In last week’s article I laid out some of the lessons I learned as a business leader from the 2008 financial crisis. How we lead and engage our teams in crisis isn’t just some “feel good” mumbo jumbo that some philosopher came up with. You and I both need a plan that we can execute on to ensure your teams stay productive.

Part 1

In Part 1 I shared the following two tips to begin winning with your team:

1. Tell People You Need Them – every person needs to hear and believe they are needed. Successful leaders admit they can’t do it without their teams!

2. Tell People Who They Could Be – Help others perform by setting their reputation of performance. Our opinion of our team members sets the bar for what’s expected of them!

Part 2

Let’s go even deeper into what we could and should be doing as leaders to ensure we win with our teams. The less time you spend in person with your team, the more you need to have a practical set of action steps to build effective relationships.

If you’re ready to stop managing and truly lead, then you need to make sure you’re developing real relationships.

3. Open the Lock to Their Hearts

I consider myself fortunate to speak to audiences across the world on subjects of talent and leadership. For each session I spend countless hours defining the purpose, crafting my delivery, and ensuring practical takeaways for each member of the audience. But a funny thing happens after just about every session – each person I speak with heard a different message or took something from the talk that I had not even intended!

Everyone hears something different because everyone has a different key to their heart. The members of your team are just like the audiences I speak to. Each one has a different reason for being there. They each hear a different message. They are each inspired by different things, people, and ideas in life.

Renowned leadership expert Peter Drucker once stated that “Leading people is like conducting an orchestra. There are many different players and instruments that the conductor must know thoroughly.” In other words, YOU NEED TO KNOW YOUR TEAMS THOROUGHLY!

There are multiple ways to uncover the keys to the heart of every person you communicate with. The easiest and most fundamental should be obvious – ask them questions! All too often, we spend time telling our teams what we need from them, overlooking what really inspires them.

The next time you really want to open the lock of each team member, try asking these questions I have used for more than a decade:

“What’s working for you?”

You can learn about what excites them and what they are proud of.

“What’s not working?”

When you understand people’s pain, you travel to the deepest parts of their hearts and mind.

“Why do you think it’s not working?”

Asking “why” is one of the most powerful questions you have available. Knowing why something is or is not working opens the door to help, provide counsel, and develop deep relationships.

“What do you dream about?”

Understanding what people want to become helps define where you can support them as a leader.

“What makes you stop in your tracks?”

The thing that stops people dead in their tracks will often tell you their personal value system.


4. Write Notes of Encouragement

We all know the power of words. Unfortunately, we see how detrimental words can be in our society. Whether or not we care to admit it, words can cut deep and have a lasting impact. The good news is that the same goes in reverse. A well-chosen word can provide encouragement and inspiration to those fortunate enough to be on the receiving end.

If you’re like me, stopping to write a thank you note for one of your team members doesn’t come naturally. Sure, giving them a verbal “thank you” or even a high-five (Pre-Covid) can go a long way. But taking the time to write a handwritten note is much more personal – making it way more impactful.

Hand-Written Notes Have a Personal Touch

We live in a world of email, instant messenger, and video to communicate with each other. Yet the easier and more convenient the form of communication is, the more we take it for granted. We forget how impactful the personal touch of a handwritten note, thank you card, or similar acknowledgment can be. How would your team respond if they opened the mail this week and there was heartfelt card from you to open in the middle of their credit card bill and mortgage statement?

Hand-Written Notes Are Proof of an Investment by the Writer

More than 15 years ago I wrote a handwritten note to a potential client that had chosen NOT to use the services of one of my companies. In the note I thanked her for her time and what I learned from our many conversations that helped me better position our services to others. The note came from my heart, and not as some robotic response to the circumstances. In late 2019 that same individual made a copy of the note and texted it to me with this message: “I have held on to this note this past decade because it showed you cared about more than just getting my business. It’s this impact that has caused me to reach out and engage your team on our next large project.”

Don’t worry about writing the “right” thing. Focus on writing from the heart. Ask yourself – who can you be an encouragement to right now on your team?


5. Learn the 3 Minute Rule

For the first 3 minutes of every conversation, make it about the other person. Go beyond the small talk about the weather or last night’s game and show people attention, affirmation, and appreciation. Instead of focusing on yourself, focus on the making the other person feel good and look good.

When most people meet others for the first time or after a few days of little interaction, they look for ways to make themselves look good. The key is to reverse the practice and make it about them.

Don’t kid yourself – talking about the other person, paying them a heart felt compliment, and showing appreciation for 3 minutes is not easy. This isn’t complicated, but it does take discipline in order to remember and become effective at it. Make no mistake, if you approach this in a way to encourage others and not to manipulate, the reward can be incredible for you and the other person!


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