How to Turn a Good Leadership Team into a Great One

The enemy of becoming great is becoming content with being good. That is the reason we have many good companies, not great ones, good schools, not a great ones, and good management teams, not great ones. There’s a lot of good, but not good enough to become great.

Most organizations, institutions, teams, and individuals have become comfortable with being good. That’s where they stay. Consequently, there is no urgency, drive, and motivation put into extra efforts to become great.

Good Leadership to Great Leadership Example

When the CEO of a construction company called me to provide leadership development, the company went through a lot of change. They had transferred complete ownership of the company twice in the previous year and experienced a high turnover in personnel. The executive team consisted of nine individuals with very driven, ambitious, A-type personalities.

Their culture was one in which managers made decisions based on the interest of their department or themselves, not the entire company. For example, during budget discussions the managers would fight and argue for who was to get the most resources, instead of allocating funds to implement what was best for the company. The three main departments were functioning as “stand alone silos” instead of “well oiled machines”. The biggest challenge was getting the entire team to commit to change and to demonstrate a true desire to better oneself, the team, and the company.

We implemented the following four strategies to move their management team from good to great –

Great Leadership Management Approaches

1. Embrace the Mover and Shaker Ideology

When teams do the same things as they did in the past, they continue to attract the same results. Change is needed. Initially, the team had lengthy conversations about what was going well, what the challenges were, and where change was necessary. Those discussions helped create urgency for leading the change efforts. Each manager committed to shake up one of their daily routines such as visiting the field more regularly, or walk through the entire office once a day.

2. Focus Growing Trust with Open and Honest Communication

Some of the managers didn’t mesh well together. Rather than collaborating, they were competing with each other. Two of the managers barely knew each other even though they worked on the same client projects. On one occasion they carpooled to a client meeting and learned more about each other during the trip. By spending more time together, mutual understanding increased, so did the trust between them.

3. Focus on Positive New Opportunities

A great team owns their “purpose” and articulates it to the entire organization with clarity and tenacity. This management team met regularly for strategic sessions to align themselves around a clear future direction for the organization. They focused on opportunities rather than challenges, solutions instead of problems, and talked about new market niches rather than complaining about clients. They developed a clear vision of where they wanted to go and what they wanted to accomplish together.

4. Increase Accountability Efforts with Clearly Defined Systems

The team discussed collective efforts, assigned roles, responsibilities, and contributions based on skills and talent. This resulted in specific performance standards and expectations. In addition, they clarified behavioral guidelines that stemmed from their company values. This was the foundation for increased mutual accountability.

As the management team led the change efforts, employees noticed significant improvements. These were the responses from the team members:

  • “Now there’s more listening here.”
  • “We are more open with each other.”
  • “There’s a lot more interaction and proactive discussions.”

This resulted in tangible progress in the numbers. Besides working together better among the managers, the workforce increased by 10 percent, revenues by 50 percent, and profits grew by 300 percent within 3 years.

The CEO summarized the progress in his own words:

We always had skilled people. I attribute a lot of results to making changes in our own behavior. Now we are more skilled in working together as a great leadership team.

How Do You Motivate Employees?

I have heard this many times from managers: “How do I motivate people to get them to do the things I want them to do?”

The answer is: “You don’t!”

It is hard to motivate people because they already are motivated. What we can do is determine what motivates them and use this knowledge to channel their energy toward your organization’s goals.

Some people are like water in a faucet. They have the motivation; all you have to provide is the opportunity. The water is already motivated to flow, but it doesn’t have the opportunity until you open the tap. Others are like mountain streams, which flow swiftly but follow their own channels. People, too, may move energetically, but toward their own goals. We should make it worth their while to channel their motivation toward the results management is seeking.

Also Read: How to Inspire Your Employees with a Vision?

What Motivates People?

To better understand motivation, it’s important to find out what moves a person. What gives a person a reason to take action or behave in a certain way?

From an empirical perspective, having worked with, coached or trained thousands of professionals and managers, I observe two main items or reasons that make an employee satisfied and motivated.

Motivator #1

An employee wants to feel respected, valued, appreciated and recognized. To that point, I love the quote by philosopher Williams James: “The deepest need in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” People have a deep-seated need for feeling important. The best way to get people to pay attention to you is to pay attention to them. That means listening to others, not just hearing them. Listening is active; hearing is passive. Listening is a way to pay attention and respect to a person. If you listen to individuals long enough, they’ll tell you what their concerns and problems are. It’s amazing what you’ll learn.

Motivator #2.

Employees (most of them) love interesting, challenging work or increasing responsibility. Many people I have come across want to do well; they want opportunities for growth and achievement. The challenge about those factors is that they differ for each person. A challenging task or project is totally different for a salesperson, engineer or accountant. The manager’s role is to determine which task is interesting to which person so this person feels a sense of pride or achievement.

Empathy and seeing things from the other person’s point of view is an essential skill for managers to have and develop in order to increase motivation in others.

How Do You Get People to Change?

What we can change – or influence: a person’s behavior, but not their personality. To do that, we must understand them and connect with them. That requires more than training. It requires education. When you train people, you just try to teach them a task; when you educate people, you deal with them at a deeper level relative to behavior, feelings and beliefs. The word education comes from the Latin word educo, which means to change from within.

In behavior change, differentiating motives or intentions from behavior itself is crucial. We all tend to judge ourselves by our motives and intentions; yet we have a tendency to judge others by their actions.

Put another way, we’re inclined to excuse behavior in ourselves that we find unacceptable in others. When our employees are late for work, it’s because they’re irresponsible and have no interest in their jobs. When we’re late for work, it’s because we were attending to necessary details that had to be taken care of. When team members engage in undesirable behavior, we shouldn’t try to assess motives or change them. Just deal with the behavior. We can’t change the motives of our employees, but through positive or negative reinforcement, you can affect their actions.

Remember, people do things for their reasons, not mine nor yours.

Have a motivating day!