I know, from more than 40 years of leadership experience, that each person has their own strengths, interests, aptitudes, and different areas where they excel. Just as each person has unique gifts, we all have areas where we need help. Areas that we don’t do well in or don’t enjoy.
An effective way to bring new people on board for your team is to appreciate them for their gifts, giving them support, encouragement, resources, and training to help them excel.
Assigning tasks according to peoples’ gifts, helps them pull together, and enables the team to accomplish amazing things.
I like meeting people, I like learning what interests them, what their gifts are, and what they aspire to achieve. This special interest helps me be a better leader and thought partner.
People generally respond well when they realize that I’m genuinely interested in learning about them. I also like to connect people to the resources and other people that can help them thrive.
When I was in the military, I did this by getting to know my teams, and on a few occasions adopting teams, and recruiting people from other leaders to join my team.
When I was first posted to Borden, Ontario, I learned that my job description had undergone a radical transformation between the time my predecessor left, and when I arrived.
I found myself responsible for the clerks, both military and civilian, who supported everyone at our unit, for the library staff, the word processing team, and the tool crib. The tool crib included a collection of tools to sign out to students as they learned how to repair aircraft.
I also found myself adopting the newly formed two-person Information Technology (IT) team. On paper they reported directly to the School Commandant.
In reality, the non-commissioned members preferred speaking to a Captain than a Colonel, so I included that team in my section meetings, as if they worked for me. It took very little effort for me to help lead the IT team, and I learned a lot from them, as we transitioned into the digital age.
Later in my career, I made a habit of finding people that other leaders dismissed as less than effective and inviting them to join my team.
Military organizations are more fluid than many outsiders could possibly imagine. Positions, and the people that work in them, often change their spot on the organizational charts. The organizational challenge is completing the paperwork to make it official! In terms of day-to-day management, the process itself is relatively painless.
The thing is, everyone has something to offer their team. Everyone has gifts, interests, and aptitudes, that when recognized and appreciated, help the whole team thrive. Having these people join my team, officially or not, always generated benefits for the team as a whole.
People respond positively to good leadership. They work harder, they’re more productive and they’re happier. If most of the tasks that they’re assigned play to their strengths, they’ll be willing to do some things that they don’t enjoy, because they know that they’re the team member best suited for these necessary tasks.
When I was in the military, every time I changed jobs and met a new team, or had new people join my team, I had a conversation with them. I asked what resources and training they needed to do their jobs, what types of work they preferred to do, and what their career aspirations were.
I would tell them that quite frankly I was being “mercenary.” If I gave them what they needed, assigned them work that they enjoyed, and helped them achieve their goals, then they would succeed and I would look good.
That reassured those who had already experienced the misfortune of working with bad bosses. They could easily understand what was “in it for me.” Those who had worked for good bosses in the past would laugh, because they understood what I meant.
In 2007, shortly after I was posted to 8 Wing Trenton, I made a point of visiting my new team in each of the locations where they worked. When I met with the Wing Orderly Room team, I made my pitch. I could see they were wary so I gave them my tried and true line about being “mercenary.”
One courageous young person asked if they could have stamps at their desks. I didn’t understand what they meant so I asked for more information.
It turned out that everyone had to leave their desk and cross to the other side of a large open work space whenever they needed to stamp a document with “certified true copy” or any other of the standard things stamped on military documents.
I told their supervisor to make a list of what everyone needed and then buy it. The reaction was something along the lines of “that will cost several hundred dollars!”
I approved the expense because it made sense for the clerks to have the tools they needed at their desks, so they could serve our clients more effectively.
That story is just one example. I consistently followed through on helping my teams achieve their goals. I do this because I genuinely like to see people thrive.
As an entrepreneur, especially over the last few years, I’ve come to understand that people learn and process information differently, that it’s important to understand how people prefer to communicate.
Now when I bring a virtual team together, we start with introductions, to get to know each other. Then we have a conceptual discussion about the project we’re considering working on together. Meetings last 60 minutes or less, we each go away and do our part, and reconvene on a regular basis to update each other on our progress and determine next steps.
Using Zoom meetings can increase accessibility and help communications. For example, closed captioning is automatically enabled, so that people don’t have to ask for it.
I’m also comfortable sharing transcripts and recordings of our Zoom meetings, for those who like to access information that way.
With some teams, we keep a set of meeting notes, updated after and sometimes even during our meetings. The notes share the overall vision of what we’re working on, with details filled in as they become clear.
When you consistently support the people on your team, getting them the tools, resources, and training, needed to effectively perform their jobs, and assist them in achieving their career aspirations, you build trust.
While clear and open communications are vital, this is even more important with virtual teams. Investing a few minutes at the beginning of each meeting to be human with each other, also helps create trust.
People who trust you, will be genuinely interested in learning how to work effectively together.
Investing in getting to know and understand people you work with, creates trust, which will save you time and effort in the long run.