We all have been dreaming of a work environment that inspires energy, that increases our confidence and our productivity. And that’s why McKinsey asked the leaders what “ingredient” is most missed for them and their colleagues in team management. And the answer was almost unanimous: lack of a meaning. And what does a company meaning mean? Basically, it’s the feeling that what is being done by the company has not been done before, or, above all, that the team’s work will make a difference.
More than 5000 executives have been questioned by McKinsey over the past decade. In one of the exercises, they should recall the situation in which their teams had their best performance and, then, identify which conditions made it possible. Altogether, there were three conditions:
1. Intelligence. The team had well-defined roles, clearly understood the goals and had access to the knowledge and resources needed to do their job.
2. Emotion. People trusted and respected each other, made constructive criticism, had healthy disagreements, and showed sense of humor. In short, there was a general feeling of “we’re in this together.”
3. Meaning. Although intelligence and emotion have been essential to create the conditions for an excellent team performance, they are far from enough. Most of the executives responses revealed that what led the team to work so productively mainly were: high risks and the notion of challenge because that work was unprecedented and would impact other people.
Strategy #1 Tell a story has not been told yet
You must be tired to see leaders telling stories to inspire their teams. There are basically two types – “The Turnaround” is something like this: “Our performance is below the average of the market and must change radically if we want to survive. Investors don’t look for companies…” The second story is “Good is the enemy of great” and begins: “Together we are able of much more, given our market position, our assets, skills and loyal staff, and we can become market leaders in the near future…”. The problem with these stories is that they talk only about the company. They can even inspire some, but not all. Four other stories are able to give professionals a direction, once talk about their ability to make an impact over:
• Society. For instance: by transforming the way people work/study/travel/eat/dress/communicate;
• Customer. For instance: by making your life easier by providing a service or a product of superior quality;
• Team. For instance: by impacting others in the group they belong, working to create an environment where people care to each other;
• Themselves. For instance: by creating a successful path, becoming a more skilled and mature professional, maybe being paid a higher wage or a bonus for it.
Strategy #2 More than telling, ask
The first strategy gives specific and practical guidance on how to tell a good story with meaning and honesty. However, McKinsey found that the best “meaning makers” are those who spend more time questioning rather than telling. As an example, they elect David Farr. The CEO of Emerson Electric is known by his team management, since he makes four great questions to virtually everyone in his company:
1. How do you make a difference here?
2. What improvement idea are you working on?
3. When did you last get coaching from your boss?
4. Who’s the enemy?
Strategy #3 Prove you have sensibility
According to McKinsey, most annual compensation plans depends on many performance variables, what makes harder to measure the contribution of each one. Although most managers dismiss symbolic gestures, the truth is that the set of interviews led by the consulting firm found that motivation to work and connection to the company can last for months, and even years, if there is a gesture of gratitude on the part of leaders. Among great examples that you can follow there are John McFarlane, ANZ Bank, who gave all employees a bottle of champagne for Christmas and a thank you card for their work, and Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, who sent to spouses of her top team handwritten thank-you letters.
If you admire these initiatives, remember the advice given by Sam Walton, founder of the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart: “Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They’re absolutely free and worth a fortune.”
It seems that now you have a good sense for completely renewing your team management. But there is still one strategy missing: to change the way your team works. In order to do that, my advice is to use a project and performance management software, such as Runrun.it. Try it for free and be surprised with the increase of productivity: http://runrun.it
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