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9 Powerful Ways To Motivate Your Team To Strive For Excellence

9 Powerful Ways To Motivate Your Team To Strive For Excellence

It is a known fact that one of the most compelling reasons employees leave their job is because they feel unappreciated, or that they bring no real value to their team. If you want to motivate your team to do their very best, you as the leader have to let them know that they are a vital part of your team. In order to motivate and build up a team for excellence, there are some key steps that you should follow if you want your company to be successful.

1. Build a relationship with your team. 

This does not mean that you should hang out with them at the local bar, or become one of their weekend buddiesWhat it does mean is that if you want to motivate your team to excellence, then you should take the time to get to know your team personally by talking individually to them at different times, asking basic questions, and letting them see that you are human and accessible. People will find it difficult to “go along” with you if they cannot “get along” with you.

2. Recognize them as a person, not just their ability. 

Too often, we are quick to praise people for a job well done, but we fail to let the person know that we appreciate them as a person. Praise them for that job well done, but take notice of their personal qualities and talents and how they bring value to the team. This should be done in person randomly so that they can see that you are the one who noticed and you know they are on your team. For example: “Hey Johnny, those were some great ideas you came up with in the team meeting today, I like the way you think!” BOOM! Johnny’s self-worth just went to the penthouse! He just saw the word “motivate” in action.

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3. Learn their names.  

One of the most valuable things we have as a person is our name. It is what identifies us and makes us stand out among the others. Something very special happens when we hear our name – it tells us that we are important! I guarantee you that when you as a leader call your team members out by name and speak to them, they will sit up and take notice. They will soon realize they are not just a number to you. Most of us know that one of the most prominent coffee shops in the world built their whole business on learning your name, one customer at a time.

4. Treat your team to something special. 

The size and the nature of what you offer your team depends on your budget and the size of your team. Of course, this is not something you are going to do on a daily or even weekly basis, but you can try to do it as a monthly reward. There are so many ideas that come to mind for this, but the important thing to remember is that it is not the size of the treat but the thought behind it. They need to see it is real and dear to your heart. This might include going to the local coffee shop and buying them their favorite drinks, or catering in a lunch that is healthy and filling. This not only lets them see they are valued but it brings the team together to function as one by getting to know each other. When I managed a local coffee shop, we sold home baked cookies. Every day we baked them fresh, and we had a lawyer who would come in every afternoon and ordered two dozen for his staff. Get creative as there are many ways to “treat your team.”

5. Make their success public.  

Take time in your team meetings each week to recognize and talk about the people who made a difference that week. Let the rest of the team see that you took notice and you appreciate it. This makes others want to push harder and do more as they see that hard work is valued. Many times other team members do not know what has happened in other departments, or the accomplishments that they have had, so this is also a great way for your team to keep up with the latest and greatest.

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6. Set high but attainable goals.  

Excellence cannot be achieved in one day, but it can be achieved over time with everyone working together. People soon get discouraged when they see that the goals that you are requiring are way out of their reach. When we set goals for our team, they should be high enough that they will have to work at them and put in the effort, but they should not be unreasonable to the point that the person just gives up. An unattainable goal might be asking them to “sign 25 new clients this week” as opposed to “meet with 10 potential clients this week.” Ask yourself if the goals you are setting and expecting are ones that you yourself could achieve if you were in their shoes.

7. Create a contest with a reward.  

Whether we like it or not, people like incentives and they like ones that benefit them or their loved ones. Think about things that would mean the world to you if had worked hard. When I was the director of a large bilingual school in Colombia, South America, the rewards my team loved the most were things like the following: leaving work early on Friday; a one hour lunch break; choosing one extra day off; or, late arrival for one day. If it is a big thing you are asking of your team for the month then you can create a longer-running contest and reward them with something a little more costly such as a night and dinner in an expensive hotel, a day at the spa, or golf day at the local club. There are many things that you can do with this one, but if you are short of ideas, you could always survey your team and ask them what they would find rewarding.

8. Be a part of the team.  

It is amazing how team leaders suddenly feel as though their position has removed them from being a team member. Your team will know you are the leader by the way you lead, and if you are constantly having to remind them of that, then something has gone awry. Getting in and being willing to join in on their different tasks not only makes you a part of the team, but also gives you a great opportunity to show them ways they can improve. When I was the director of the school mentioned above, I never stayed in my office – I was always looking for ways to motivate my team. I was known as the traveling manager, and that was a compliment to me because I wanted my staff to know I was there with them. I went to the different classrooms, and dropped in to see how my teachers were doing. Many times I even sat and ate lunch in the cafeteria with different classrooms and their teacher. My staff knew by my actions that I was a hands-on manager and that I was interested in what they were doing. This also helped me to see what needed to be done in order to achieve the excellence I was looking for.

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9. Have fun! 

No matter how difficult the tasks or goals are, people perform better when they are in a fun and enjoyable atmosphere. After all, we were all kids at one time and everything we tried to do was a chore, but we never gave up and we had fun doing it. Never let the kid in you die! Go to work happy, and let your staff know how much you enjoy being there with them and working together. Motivate them to excellence with joy and fun, and remind them of what it is like to be a kid again.

Having a team that respects you because you earned it and not because you demanded it goes a long way when motivating your team to excellence. If something is missing in order for them to succeed and be the best, then you need to figure out how you can bridge that gap, because after all, without them, you will never achieve greatness. I love this old saying that l learned years ago: “Individuals win trophies but a team wins the championship.”

So, are you looking to win a trophy or a championship? Taking these short simple tricks and applying them to your team will make a world of difference in your company and you will soon begin to see the results. Remember, as a leader, if you turn around and look, and see people behind you, then you are a leader. If you do not, then you are just out on a long walk.

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Featured photo credit: Paul Inkles via flickr.com

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

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Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

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