While pizza was found to be a big employee motivator in a highly-publicized recent study, we know it takes a lot more than that for a leader to push her team to greatness.
There is a science to successful leadership, and two studies provide you more insight with their findings:
- Great leaders have a keen understanding of their team’s dynamics: The dynamics of a team are more important than the talents and skills of the individual team members, according to a Google study of more than 180 teams. Team members mentioned working in a safe environment, having clear goals/roles, feeling that everyone’s pulling their weight and not being micro-managed as contributing to their success.
- Great leaders instill in their team a sense of purpose: How well a leader communicates a company’s mission or purpose is key to a team member’s engagement levels, according to a Deloitte survey: 73% of employees who say they work at a “purpose-driven” company are engaged, compared to 23% of those who don’t.
Creating a Motivating Work Environment
Based on these findings, here’s how to provide this empowering, enriching and enlightened type of environment for your own team:
Provide a safe environment
By creating a safe environment – which leadership guru Simon Sinek calls a “circle of safety” – you will make team members feel secure. In this type of environment, you extend the “circle,” says Sinek, to include all team members, even the most junior ones. You’re inclusive, asking all team members their opinions and encouraging their ideas.
In such a safe setting, your team members will push hard, collaborate and feel comfortable bringing forth their ideas, without feeling insecure or embarrassed. It’s an environment that welcomes diversity of thought.
They’ll work tirelessly to be more productive. “They feel that the person to the left of them and the person to the right would protect them if something happened,” Sinek told Inc.
“When we feel safe inside the organization,” Sinek told an American Organization of Nurse Executives’ conference recently, “we will naturally combine our talents and our strengths and work tirelessly to face the dangers outside and seize the opportunities.”
When team members feel safe, they will go the extra mile, raising the productivity of your team.
Manage your micro-management
The greatest leaders do not micro-manage. They know that micromanaging kills productivity and, at the same time, sends the wrong message to a team member: “I don’t trust you to get this job done.”
Micro-managing is a hard habit to break, but if you provide clear instructions upfront and explain the importance of the task, you can begin to eliminate this counterproductive trait from your management repertoire.
“Break the work up into meaningful milestones upfront when planning and assigning work,” says Dr. Todd Dewett, author of The Little Black Book of Leadership. “This way, you’ll receive updates or mini outcomes along the way without having to hover and harass. If the mini outcomes look problematic, then step into the process in an attempt to help.”
Provide a sense of purpose
Every company has a purpose. How well you are able to communicate yours to your team could have a major effect on your team’s engagement levels.
A purpose-driven company, as the Deloitte study defined it, is one that has “an important objective that creates meaningful impact for customers, employees, their communities, and investors.”
For example, Chevron’s purpose/mission statement is: “To be the global energy company most admired for its people, partnership and performance.” And Nike’s: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”
What’s your company’s purpose? Whatever it is, it needs to be communicated to every member of your team, along with a clear understanding of how each person’s job contributes to that purpose.
“The most important challenge for a 21st century leader is building a culture of purpose,” writes Chrisoph Lueneburger in his book, A Culture of Purpose: How to Choose the Right People and Make the Right People Choose You. “Great leaders will be measured by their ability to marry purpose to profit.”
Now, go ahead and have a pizza party to motivate your team once in a while, but as Simon Sinek suggests in his book, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t, make sure your team eats first.
Why? Similar to a Marine Corps general who lets the troops eat first, the greatest leaders need to protect and nurture their team, says Sinek, because it all comes down to a leader creating a good environment, where remarkable things – which every leader has the capacity for – can happen.