Whenever a team faces a setback, two questions usually color the conversation: “Where did the strategy fail?” and “Who was responsible for that?” How can a team move beyond these questions to “engage, empower and collaborate?” The answers to those questions will come in as many variations as there are colors on an artist’s mixing palette. My palette has the following three colors:
1) The power of “We” vs “I”:
Painting your speech with “we” instead of “I” reinforces a group atmosphere. “We built this” or “we will improve” has a soft motivational factor and a sense of inclusion built that “I built this” or “I will improve” lacks. This is not to be confused with a lack of individual accountability, but rather is geared towards raising group-level productivity. Share credit with the people who deserve it. Understand the power of a team, and the weakness of individualism.
2) Engaging the team and the law of reciprocity:
Communication can’t be over-emphasized. Engaging the team by soliciting their advice helps them feel invested. It has a humanizing effect and all the while adds to your idea palette. If you fail, you will have failed as a team and will be more likely to get the team to rise together. If you happily help people first they will feel obliged to reciprocate and that paints a picture of collaboration. Choose to invest in the people around you.
3) Encourage open idea sharing and collaboration:
Managers can nudge people in each other’s direction and give them problems they can solve together, regardless of the magnitude. Familiarity breeds acceptance and tolerance. The more often coworkers resolve issues together, the better they will get at it. Encourage brain storming and idea sharing amongst employees and that in and of itself will become a team building exercise.
I once heard someone say that culture eats strategy for breakfast. Culture comes from the top; if you are in a position of leadership then foster all-in collaboration and steer people towards it consistently. Make it a reiterative process and results will follow.
Engagement, empowerment and collaboration are the shades that color a successful canvas! When it comes to team engagement, what does your idea palette look like?