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3 Ways to Build a Happy and Productive Team

3 Ways to Build a Happy and Productive Team

Being happy at work? That’s for when you’re off the clock, right? You’ve heard the expression, “That’s why they call it work.” Isn’t that the way work has always been?

Not anymore.

A recent study, “Happiness and Productivity,” conducted by a pair of economist academics, has proven that happiness makes people more productive on the job.

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According to one of the authors of the research, Professor Andrew Oswald, there’s data to back up the claim: “Companies like Google have invested more in employee support and employee satisfaction has risen as a result. For Google it rose by 37%. They know what they are talking about. Under scientifically controlled conditions, making workers happier really pays off.”

What this research shows is that happiness isn’t a luxury only afforded high-value Silicon Valley firms. Team happiness is not something that organizations can ignore, but rather a crucial investment in staff morale, retention, and productivity.

Whether you’re leading a small team or a large enterprise, there are practical methods for keeping your team happy while still meeting management’s targets. Here are three tips to building happy and productive teams.

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Be a Better Communicator.

If you’re not able to articulate what it is that you want people to do, they’re not going to be able to do it. That’s obvious. What may not be so clear is that by being a poor communicator you’re corrupting the bonds of trust between you and your workers, which over time will create a toxic work environment.

How do you communicate more effectively and, in so doing, help make a happier team?

  1. Listen- a lot. Communication is a two-way street. Put aside your own thoughts and ideas to really listen to people on your team and demonstrate that you’re willing to seriously engage their ideas. You can show that you’re listening (and remember what your team has said) by repeating back what you’ve heard them say.
  2. Stay on topic. When you’re doing the talking, don’t confuse the issue by going off on tangents. Have one conversation at a time, and keep your point short and easily digestible.
  3. Look people in the eye. This may seem like an outmoded idea since we all stare at our phones and multitask these days. Eye contact helps you and the listener focus on the topic at hand, and it also shows you’re focusing on listening to feedback and ideas.
  4. Ask Questions. Before you’re done with a meeting or a conference, ask if there are any questions. This helps make sure the information you wanted to get across was conveyed accurately and helps with overall team engagement, too.
  5. Build team involvement. Making your team accountable is a good start, but make them part of the process to define the goals, too. This helps them buy-in to the work, gives them ownership, and makes them fully aware of what they’re accountable for.

Respect Workers’ Autonomy.

If you micromanage every nanosecond of your team members’ day, you’re really not helping their productivity. You’re certainly not creating a happy workplace. That doesn’t mean you give workers free reign; you are their manager, after all. However, you do want to instill mutual respect, and that involves giving your team autonomy to manage their time their way.

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One of the biggest culprits of time wasting is the internet. With the web just waiting behind that spreadsheet, it’s a big temptation to check Facebook or your favorite blog, and as I said, a prohibitive climate is not a productive one. In fact, micromanagement may be more detrimental to productivity than a few idle moments online.

What do you do to encourage productivity without laying down Draconian laws?

  1. Set success metrics. If you have clear milestones that each member of your team is responsible for achieving within a specific scheduled time, then you’re saying you trust them to achieve this task on deadline the way they know best. If they need to take a break and watch a cat video then that’s okay.
  2. Offer incentives. Everyone likes to have their good work recognized, so provide the team members who go above and beyond to complete their work on time with some kind of gift. It can be as simple as buying them lunch or giving out monthly gift certificates to top performers. When you make the incentives fun, it helps build a happy team culture, too. Be sure to be fair and include everyone- not just the favored few.
  3. Offer flexible working hours. Though there may be certain periods of the day that you need your team together, the time of day is less important than meeting the deadline. Also, some people work best first thing in the morning whereas others are more suited for later hours. If you can afford the flexibility, then allow your teams to work when they work best.
  4. Offer training opportunities. Complacency is dangerous for both you and your team. You want to always encourage and enable them to be updated on new tools and techniques. Again, that investment will be rewarded by loyalty, trust, and improved productivity.

It’s not just today’s project and productivity goals that you should be focusing on. There’s always another project down the line, even though it can be difficult to see the forest when you’re in the weeds of a particular job. Future projects need to be kept in the back of the minds of everyone in the company.

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If you burn out your workforce, you’re going to have to go through arduous team building all over again. It is not only hard work to find and train a new worker but expensive as well. The Corporate Executive Board has researched the cost of replacing a departing employee and found it can be as much as 150% of their salary to replace them if you take into account lost productivity, recruitment fees, and training. Therefore, it’s crucial not only to get the job done today, but to cultivate a workplace that retains its workers.

There are many ways that companies and managers have made their organizations more attractive to their teams. Some of them are:

  1. Offer wellness benefits. If you’re able to provide employees with perks such as gym membership, a massage therapist who visits the office, healthy meals and snacks, even mindfulness meditation breaks, you reduce work stress and create a happy work culture.
  2. Offer financial incentives. Money is the universal language. While team members may never be fully loyal to a company, they will respond positively to having their hard work rewarded with cash incentives. Whether it’s a bonus or some other financial benefit, it’s a worthwhile perk to put into the budget.
  3. Extend paid leave options. It may seem counterintuitive to retain employees by allowing them to take an extended absence from the office, but it will pay off in the long run. Whether it’s personal days to attend family events, a paid vacation or sabbatical, these breaks from the daily grind allow people to regenerate and return to the job refreshed and ready to hit the ground running.
  4. Be a happy role model. As a manager you cannot be always burning the midnight oil and then telling your workers to go home and take it easy. This doesn’t mean slacking, but you want to exhibit the balanced behaviors you expect to see in your team and also work on your own happiness to be an effective model.
  5. Set boundaries. With smartphones, emails, texts, and all the other new technologies and apps to keep people connected, it can feel as if work never ends. While it’s great that you and your workers have a modern means of communication, you need to respect their privacy and have specific times when they’re working and when they’re not.

In Conclusion

That’s it. Easy, right? No. Of course it’s difficult to be happy and harder still to promote a happy team culture especially within a large organization. Think of happiness as another line item on your budget. You have to make the investment in order to get the return. Give it the due diligence that the current research (and Google) has proven, try out these tips, and see what results you get.

Bet you’ll be happily surprised.

Featured photo credit: Girl Using Laptop in Hotel Room by Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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http://stokpic.com/project/girl-using-laptop-in-hotel-room/ by Ed Gregory 3 Ways to Build a Happy and Productive Team

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

More Resources About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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