Eleven years ago I remember sitting in my office on a cold and dreary winter day in Michigan. The sky was dark, and the snow was falling, making it feel worse than it probably was. We had just gone through one of the worst financial declines in my professional career. The crisis, spawned in part by the failure of many mortgage backed securities, forever changed my world.

You remember it. The uncertainty of consumer markets. Unemployment rates rising at breakneck speeds. Teams feeling anxious and less productive because of how their organizations treated them. Wondering when the suffering would end, and the economy would begin to rebound.

Deja Vu

If the previous paragraph sounds familiar, it might be because we are in the same situation again today. Sure, the causes are different, but the feelings are much the same. The unrest over jobs, health, and our economic conditions are causing individuals and teams to be distracted and less productive. Add to this the isolation of working alone, no wonder entire teams are feeling unappreciated and disconnected from their leaders and their companies.

Lesson Learned

Like many leaders during the 2008 financial crisis, I learned what NOT to do by doing the wrong things. I spent more time worried about me, than I was about my team. I focused on my potential loss and not on helping others gain. I thought other people needed me and I didn’t tell them how important they were.

Odds are, there is a part of this story that resonates with you. You might be struggling to connect with your team that is now remote. You may be watching leaders who seem to have forgotten the importance of connection. Or you might be feeling the direct impact of leaders who just do not seem to care.

Simple Steps

If you want to win with your teams, your co-workers, and even those you report to, there are some very simple skills that anyone can master or improve in. In times like we are experiencing today with COVID-19 and the ongoing racial tensions, personal connection has never been more important.

Winning with your team is the first step in creating a willing team!

Although this is just the tip of the iceberg, the following are 5 simple but effective ways to begin winning with your team!

1. Tell People You Need Them

Leadership expert Warren Bennis once stated that “Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not at the periphery.”

Like many other leaders during the 2008 financial crisis, I viewed it as a sign of weakness to let others know how much I valued them. I feared I would be giving up control by admitting to someone that I needed them to be successful.

Here is the reality:

• People need to be needed
• Competent leaders know they need people
• Successful leaders tell people they are needed

To get though our current crisis, I stopped trying to prove how capable I was alone. I actively pursued those who could help me do a better job than I could alone. People knew I needed them, and as a result, they offered up ideas and help that I never would have implemented on my own.

All leaders need their people. But too few people know their leaders care.

2. Tell People Who They Could Be

Science tells us that people will consistently perform to the level you expect them to perform. In other words, if we doubt a person’s ability to deliver, it’s likely they will prove you correct. If we inspire others by holding them to a standard of who they could be, you give them something positive to shoot for.

As leaders, our opinions of those we interact with effects them deeply. People spend most of their lives trying to create and live up to a positive reputation or play down a negative reputation. Doesn’t it make more sense to help others up instead of pushing them down?

When my son was in high school (seems like a long time ago!) he asked my wife to borrow her BMW convertible for a school dance. He had only been driving a short time and our initial inclination was to say no. The car was brand new and we were afraid it would get damaged.

Instead of shooting down the idea as ridiculous, we told my son how much we trusted him with the car and knew he would take care of it. You should have seen the smile on his face and the impact it made on him. We provided him with the reputation of being reliable, cautious, and trustworthy and he took pride in living up to that reputation.

Not only did we focus on my son’s potential, we backed it up with action by giving him the keys to the BMW.

As a leader, just telling people who they can be isn’t enough. If we really want people to believe in themselves, we need to prove it through the actions we take as leaders. We need to give them the keys and allow them to live up to the reputation that we have given them.

Stay Tuned…

Keep your eyes peeled to next weeks article where I will address three other practical approaches to winning with your teams!

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