Seven simple ways to bring out the best in your team, and help them work towards their strengths

The best employees bring more to organizations than just their ability to do the job, and their actual labour. They also bring their diverse perspectives, thoughts, ideas, skills, strengths, and unique talents. For this reason, regardless of your organization’s size, making an intentional effort to bring out the best in your employees is worth the investment many times over. Doing so allows your team to become more diverse, innovative, resourceful, efficient, loyal, productive, and overall, more inspiring to others. Just imagine a whole workforce like this!

The first and most crucial step is understanding that employees are all different, and one size rarely fits all. As an employer or manager, the goal is to get to know your employees, find out what they want, learn what drives and motivates them, and then attempt to meet those varying needs. You might learn, for example, that some employees require ongoing reassurance, while others focus best when allowed more autonomy. Knowing this may help shape your management style towards better overall performance.

How can you find out what your employees want?

1. Take the time to really listen to them

As early on as their orientation and through both day-to-day conversations and formal performance discussions, talk to them about their goals and consider how the role can be shaped to fulfill these. Finding out what works for your employees boils down to developing relationships with them, listening to them, and understanding what makes them tick.

2. Offer meaningful rewards

Make sure you offer rewards in a personal, meaningful way. While incentive programs are often linked to performance, what works for one organization (or department, team, employee, etc.) might not work for another. There are countless variations of performance and incentive plans out there and employees are all motivated by different things. For some, it’s about making more money, while for others, the ability to work from home, have more flexibility, or take a course is more of an incentive.

3. Communicate effectively and set clear expectations

Employers and managers often assume everyone knows how to communicate effectively (including themselves) but – given the diverse range of needs and styles of communication – this is often not the case. When an employee carries out a task or project that wasn’t in line with your expectations, do you consider whether you were clear about the objectives and intended outcome? Did you clearly define the requirements? How well did you engage your employees in the process? If something isn’t quite right, help them work with you or others on the team to make things better.

The opposite of effective, open communication is a team left in the dark – and who will often fill in the blanks themselves. Did we meet this month’s targets? Are there any new employees joining the team soon? Whatever happened to the ideas they put forward – were they any good? Worse still is a team torn apart by internal gossip and politics, which can destroy the sense of trust that employees have in their employer and negatively impact the business. Foster an environment in which there’s no need for gossip, by encouraging frequent and ongoing conversations in a safe setting, where employees feel free to air their thoughts, ideas, and concerns.

4. Learn and refine your coaching skills

Becoming a good coach is challenging work and can take time, but doing so enables you to explore the true potential of an employee – the benefits of which are enormous. By clarifying your needs of them and sharing performance feedback, along with praise, encouragement, and active listening, you create an environment in which an employee feels comfortable with and confident about how and what they’re doing.

One of your goals as a coach is to build trust and foster a relationship where employees can come to you for support. That doesn’t mean you should solve their problems, but they may need your help in finding a way towards the solution. To do this, use coaching skills such as listening, collaboration, facilitating and problem solving.

5. Be a positive role model

As a business leader, you need to demonstrate the kind of behaviour that you’d like your employees to emulate. By consistently demonstrating a high level of knowledge, skills, honesty, ability, and reliability, you can build trust among your employees, enabling you to bring out their best. Additionally, if you become the kind of employer they look up to and are proud of, they’re more likely to believe in, collaborate with, and walk alongside you. This leads to a team that pulls together in the same direction – the results of which can be astounding.

6. Create a strong organizational culture and purpose

One of the ways in which you can help create engaged employees is to make your organization stand for something people want to believe in. Most people like to feel that they’re part of something larger than themselves – that they have a higher purpose. If you can get your employees to feel excited about the larger purpose of your organization, you can bring out the best in them. You will also help foster strong teamwork and cooperation across the organization. This starts with defining and being intentional about your organizational culture, and the shared set of values and beliefs that are embraced by everyone. It’s the glue that holds your organization together and can be a big reason people want to work for and with you.

As part of creating a strong organizational culture, it’s important to be clear about it from the outset, starting with your hiring process. When hiring, consider your values and whether your potential new employee will align with them. Accordingly, as a business leader, to truly cement and foster your culture, you must explicitly support and reinforce your values and organizational culture with your actions and behaviour. It’s also necessary to clarify these values for your teams and encourage employees to adopt these principles.

Finally, to really make your values and culture stick, it’s important to implement HR policies and practices that integrate with both. Combining a well-established organizational culture with integrated HR practices significantly helps facilitate an organization that’s actively driven towards its goals, and a workforce that’s well-informed, motivated, and productive.

7. Ensure employees understand how they can impact success

Employees who have high rates of job satisfaction understand why they were hired, how they can impact organizational success, and tend to work harder and smarter. Find out what their goals are and then align what they do to how they can achieve their goals. Make it clear before hiring them that you expect them to play a key role in helping the organization achieve certain goals through the use of their diverse backgrounds and strengths. Let them know what success would look like and then empower them to help you achieve that success. Organizations, teams, and respective roles should allow and empower employees to work to their strengths, otherwise it’s the wrong role (or organization) for them. It’s a high standard, but the right one to insist upon.

There are many other ways to bring out the best in your employees. We can work with you to find what works in your organization.