Show Your Team You Love Them and Watch Performance Soar

You may be asking the same question as Tina Turner's famous song, "What's love got to do with it?". You might even be inclined to hit delete!

Here's the leadership research that would advise you not to:

Research #1 - Research conducted by Marcial Losada shows just how important it is to demonstrate your affection for your team.  His research, reported in Shawn Anchors book, The Happiness Advantage, indicates "it takes about three positive comments, experiences, or expressions to fend off the languishing effects of one negative".

That's 3:1 in favour of showing your love! That's enough to drive the manager who thinks "I'm not going to thank them just for doing their job" caah-razy! 

It gets even better (or worse, if you are the manager I just mentioned, but they've likely hit delete). 

The research shows that when you dip below a 3:1 ratio, workplace performance quickly declines. However, when you rise above it, "teams produce their very best work".  To get that result, you need a 6:1 ratio of positive to negative experiences.

The good news, you don't have to run be the one who consistently provides the feedback. You can create ongoing experiences for them that does.

Research #2 - Leadership researchers, James Kouzes and Barry Posner, concluded in their best selling book, The Leadership Challenge, that "The best-kept secret of successful leaders is love: staying in love with leading, with the people who do the work, with what their organizations produce, and with those who honour the organization by using its products and services."  

"Leadership is not an affair of the head.  Leadership is an affair of the heart." Kouzes and Posner 

It's easy for us to say things like, "I love the sea", or "I love my work" or "I love my new car".  It's not as easy to tell your team "I love you" and I certainly don't expect you to do that, unless that's in your nature!

So, how can you, as their leader, activate your team's excitement and desire to perform?  How do you lead with love in a way that is appropriate in the workplace?

Here's a few ideas that some of my clients have implemented:

SWAP TASKS:  In a leadership team retreat I facilitated, the General Manager admitted that having an operational manual  would be beneficial to solving some of the problems they were discussing.

After exploring her team's Everything DiSC styles at the retreat. She had an AHA moment. She realized that writing an operational manual was not in her wheel-house of strengths.  Just thinking about doing it made her skin crawl.

This Dominant style, results focused manager said, "I really loath doing this type of work."

One of the high Conscientious style and process-oriented managers in the group, raised his hand and said "I love doing that type of work. But I don't love to do X." Although I don't recall what his disliked task was, the point was made clear!  His task was more in her wheel-house then his.

What did they do?  They swapped tasks.  And everyone lived happily ever after ... at least for that day.

A take action challenge for you:  Create an opportunity for your team members to identify tasks they love and tasks they loath.  Then get them to swap tasks.  One of my client's even came up with the idea of creating a virtual task jar to help facilitate sharing of tasks.

CREATE A BEST IDEA OF THE MONTH CONTEST:  A CEO of an environmental consulting company I coached struggled with getting his consulting team engaged with improving business processes.

What did he do to solve this problem? He created a space to capture new ideas.  He posted a flip chart in their board room.  Whenever someone came up with a good idea, they added it to the "Idea of the Month" flip chart.

At the monthly company meeting, the team discussed the ideas posted.  They then chose the best one to implement that next month.  BONUS: The person with the best idea was rewarded with a gift card.

The team showed their love in return, by letting the CEO know that the Best Idea of the Month strategy showed he cared about what they had to say.  Top leaders need feedback too and rarely hear the positive stuff.

A take action challenge for you:  What's a regular point of team communication? How can you use that communication channel to encourage and capture their ideas and take action on them?

ATTEND A MEETING ON YOUR BEHALF:  In my humble opinion, nothing shows "I care about you" more then believing in someone.

Leadership expert John Maxwell suggests to never go to a meeting alone.  Why?  Because it's an opportunity to help someone learn and grow and ready themselves for a next step in their career.

I believe that sending someone to attend a meeting on your behalf demonstrates your trust and belief in them.  By learning through experience, they gain a new perspective on some of the challenges that you face.

Of course you need to think through your strategy here.  You need to ensure the meeting topics are not outside the scope of their level of confidentiality, and you need to spend time setting up expectations. Otherwise, your good intention goes unnoticed and the team member says "I was told to be here and I don't know why."

A take action challenge for you:  What meetings do you attend on a regular basis?  Which team members are interested in developing into a leadership role or other technical expertise?  What meetings could they attend with you or on your behalf, and then report back to you?

My hope is that these ideas inspire you to get creative and think about how you can activate greater team performance by showing your team you love them.  After all, actions speak louder than words.

Lisa Holden Rovers, MSc, CPHR, PCC, is the Founder of Workplace Matters. Since 2005, Lisa has been coaching entrepreneurs and executives to grow as leaders and spark team cultures that thrive. She’s an award-winning human resources professional and a certified leadership and team coach who is passionate about helping people step into what is possible.  

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