How to Motivate Colleagues for Effective and Balanced Teamwork

iStock_000002328740XSmallLeading a group project or team initiative is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your leadership and management skills. However, little is more frustrating than when team members do not contribute equally to the task at hand. Uncooperative group members may not complete their work on time, refrain from participating in group meetings, or approach work with a negative attitude.

While unequal contributions from team members make projects unnecessarily difficult, this behaviour occurs more often than you may think. Such behaviour can hinder the success of a project – both the process and the end result.

As team leader, how can you motivate all team members to be engaged and supportive during a group effort? Last week’s post discussed how to motivate yourself; this week, we focus on others around you. Here are three suggestions for managing a balanced and effective team.

  • Delegate Tasks According to the Interests of Group Members
    When employees are not pursuing tasks that they are passionate about, interested in, or skilled at, they can be far less committed to approach them with an enthusiastic outlook.

    When assigning tasks for a group initiative, pay attention to the interests and abilities of your team. If you customize your division of labour to these characteristics, your project may proceed more smoothly. Further, it will show that you are interested in the needs of each individual group member, which could boost their morale and trust in you.

  • Foster Good Communication on All Platforms
    Practically speaking, all group contributions should be readily and easily accessible for all other team members to access. If your team does not work from a shared server at the office, ensure that files are available through cloud-based sharing platforms or other formats that are easy to use for group members. This tactic, as well as setting clear goals and due dates, will help everyone to stay aware of the progress of the work as a whole and better enable others to contribute their portions on time.

    Logistical matters aside, it is also important to foster effective communication among group members and provide opportunities to discuss issues. When issues remain unaddressed for long periods of time, they can grow until they are no longer manageable and may hinder the success of the project.

  • Create a Tone of Friendliness and Respect
    You do not need to become great friends with all of the members of your team. However, it is important to generate an atmosphere of friendliness and respect among all team members. When you maintain a friendly tone (even in the face of issues!), the group dynamic will be far more pleasant and it will be easier for team members to commit themselves to their work – and remain committed throughout the process.

    Further, as team members begin to produce results, ensure that you are recognizing each colleague equally for their efforts. Imbalanced recognition can make it seem that you prioritize or favour certain individuals, which will reflect poorly on your leadership skills.

For further reading on managing effective teams and motivating team members, see our previous blog post on “Top Team Building Activities” or the Harvard Business Review’s “Make Your Good Team Great.”

Internal Communication and Respect: Just as Important As External Relations

article-new-thumbnail_ehow_images_a01_ur_gr_win-employees-respect-800x800Have you ever been to a shop or a restaurant and spoken with a friendly, helpful manager – only to watch that manager turn around and speak rudely to his or her employees? At that moment, did the store or restaurant suddenly lose its credibility? Think about this situation and apply it to your own company: does your organization respect its employees as much as its external clients and partners?

Even for companies that prioritize customer service and external relations, it is essential to foster positive internal communication and respect for employees. Without a strong internal foundation, external relations can’t follow suit – and external contacts will notice fissures in an organization that has weak internal relations. Also, an organization likely will have less focus and lower quality outputs if internal staff does not communicate well or feel appreciated.

Here are a few strategies to consider for improving your company’s internal communication:

  • Invite different forms of communication.
    While certain employees might feel that a face-to-face discussion is the most effective way to communicate, others may be more comfortable with email correspondence. As management, suggest different forms of communication through which employees can reach you or their supervisors directly. In addition, resources such as staff-wide forums (online or in-person) or informal monthly gatherings keep multiple communication channels open – and set the tone for a culture of communication.
  • Provide clear solutions for problem solving.
    It is important for employees to know where to go or whom to speak with when issues arise in the office. Otherwise, small problems occasionally can grow into job-threatening issues. The most obvious solution is having a strong and approachable Human Resources department. Ensure that HR employees are at the top of their game through professional development training and conference opportunities
  • Promote interdepartmental communication.
    In most companies, various departments rely on one another to complete their own work, whether directly or indirectly. However, many departments end up working in silos with little to no understanding of the objectives of other teams in the same company – even those working right down the hallway. Through team-building solutions and company-wide events, promote interdepartmental communication.

    It is important for staff to understand how their work fits within the work of the whole company as well as how it contributes to the efforts of others. With a better collective understanding of the overarching institutional objectives and strategies, employees will be able to pinpoint how their work contributes to the company as a whole – thereby finding more meaning in their own work.

  • As management, find ways to respond to employees directly.
    Simply because of the overwhelming number of responsibilities for executive-level staff, it is often necessary for an assistant to respond to emails and manage the bulk of the communications. Occasionally, however, it is important for employees to be able to reach company leaders directly. Employees should know that upper management is aware of the work and that it matters to the success of the company. Even a brief encouraging email to a department or an acknowledgment on a first-name basis can make a difference.

 

 

Workplace Culture: What Defines it, and Why is it Important?

Bookmark this on Delicious
View our profile on LinkedInFind us on FacebookFollow us on Twitter

Workplace culture: this general term is often used to describe the atmosphere of an office, and can be an indicator for workplace attire and other formalities of a company. However, workplace culture can encompass so much more than simply office attire – and can even influence the direction of your company. In this post we examine workplace culture, and what a good culture can do for your organization.

What defines workplace culture?

Workplace culture is influenced by the fundamentals of your company, as well as the daily behaviours of your employees.

  • The foundation of workplace culture is based on the foundation of your organization itself. The mission and vision of your company, its products and services, and the target audience or consumer of your company’s message all influence the way it is both projected to the public and reflected internally.
  • On a daily basis, your employees and colleagues also influence workplace culture. Their attitudes toward work, their behaviours and work habits, as well as their styles – in the broad sense of the term, which could include style of dress, character, communicating and more – all contribute to the overall environment.
  • Finally, the way in which the management team runs the company and treats its employees significantly influences the office culture.

What does workplace culture influence?

Workplace culture has an effect on both the internal employees and external stakeholders of an organization.

  • The feel of an office in turn affects how the employees feel – and function – on a daily basis. If a workplace culture is unwelcoming, overly formal, unreceptive, or any number of negative atmospheres, the employees will internalize these sentiments and perhaps even begin to reflect them. On the other hand, in an office that promotes good communication and strong but not rigid structure, staff usually will function well under these parameters.
  • Workplace culture also influences how clients and other external stakeholders perceive a company. On a superficial level, if a client steps in to a company on any given day, it should look professional and tidy. Additionally, workplace culture can indicate to a client or partner just how efficiently and effectively a team is working.

Why is a good workplace culture important?

Simply by reviewing the myriad components and effects of workplace culture, we can already see that the culture of an office can influence its success greatly.

  • In a good workplace culture, employees will thrive. An effective workplace culture will make employees feel comfortable, not only on a daily basis, but also in serious situations where a serious issue may arise and employees can trust that it will be handled appropriately.

For employees, an effective workplace culture also means that there is structure and professionalism, which will facilitate efficiency and structure in their own work. In turn, when employees thrive and feel valued, companies often see a higher retention rate and a greater value of work from its staff.

  • Also, no matter what the level of formality, from business casual to business formal, a good workplace culture means that a client or key stakeholder can walk in at any time and perceive the company as high-caliber and professional. Workplace culture is flexible and subjective, but good quality is not.

All employees influence the culture of their workplace, simply by their presence. Managers and other leaders of a company, however, have a truly significant influence by setting a precedent and creating a trusting and professional environment. If you are in a leadership role, reflect on how you influence your workplace culture – and if you have the power to make changes to improve it.

Learn more about workplace culture and Toronto workplace etiquette classes at Corporate Class Inc.

 

How Business Etiquette Contributes to Engaged Workplaces

Follow us on TwitterFind us on FacebookView our profile on LinkedIn

 

Recently, The Globe and Mail released a report on the 50 most engaged workplaces in Canada. Engagement in the workplace, which, according to The Globe and Mail, is defined by “employees’ passion for their work and commitment to the company’s vision,” holds significant influence on a company’s success on so many levels: employee retention, customer relations and the ability to deliver on objectives, among countless others.

Business etiquette undeniably is a part of what creates an engaged workplace. The judging panel for this award evaluated companies based on the following eight elements: communication, leadership, culture, rewards and recognition, professional and personal growth, accountability and performance, vision and values, and corporate and social responsibility. How is business etiquette integral in certain elements of this criteria?

Communication
Business communication takes many forms: from internal to external, interpersonal to technological, everyday exchanges to larger issues management. For a business to be successful, all channels of communication must run smoothly, and business etiquette can facilitate this success.

  • Technological Communication ranges from email, texting, phone calls, voicemail, or conference calls – any form of communication that is not face-to-face. When you think about how often you use tech-based communication every day, mastering the nuances of these forms of communication – such as how to introduce yourself on a conference call or how to compose a respectful email in a difficult situation – becomes essential.
  •  Interpersonal Communication also can occur in various situations: casual meetings between colleagues, an important client or partner dinner, or a networking event. A gauge on properly handling communication in any one of these contexts is crucial to making professional connections.

Professional and Personal Growth
A company that provides its employees with the potential for growth and development is certainly on a path to success. Opportunities like seminars, trainings, lunch-and-learn sessions, or individual consulting can make a world of difference in an employee’s performance.

When business etiquette, professional image or executive presence are addressed in these contexts, an individual becomes more confident and self-aware, while simultaneously contributing the benefits and strengths of their newly sharpened traits to the rest of the team. Corporate Class Inc. provides a Executive Presence System, includes six core modules: interpersonal communication skills, techno-communication skills, workplace etiquette and best practices, presentation skills, business dress and executive dining skills.
Culture
A harmonious workplace culture functions on the respect that employees have for their colleagues, their company and for themselves. This respect is made manifest through good workplace etiquette – in essence, a necessary standard for how employees treat one another.

It’s no wonder that business etiquette and professional development are key to a company’s success – simply look no further than the role of business etiquette in the elements that define Canada’s top 50 most engaged companies!

Please share this blog post with others!

Setting the Stage in Your Company with Good Communication & Business Etiquette

Follow us on TwitterFind us on FacebookView our profile on LinkedIn

Directors, VPs, managers and other business leaders hold the keys to facilitating vital client and partner relationships, and so must present their best possible image and business etiquette skills when dealing with external contacts. Equally as important is for these company leaders to set the stage within their businesses and exhibit the same top-notch communication and conduct with their own employees. This is important not only for individual employee retention and morale, but also to keep the company as a whole running smoothly and cohesively.

Are you a business leader? Take note of these tips to project a top-notch image and facilitate good communication within your company.

  • Schedule occasional “check in” meetings with each individual on your team. Make an effort to connect with each individual in an informal setting (such as a coffee date or lunch), so that they can voice any concerns, discuss their current status, or simply catch up. Your willingness to set aside dedicated time for individuals will show your staff that you value each team member’s contributions and that you treat all levels of employees with the same respect.How often you meet and with whom depends on the size of your company: if you run a smaller organization, be sure to set aside time for everyone from colleagues on the management team to members of the support staff. If you are in a larger company, ensure you connect with everyone within your department, and advise managers of other departments to do the same.
  • Facilitate team-building or strategy exercises.
    With the fast pace of day-to-day obligations and minutiae, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture and where the organization is headed. It is up to the company leaders to arrange for the group to take a step back and remind the team of the overall and cohesive objectives of the business. Organizing group sessions that invite all employees to review larger perspectives and long-term strategies are beneficial for keeping the team on the same path.Team-building activities unrelated to business objectives are also advantageous; fun and casual sessions that sharpen collaborative skills will be a refreshing exercise to most employees. Also, this will once again positively display your willingness as a manager to take extra time to focus on staff development and morale.
  • Invite anonymous feedback and criticism.
    Even providing the option for members of staff to voice their criticism shows that you are willing to grow and change as a leader to fit your employees’ needs. Staff will appreciate your readiness to listen and to incorporate feedback, whether or not they have any criticism of your management style.
  • Set an example with your best professional image.
    As a business leader, you must project the best professional image, not only to represent your own and your company’s professionalism, but also to set the tone and expectations for your own employees.A refined image will demonstrate to your staff that you are a serious, hardworking and confident leader. It will also encourage them to follow the same level of professionalism, so that your whole team represents the caliber of your company as you define it.

 

Share this blog post with others!

Why Engaged Listening Matters in Business

Follow us on TwitterFind us on FacebookView our profile on LinkedIn

 

In a humorous and insightful essay in last weekend’s issue of the Globe and Mail, Katrina Onstad analyzes today’s growing disappearance of eye contact, which she cites as “the most potent tool of body language.” This essay struck a note with me, particularly because eye contact is so critical for effective communication and engagement in business, not just in social life. Likewise, knowledge of how to use devices respectfully, especially smart phones, is also very important – and, as Onstad notes, is a central reason for the current absence of eye contact and therefore engaged communication. Her concept, put in a business perspective, could help you keep on top of your game in business communication.

 

Engaged Speaking and Listening

As we have shared in another recent blog post on body language tips, body language can help to make or break your career. And as eye contact is a significant component of body language, it certainly carries weight in your career-related interactions.

In one-on-one situations, eye contact demonstrates to the other person in the conversation that you are interested in what they have to say. As your posture and gestures can reflect boredom or disengagement, a lack of eye contact will make this painfully obvious. As you will see in my earlier post, if what you say is not congruent with your body language, then people will believe your body language and not your words.

Eye contact is necessary during individual conversations. A less obvious context but equally as important for good eye contact is during public speaking or talking to a group. Effective public speakers scan the audience during a talk, maintaining eye contact with listeners in the crowd. When up onstage, keep in mind not to focus on one person the whole time, but move your eyes throughout the crowd. This will make the listeners feel like you are speaking directly to them as individuals, and will keep them engaged throughout the duration of your speech.

Likewise, even in a more casual context of a group or staff meeting, be sure to allow your eyes to move from person to person. Again, this will create the effect that you are speaking to them instead of at them.

 

Focus on the Conversation

Another component of Onstad’s essay that is both inseparable and foundational to her argument for sustaining eye contact is the argument that our devices – most notably, our cell phones – are making us less engaged with those around us. This concept is also important to keep in mind in a business setting, whether we are interacting on a daily basis with a colleague or trying to impress a client.

 

Cell Phones in Meetings

Often in day-to-day meetings, it is considered acceptable to have a smart phone or laptop present, as the rest of the workday continues and people need to keep on top of their tasks and emails. Nevertheless, try to check emails minimally, and don’t have a phone sitting right in front of you – or else you will be tempted to pick it up every time you receive an email. In doing so, you will be removing yourself from the discussion or blatantly disregarding what someone is saying.

It is for this reason that many companies have established a “no devices” policy during certain meetings, notably during staff meetings that occur only once per week or month. Otherwise, members present risk being distracted by other work.

During important and less frequent meetings, such as those with external clients or guests, no devices should be present. Keeping preoccupied with one would not only reflect poorly on you, but also on your company. If your ringer goes off during such a meeting, turn off the phone without checking to see who is calling and apologize after the meeting.

Cell Phones at the Dinner Table

Though phones and other devices are often acceptable in meetings, it is never appropriate to keep one on the table (or on your lap) during a meal. Again, if you are out on a business lunch with a client or a company guest, bad business etiquette becomes a poor representation of your company.

While cell phones on the dinner table are inappropriate, it is equally unacceptable to try to use a phone discreetly – due to the reality that it simply won’t be discreet. In her essay, Onstad describes a situation that happens all too frequently:

You are mid-sentence and suddenly the listener’s eyes slide southward to her own hand or the table or her lap. Whether she glances back immediately or – and this hurts – begins pecking away at whatever device proved more important than the final part of your sentence, the moment of connection that came before has snapped like a twig.

In business, moments like these are not only rude, but they can also be destructive to your credibility.

In daily life, remembering to put down our devices and make eye contact is important if we want to actively engage with our surroundings and with the people around us. In business, doing just that is crucial to effective communication, to displaying the best level of professionalism, and ultimately to advancing your career.

 

Share this blog post with others!