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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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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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