How do we motivate others, lead and inspire a team when struggling with the day-to-day uncertainties and stressors in our own lives? This was a question that dominated 2020 and the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. It will continue to be relevant and essential, even after we get back to normal…and I have a feeling that it will be an all new normal when we overlay the ever-evolving technological advances of the fourth industrial revolution.
When in doubt, get back to basics. Maybe you’ve heard about the “KISS” process and that infamous acronym, Keep It Simple Silly (KISS), or perhaps it’s a new concept for you. Either way, it’s one that reminds us that when we feel doubtful, stressed, overwhelmed or on the brink of burnout, to take a deep breath and get back to basics.
The tried-and-true basics of leading a team no matter the industry, in my opinion, with experience and training as a military officer, veterinarian, politician, certified high performance coach, entrepreneur and podcast host, can be broken down into these five simple concepts and action steps:
- Set intentions and boundaries.
- Role model behavior.
- Invite others to participate.
- Recognize and celebrate achievements.
- Work on your personal development.
When I reflect on all of the training I’ve received, serving in varying and diverse roles throughout my veterinary career, these are the five concepts that keep appearing and re-appearing as a common thread, and they are behaviors that also lead to success. Four of them were referred to as the “Four Vital Behaviors” in one such training. Powerful stuff.
1. set Intentions and Boundaries
First we need to set our intentions and boundaries. You may have heard this referred to as “setting your vision,” “your why,” or “getting clear about your goals.” This is important because it’s what keeps the train on the tracks and prevents us from getting derailed along the way.
Think about that difficult conversation with a friend, family member or co-worker. If you took time to first ask, “What are the goals or outcomes I’d like to achieve here? How do I want them to feel? How do I want to feel?” and really thought about these questions and set some internal intentions before that conversation, would it have gone better? Would you feel calmer and more prepared when you are clear about wanting to also serve their needs and improve the outcome for all?
When new groups come together, the leader must share their leadership style, vision, goals and boundaries. Boundaries can simply be what the leader expects of the employees by giving them guardrails and allowing them space within those barriers to create new and innovative solutions for the group’s betterment. For example, saying something like, “I care about you and your families and understand we are navigating a new situation. I expect clear communication, and here is our new policy to help everyone meet their personal and professional needs right now. If you believe this policy is missing something important, please take that to HR so we can evaluate it promptly and consider your viewpoint.”
Great leaders then follow up, hold another meeting sharing any issues that were brought up (anonymously), how the issues were addressed and why—considering both the company’s and employees’ needs—and acknowledging any unresolved feelings or problems. It’s okay to be transparent and communicate clearly with others; in fact, it’s often necessary and how we build trust.
2. Role Model Behavior
If we want to see change, we first must be the change we want to see in the world. This statement is often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. His full quote, which I feel is much more powerful yet not as catchy, certainly speaks to role-modeling behavior: “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”1
In other words, role-model the behavior. It’s not always easy, but I do believe it’s necessary; after all, even Gandhi suggested as much.
3. Invite Others to Participate
If we find ourselves wondering why more people aren’t participating, or if we’re saying statements like, “No one wants to participate,” or “We can’t get anyone to be involved,” the question we need to ask is, “How many people have I personally invited to participate?”
The days of “I sent the email, and no one responded” are over. People need community; it’s one of our basic human drives for a sense of connection to others. People need to be personally asked to participate—and they want to be asked.
Sometimes, as leaders, we have to go the extra mile, pick up the phone or look someone in the eye and simply invite them to participate. You could say something like, “I noticed how great you are at training the kennel staff and working as a member of our team. We could really use your voice and perspective during our staff meetings. Is there a reason you don’t speak up more often?” In this example, we acknowledge the behavior we want role-modeled, invite them to participate and ask if there is a barrier or hurdle. We might learn something valuable as a leader in this scenario, and have an opportunity to improve our skillsets here as well as their experience. Win-win!
4. Recognize & Celebrate Achievements
No matter how big or small, it is important to recognize and celebrate achievements. As busy professionals, we sometimes forget to celebrate our own achievements because we consistently strive for more. Taking a moment to recognize all that we’ve accomplished before moving onto that next goal or task can have an incredibly positive impact on our mindset and wellbeing.
Let’s do that for others as well! What are three achievements that you can recognize and celebrate others for? Who can you surprise today with a text, note or statement of appreciation? It doesn’t have to be a big thing, but don’t we all like to be recognized for a job well done?
We sometimes think we are already doing this until we challenge ourselves to make this a daily practice. As soon as I started recognizing and appreciating team members’ efforts and actions more consistently, my whole life improved. The teams I led, both inside and outside of the exam room, became more driven, dedicated and committed to excellence. Even at the end of long, hard days, I make sure to thank everyone for their hard work, acknowledge that I know they did their best and appreciate how committed everyone was to work through it.
5. Personal Development
Lastly and perhaps most importantly, we must address our commitment as leaders to our own personal development. Each of us, myself included, has blind spots and weaknesses. Part of being a leader is committing to continuous learning, growth and trying new things to improve ourselves, our attitudes and our mindset.
What’s one skillset that you are committed to improving this year? Write that down and take consistent, daily action—even just five to 10 minutes. I’ll bet you improve that area of your life and achieve your goal in record time.
It’s easy to overlook one or more of these steps during uncertain times or when we feel overwhelmed and are just trying to survive. A mantra that helps me find the calm and strength to take a step back, get out of the weeds and truly support team members is, “Leaders are positive and calm when there is chaos.” It reminds me that taking the time to reflect on these five areas, listen to team members and make additional time for others to build positive relationships, both at work and at home, can have a much more positive impact than completing one more task or sending one more email ever would. +
Reference: 1. Repository of Authentic Information on the life and thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi. (n.d.). Page 158, Retrieved December 22, 2020 from https://www.gandhiheritageportal.org/cwmg_volume_thumbview/MTI=