The recipe for a productive, happy team isn’t complicated. Like actual food recipes, it’s all about working with real, authentic ingredients. No fake elements, no aggressive attitudes.
Toxic work cultures aren’t new but they all tend to operate the same way. A culture of ‘motivation by fear’ works, but only in the short term. If you want a team that is inspired, that sticks together and works well as a unit, you need do everything you can to avoid a toxic style and bring dignity to the table, instead.
Give praise as well as feedback
Have you ever noticed how often people speak up when it’s to complain about something but how they will speak up less often to offer praise for a job well done? If a team member feels appreciated and is actively told they’re doing something right, despite constructive feedback that might seek to improve their performance, they will be happier in their roles.
Even if they are not performing as you would like them to, from their point of view, they may be doing their best. A manager or leader who doesn’t recognize that will lose their confidence.
Use their strengths
A team member who feels their skills are being underutilized will never be happy. If, however, you are using their skills to the best of your ability, they not only feel more fulfilled but you are clearly demonstrating that you see them for what skills they have and what they can add to the team as a whole. It’s important for people to have that recognition, to know that those above see them for who they are and what they can accomplish.
Lead by example
This is basic: if you want people to behave a certain way or work a certain way, you have to do it too. Walk the walk, as the saying goes, instead of standing on a pulpit issuing orders. That also means that you need the skills to do the work too. You won’t gain respect of your team if they feel that you can’t do the job alongside them.
Akin to this is leading with authority. It’s difficult to lead a team if you don’t really understand what you’re doing. You need to come from a position of knowledge in order to get people to listen to and follow you. That said, you can’t know everything and being honest about what you don’t know is an opportunity for the team to see you as human, rather than an authority figure. That’s important for their own validation but also for you to be able to relate to one another.
Listen to your team
Do you want team members to step up with new ideas? Do you want them to offer suggestions and find new ways of working? You need to listen to them. This doesn’t mean that you have to do what they ask every time, but you have to at least take their opinions under consideration. Nothing will cause a group of people to stagnate faster than a management team that doesn’t care what they think.
This needs to happen as a group, but also on a one-on-one basis, so that your team always feels that they can speak to you about concerns they might have, whether they are personal or professional. Do you have a single mom who is struggling to manage her home and professional life? Let her work from home on a regular basis, so that she can gain some control.
Add a dash of dignity
While respect is earned, dignity is something everyone should receive, without having to qualify for it in any way. Treating people with dignity is a minimum requirement for all successful teams. This comes back to the notion of controlling people with fear, as a toxic work environment will do. This management method strips away people’s dignity because they don’t feel safe. The ability to make your team members feel safe at work is an essential step to building a superior, effective and efficient team.
You want your time to feel inspired, safe, valued and appreciated. From there, you’ve got what it takes to build a solid team that will help you grow a project, a business, or an entire industry!
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