eve Ash has a wide range of resources and books that can help people change their thinking and habits in a constructive way.

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Eve Ash

Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace.

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