Creating a positive work environment, whether as an employee of a large corporation or as a business owner trying to establish a high performance work ethic for your leadership team, has significant impact on the bottom line, revenue growth, employee engagement, and job satisfaction.
Let’s face it; working in a healthy corporate culture sounds great, and many of my clients aspire to find this perfect fit. When you speak up and have an opinion, you feel heard. When you disagree with a colleague, it opens a healthy discussion rather than an argument. Your accomplishments are acknowledged and added to your stockpile of contributions that have helped move the company forward.
Doesn’t it sound wonderful? Although these days it seems that this type of culture is rare, it does exist, and it is possible to achieve. Let’s look at some of the benefits this type of work culture creates for project teams and leadership development, and how small changes can create big impact.
First let’s keep in mind that this isn’t about creating a conflict-free zone. Conflict can be healthy especially in highly driven teams, as long as it’s expressed the right way. Working from a position of only providing feedback when someone does something wrong, however, creates resentment and provides no direction for moving into creative choices or forwarding-thinking habits.
There are many different ways for team leaders to create positivity within their groups, including award incentives, contests, or even gifts, all aimed at recognizing effective leadership development skills. In addition, catching someone doing something right, and recognizing it repeatedly, helps you identify a pattern of strengths in your employees. Having a follow-up conversation about those wins also helps you establish a positive foundation for your team members that will build momentum over time.
How many times have you walked into a performance review only to be told that you’re doing great in certain areas, but if you want to advance you’ll need to spend more of your time developing areas that don’t come naturally to you – often times with little to no direction, mentoring or coaching? Along the same lines, as a business owner, have you built up your business with great talent and the misperception that you need to help your team members become more “whole”?
Here’s an example. As a business coach, I recently worked with a client who took a strengths-based assessment. In reviewing her results, we found that she scored high in independence but low in manageability. As a result, she did great working on her own but when she was put in a situation where someone was supervising her closely (or even micromanaging her), she shut down, became resistant and unhappy, and her work suffered. The creative output she produced on her own became stifled and bland under an overbearing supervisor. Pairing her with a hands-off supervisor who knew how to handle her independence helped her flourish.
It turns out that people enjoy doing a good job, and when they have jobs that play to their best strengths, where they know they will succeed in any given task with ease, they naturally perform better, are more engaged, and are generally happier with their work.
Let’s look at our example again. By pairing employees with complimentary strengths, you end up with a high performance combination. My client, who scored low on manageability but high on independence, began working with a supervisor who scored high on his ability to be accommodating and use objective judgment. He was then able to work around her needs to get the best performance out of her. The two of them combined became a strong partnership, and developed a number of successful projects for the company.
If you don’t have strengths assessments available to you, don’t worry. A little self-awareness goes a long way. Look back on the last five to ten years and write down the areas where you had satisfaction, whether it was work, school or volunteer related. You will start to see a theme in the experiences that you gravitated toward and the ones you began to avoid. Now look at the people around you and ask yourself what it is about some people that you find easier to work with, as well as the ones you don’t like (try to remain objective). The goal is to look at specific situations that made you uneasy and then unpack it by looking at where you have similar or conflicting strengths. Two or more people who struggle with decisiveness are not going to get much done together. Throw in someone with strong assertiveness and manageability and the situation changes.
You might find that for certain elements of your job, you’re not in a high performance combination. From there, you can decide if it’s tolerable. Depending on the severity of the situation, you may need to make a change, and that’s the point. With awareness comes power over the situation.
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