As I talk to business owners and entrepreneurs, I’m surprised at how many complain about having team members who feel taken for granted or have contributions not appreciated.
As an advisor and mentor, I’m always looking for more ways to improve communication, get people more engaged, and get more done. Great communication inside the organization and outside is the key to value.
I was pleased to see some specific guidance on how team members can better communicate their value at work without self-aggrandizing in a new book, Influence and Impact, by Bill Berman and George Bradt. The authors speak from experience having years of coaching in companies across multiple industries.
The authors agree with my own assessment that there are many ways, both subtle and not so subtle, that you can coach team members on how to communicate their value, what they are capable of, and what you are looking for from them.
Here are some of the key practices that the authors and I both recommend you emphasize:
1. Focus on delivering and over-delivering, consistently.
Coach your team that working hard over long hours is not enough. You are expecting relevant results, and have little sympathy for hard work that misses your expected target. They need to openly accept misses, make no excuses, and explain clearly what they have learned to get results.
Some good team members I know can’t resist the urge to say “yes” to all new requests, even when it jeopardizes their ability to deliver existing high-priority work. Ask them to not let ego or optimism get them tagged as someone who promises but rarely delivers.
2. Find opportunities to innovate, change, and accelerate.
Helping your organization adapt and get ahead with results will have a positive impact on everyone, and you will remember. Ask them to raise their hand when opportunities come along to address a problem or streamline a process. You need people willing to accept a challenge.
Every year new things happen (for example, the current COVID-19 pandemic) which raises the challenge of how to deal with new situations, new technology, and changing business trends. It pays to keep up with the world outside the office and communicate inside.
3. Solve problems for the business and peers.
Everyone can start by building business relationships with other team members and owners, so they should know the common goals, priorities, and challenges. If they can solve problems for you, you will see them as making an impact, and capable of taking on more responsibility.
When was the last time you sat down with individual team members and asked for an update on their view of priorities and key challenges? I’ve been on both sides in my career, and often been surprised by how views can differ. Understand their values.
4. Prioritize stakeholders essential objectives first.
Be able to provide a current understanding of these objectives by regularly asking for feedback from stakeholders, including vendors, customers, and peers, and really listening to what they need. At the same time, make sure everyone understands your goals, and the results you expect.
I’m not suggesting that you forgo your own objectives in favor of others, but most often I find there is common ground that you can capitalize on. Then your work becomes a win-win result, rather than win-lose. That means double the value and credit for all efforts.
5. Show perseverance and adaptability to the mission.
Building agility and timeliness are critical components of modern leadership, due to the pace and complexity of change today. Ask everyone to demonstrate a relentless focus on the company goals, with the mindset to initiate a variety of tactics to get to the desired objective.
Some people believe that perseverance means not asking for help or guidance when the going gets rough. Assure everyone that the most valued performers are actually ones who are not afraid to seek guidance from peers and experts, and communicate well.
Notice that while each of these practices requires good communication, all of them stop short of asking for blatant self-promotion, which can be grating to others, and actually work against value. You do have to make it clear that you want team members who will take on new and bigger responsibilities, but don’t let them assume that more influence and impact will come with time.
Build good relationships with the people who count in your organization, and focus on what your organization really needs from them. The result will be a greater sense of satisfaction from your efforts, and new opportunities to benefit from all the team can really do to grow the business.