A sign of a good leader is how well their teams work together. In the workplace though, getting individuals with different personalities, strengths, and weaknesses to form a "dream team" is easier said than done.
So, how can leaders facilitate good team building in 2021? Here's what some executives do to boost team morale at their companies.
Steve Barriault, Global Technology Sales Leader
That is a question of capital importance.
Organizations aren't just an assembly of resources bound together by rules and objectives. They are also groups of human beings. And these human beings are powered by both logic and passion.
Boost morale, and the performance of your organization will be multiplied. Let morale sag, and pay the price at your bottom line—especially during uncertain times such as these.
I published multiple papers and videos on Work It Daily, LinkedIn, TikTok, YouTube, and Twitter in the past six months. It forced me to reflect on the lessons of leadership I learned throughout my professional career, and it turns out boosting morale has been a recurring theme.
Here's a list of some of the nuggets of wisdom I learned:
Establish the right culture. Executives are critical here. Team members want to be part of an organization where their input is valued. If they feel their contribution can influence the business outcomes, they are much more likely to gain a sense of ownership.
That is key. If employees treat the company as their own, it will infuse their morale with steely resolve.
For example, if they see things going astray, they will stand up and speak up, reducing the odds your organization falls prey to groupthink. They won't stand by and watch.
Resist promoting excessive risk avoidance. Well-intentioned executives and managers sometimes try to avoid every risk possible. Employees get the message loud and clear: don't rock the boat.
In highly innovative industries, this can be a death sentence. And it destroys morale; employees conclude "nothing will ever change." They sit on the sidelines precisely when you would need them to step up the most.
Remember that eliminating failure eliminates success. Prudence is required, sure, but do not punish innovation. Too many rules lead to red tape and crush morale, as I discussed in a video series on team selling.
Rituals matter. The troops crave empowerment and accomplishment, but also human contact. We spend a significant part of our lives at work, and Aristotle was right when he said we are political (social) animals.
I put together a TikTok clip on what I do for my international sales teams whenever I visit them. Nothing fancy: I bring them out for a meal. That helps create a sense of community, of belonging, and it is also a great way to learn more about what is going on.
Food and drinks unite us (sort of!), but other activities can play a similar role. They are not indulgences. They are crucial and cherished ingredients of your cultural recipe.
Earn their trust. Anyone can hire someone, become a manager, and bark orders.
But successful executives are inspirational leaders. They earn the trust of their troops through their example and deeds.
Their team members may not always agree with their decisions, but they will respect them and keep their morale up.
Steve Barriault is a global technology sales management executive with 18+ years of experience in business development on three continents. He is currently serving in a 3,000 employee-strong company providing embedded software testing solutions in multiple industries such as automotive, avionics, industrial systems, telecom, and others. Multilingual, he holds advanced degrees in business, science, and computer science.
Amy Hinderer, Business Management & Operations Executive
Let's first start with what is employee morale? Quite simply, it is an employee's attitude, satisfaction, and feelings of well-being with a company. It is important that, as leaders, employee morale is seen as a high priority because of its large impact on business. A Harvard Business Review article points out that positive work cultures are tied to productivity.
But wait, you may be asking, how can we ensure a positive work environment, especially now when we have surging cases of COVID-19 that bring anxiety and doubt into the workplace? The answers are straightforward and ones you likely have heard before. But before I share ideas for boosting team morale, I want to emphasize that "execution" and "measuring outcomes" are keys to successful workplace strategies.
Ok, now for the main event. Here are three simple and easy suggestions that you may want to consider for boosting employee and team morale in 2021 and beyond.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate - It comes as no surprise that clear and transparent communications within the organization are key. Employees want to hear from the leadership team and be kept in the loop on topics and issues that directly impact them. Teams will respect your honesty when you are upfront about the business. Additionally, checking in frequently with your folks to see how they are doing, what their concerns are, and if they are getting the right support, etc. goes a long way for employee morale.
Employee Recognition - This is one of my favorite strategies to implement. When employees feel truly appreciated for the value they bring to the table, their productivity, level of engagement, and company loyalty increases. A Gallup poll has shown that "Workplace recognition motivates, provides a sense of accomplishment and makes employees feel valued for their work. Recognition not only boosts individual employee engagement, but it also has been found to increase productivity and loyalty to the company, leading to higher retention."
Team-Building Activities - Team activities can be an effective strategy to help build collaborative workplaces, foster problem-solving among team members, and of course, boost morale. Perhaps the next time you are leading a video call, think about a fun activity that your team can engage in. Some ideas to help you get started can be trivia questions about the company or guess which of the three statements about an employee is true (this one always yields some fun insights about the person). Perhaps the winning person or team gets an Amazon or Starbucks gift card. I encourage you to have fun with this one.
I conclude with this quote by former basketball coach Phil Jackson: "The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team."
Amy Hinderer is a business management & operations executive with 18+ years of experience in global enterprise and start-up businesses. She has managed teams ranging in size from 10 up through ~35K supporting revenues between $2M - $9B.
Karen Doerr, Business Development And Healthcare Sales Leader
Executives are people too!
One of my favorite things to do to boost morale is to create a team vision board and playlist. I ask every person on the team to submit a picture that describes what success feels like for them along with a favorite jam. Images are then submitted in advance and we gather to review the images and guess what picture aligns with who had chosen that picture and why.
A lot of thought goes into the selection of the images. People feel honored to explain why a particular photo inspires them. And inspired vision leads to powerful collaboration especially when we as leaders share something personal with our team. Images range from pictures of historic figures, authors, sports figures, family, majestic vistas, piles of money or new cars, and selfies. Sometimes, our colleagues and teammates have a hard time seeing us as a person first because they have only related to us in a professional capacity as the CFO or VP of Sales.
I then have the images pulled into a collage and printed out so that everyone could keep that visual with them in their workspace, whether office based or remote, to remind them of their teammates and how we must be centered on both our individual and collective vision for success.
We then kick off a social hour where I would play the beginning of each person's motivational song and have folks guess who chose it, giving a prize for the highest number of accurate guesses. Playlists have always been remarkably diverse and included reggae, heavy metal, disco, classic rock, indie, country, and instrumental. From that group, we tried to choose a song that collectively represented us and our goals for the year.
The best morale boosters are genuine, simple, and engaging. They validate and appreciate our collective gifts and differences. In the end, I think it is about having fun and allowing folks to get to know you as a person who has a life outside of work. Let your hair down and share something personal. I guarantee the response will delight you.
P.S. My image is of my favorite hiking trail in Sedona that leads up Bell Mountain. This represents the physical and spiritual balance and perseverance I must have in driving sales. Sometimes it takes a long time. You must be conditioned and prepared. You need to set a course but also be ready to pivot when you meet barriers that cannot be easily cleared. It is gritty, grueling, and often exhausting work and you just want to call it a day. But then you push yourself or have your teammate offer their hand to help you get to the next level. Greatness is achieved.
Karen Doerr is a business development and healthcare sales leader who enjoys introducing new tools and services to payers and providers that increase patient access and eliminate waste in healthcare delivery. Karen has helped start-ups and medium-size companies establish national brand awareness and accelerate revenues exploiting gaps in the complicated healthcare ecosystem. In her last leadership role, she led sales and marketing efforts for a digital healthcare start-up targeting chronic disease and is most impactful at the intersection of primary care, technology, and care management.
There are many ways leaders can boost team morale, but there is one common theme: nothing replaces a fun team-building activity. As an executive, it's important to remember that you and all of your teammates are people first and employees second. That's how you can begin boosting team morale in your workplace.
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