Fantastic Teams #6 – Do YOU really understand?

How well do you really understand your team?

How much time do you invest in getting to know them?

What motivates every individual in your team?

Most often it’s assumed to be financial incentives but in fact, that’s not always the best motivator.

Do you understand what might be holding them back from giving their best?  What their aspirations truly are? What ideas they have that might help your business grow?

Research shows that a 20% improvement in team morale can have a 42% increase in financial performance in your business and yet so many employers take their team members for granted.

They believe their employees should be grateful to be employed and put heart and soul in to their jobs.  They issue their demands and expect mountains to be moved for them.  It just doesn’t happen does it.

There’s so much choice and opportunity these days that if someone chooses to work for you then you must be grateful for that.  You must show that appreciation and accept that their stay with you may be in the form of a stepping stone in their greater plan.  Make that stay valuable to both of you.

I’ve always found that the best way to engage your team is to spend quality 1 to 1 time with each of them.  This can take time but the rewards by far outweigh that.  When I spend quality time with each individual I discover…

  • How I can become a much better leader.
  • How well I’ve communicated the vision/mission and strategy to the team.
    • If the team didn’t get it, how can the customers and prospects be expected to?
  • What they value about the organisation.
  • What they believe its strengths and weaknesses are.
  • Fresh ideas to make the business better.
  • The inner aspirations they have about their long term career.
  • What’s really important to them.

This information is priceless.  For example…

As I eluded to above, it’s most often a misconception that the best way to motivate someone is via financial incentive.  What if, what someone really values, is spending quality time with their children whilst they’re growing up?  No additional amount of money is going to give them additional time in a 9am – 5pm working environment.  What if, by understanding this you agreed with that person that if they were to achieve a mutually agreed target of output for the day, they could leave early as long as quality and standards weren’t sacrificed.

That kind of incentive works for that individual, they know that if they put in the additional effort and produce more in less time they can leave earlier and spend more time with their children.  This compromise comes with a change of mindset. Employ for specific results and outcomes rather than hours worked.

I formalise this process with my team.  I allocate 90 minutes to each of them and aim to do this with each member of the team every six months.  I’ll confess that occasionally that frequency slips but it’s important to do this regularly.

In addition to the 90 minutes, I ask each of my team to complete a form full of thought provoking questions a week in advance.

This allows for each team member to cogitate when formulating their responses.  Then, when we get together, they’re not put on the spot.  For many, they need time to think and reflect, putting someone on the spot isn’t fair and also, you’re unlikely to get the best answer.  We simply go through the form together and in some cases I’ll dig deeper still to an answer they’ve given to really understand what’s behind it.

My form seeks to understand:

  • What they believe accountable for. Does this match what I believe?
  • How well they feel they’re treated and valued as a team member.
  • What learning they feel they should undertake to improve within their role.
  • How the business is doing and what could be done to improve it.
  • How their leader is leading them and what could be done to improve.
  • Their short and long term goals that they may not give sufficient thought without the prompt.

I see this process as a way to help develop the people I work with. Encouraging them to think about their aspirations helps to inspire them, gives them something to strive toward whether those aspirations can be achieved within my business or agreeing that my business is a stepping stone for them gives clarity on both sides.

You may fear encouraging your team to consider life away from your business but be realistic; if someone has a desire to do something beyond the remit of your business then surely it’s better to be aware and play a part in helping them achieve their longer term aspirations whilst they’re with you.  In addition, you can plan.  It’s better than having an environment where your team members are afraid to share these aspirations with you and then suddenly, out of the blue tell you they’ve found their dream job or they’ve made the decision to go it alone and now you’re left trying to fill a role with insufficient notice.

This process has allowed for new roles to be established within the business that play to peoples strengths and skills I didn’t realise they had.  As a result our employee turnover has been very low because people are able to expand and develop themselves within AVN.

From time to time we’ve helped our team members embark on the next chapter in their lives and because of this, our relationship has continued to be strong and even complimentary in our business connections.

Another fear of having these conversations is feeling exposed when asking for feedback about yourself as a leader.  Few people are natural born leaders and it’s good to keep an open mind.  You may not agree or want to adapt to everything that’s fed back.  But it’s useful to have the conversation.  Most often, it can be about communication either about the bigger picture or that you’re not providing enough detail on stuff you need doing OR it could be that you’re often moody or unapproachable too.  So having the conversations enables you to look for ways that you can improve as a leader – even if that simply means setting certain expectations.

There are lots of great reasons to have much more in-depth and candid conversations with your team. The benefits I find when running these Personal Development Reviews are plentiful.  We establish greater mutual respect, a better connection and in addition, increased loyalty and engagement in the business.

Remember this all important rule though.  Seek first to understand, then to be understood.  It’s easy to get on the defensive, to rationalise the way you work and operate. Dig deeper to find out why your team member feels they way they do.

Action to take.

Next time you’re in the office, go for a walk with a member of your team, invite them to give you open and honest feedback.  Ask them questions about how valuable they perceive their role to be in the business, how valued they feel they are, what’s important to them and dig a little deeper in to every response.

I’m happy to give you a copy of the form I use with accompanying guidance document.  Simply ping me an email at

If you’d like some clarity, help or guidance with this let me know via the comments box.

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Shane Lukas – Author of Amazon #1 best seller What’s Next for Accountants; How to make the biggest threat facing the profession your biggest opportunity.

Image courtesy of Matt Townsley –

Article Source: Shane Lukas