How The Best Leaders Inspire And Engage Their Teams
Originally published by Christian Valiulis on Forbes.com.
It’s known that managers are tasked with leading a team of people toward a common goal. Everyone within the team plays a different role, but that end result stems from their collective efforts. It’s the manager’s duty to make sure every person’s performance is in perfect harmony to achieve that outcome, but someone has to inspire performance. The key to this inspiration lies in a different role entirely — the role of a leader.
Let’s be frank — not all managers are leaders. There’s a fine line between the two, but in my experience, the ability to inspire team members stems from having the mettle to better yourself for the good of the group. Only then will employees be truly excited enough about the work they’re doing.
Inspiring Engagement In Your Team
Your team’s engagement starts at the top of the company hierarchy and trickles down to those who devote themselves to their work. While the captain might be at the helm of the ship, it’s important to remember that it’s the sailors who keep it afloat.
Every individual has their own leadership style, but a method I’ve crafted over the years has proven very successful in inspiring my teams. It revolves around three actions from the leader, or as I’ve come to call them, the three Ls of leadership: love, listen and laugh.
These three Ls represent not only my leadership style but also the culture of engagement I cultivate within my teams. Every group has a distinct purpose in achieving the company’s goals, and every person within the team has a role in determining that success. Here’s how I have used the Ls to inspire my team:
1. Love Encourages Loyalty
To guide your team with love, show empathy in difficult situations. Don’t be afraid to dish out tough love every now and then, and never withhold positive emotions or miss opportunities to showcase a team member’s accomplishments. As in personal relationships, it’s important to consider individual styles and preferences when communicating with your team.
My team members all receive the same message from me, but I convey the message differently to certain people based on my intimate knowledge of their communication styles. Some of my managers respond better to hearing a “great job on that sale,” and others value one-on-one meetings above just my vocal praises. I care enough about my team to take the time to understand how they communicate, and the result has been loyal employees committed to the mission of the team and organization.
2. Listening Builds Respect
Being a manager doesn’t automatically warrant total respect from employees — an inspirational leader knows respect is built over time. This process starts by facilitating an open dialogue among your peers. Actively listening to their thoughts helps create those conversations. I can say with total sincerity that by listening to others, my team has been able to form and implement successful strategies with impressive results.
There’s a great phrase the managers of my sales teams use during meetings: “Feel free to challenge me, but …” I genuinely enjoy hearing this statement from them because it means they are unafraid to speak their minds while allowing for candid discussion, further fostering a culture of engagement. Besides, the best information I receive doesn’t always come from a spreadsheet — it comes from what my team tells me. I can make better decisions with the help and support of my team.
3. Laughter Creates Equality
There’s one element of business management many people tend to forget: the human aspect. Teams are made up of individuals who have emotions and personalities — no one person is like the other. Laughter humanizes leaders and flattens the workplace hierarchy, it sets the pace of the environment you build. If your team members aren’t laughing and enjoying themselves at work, something’s wrong in your office.
One example of the importance of laughter comes from Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. When the two first met, their dueling strong opinions kept them from getting along, but it didn’t tear them apart. “We had a kind of bantering thing going,” Brin said. They were boisterous, yet they constantly pushed each other’s ideas, like one knife sharpening another. To this day, employees at Google — which is known for its great culture — say that if the pair leads a sales meeting, they typically start with dad jokes. That’s not to say they’re being unprofessional; on the contrary, they put everyone at ease and show that they enjoy the work they’re doing.
Find Your Ls Of Leadership
As an admirer of George Washington, I often find my personal management style has been influenced by his prestigious career. Washington was a great leader because he valued his people as humans, not just as tools for accomplishing his aims. This not only speaks to the caliber of Washington’s ethos but also reflects my approach.
Leaders who have to reinforce their authority to everyone have a dangerous weakness. It is through your conduct as a leader that you will inspire your team and create a culture of engagement. I have found success in this endeavor through my three Ls of leadership — they have guided my actions and have served as a solid foundation for my team members’ successes and their abilities to bounce back from failures. I readily care about their needs, I listen to what they have to say and I enjoy working alongside them. In return, they exhibit the same loyalty and respect I’ve shown them.
Great managers recognize they can only manage tasks, not people. People have to be led, they have to be given a purpose through which they feel they can make a difference. Whether or not these three Ls will work for your organization is completely up to you, but the takeaways are applicable to leaders in any circumstance. Find your style, inspire your team and you’ll see how an engaged workforce benefits everyone.
About Christian Valiulis
Chief Revenue Officer Christian Valiulis at APS is a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. As a national human capital management and full-service payroll processing company, APS delivers a unified cloud solution backed by guaranteed payroll tax compliance services. Christian oversees marketing and sales, channel partnerships, and strategic product and service alliances.
APS brings innovation and scalability to modern human capital management. We believe that our clients, their employees, and our partners deserve the best, easy-to-use human capital management platform delivered with personalized service and support. We build our unified technology from the ground up, focusing on usability, efficiency, and adoption. APS understands the challenges organizations of all sizes face, which is why we craft a full spectrum of cloud solutions that address all aspects of employee management.
For more information, please visit www.apspayroll.com or call 855-945-7921.
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