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Team Development: Re-Inspire Your Staff

Outstanding service starts internally, with you.

When employees feel uninspired, they don’t think about how to improve the systems at their facility. They aren’t interested in sharing their great ideas, and they don’t care about really engaging their clients. They show up, do their jobs and put in just enough effort to mitigate performance issues, but they don’t extend themselves any further. You have to remind them to smile when they’re greeting members and remind them to call clients by name. Their bodies show up for work, but their hearts and souls are missing.

Does this sound familiar? Did your team begin with high hopes, only to settle into a culture of “What’s in it for me?” Are your attempts to remedy the situation being met with resistance? The fitness facilities that will survive this slow economic recovery know how to engage their people—a process that begins internally.

No one really knows the secret recipe for building a highly functional and productive team. If it were that easy to bring the right people together, every sports team would have the perfect mix of players. There are just too many variables to consider when you combine different personalities. There are, however, three elements that are consistently part of the mix:

  • People want to work for an organization that genuinely cares about them.
  • Employees stay engaged when their manager takes the time to help them continue to grow in their roles.
  • Staff members want to feel as if they are contributing to a greater cause, which gives their work meaning and purpose and builds a sense of community.

In this four-part series on team development, you will learn how to build your own high-performance team by implementing these three elements. Let’s begin by focusing on building rapport.

Building Rapport

We all share one simple need: to be loved. In a work environment, caring and recognition fulfill this basic human need. You can show people that you care by recognizing them for their efforts and appreciating them. If you ignore this, people mentally and emotionally disengage.

Have you ever felt like you were just another cog in the wheel? Or did you ever take the initiative on a project, only to be shot down or simply not recognized? Did being treated that way make you feel like trying again? Perhaps the first time it happened, you didn’t let it bother you. But what about the second, third or fourth time? You likely reached a point where you’d had enough disappointment, so you mentally checked out.

The above scenario applies to the people who work for you as well. Unless you show your team that you care and want to recognize them for their accomplishments, you may end up leading people who have checked out. To help you gauge who’s still in the game and who’s sitting on the bench, ask yourself these simple questions:

  1. When was the last time someone on your team took the initiative to go beyond expectations?
  2. During a staff meeting, does everyone actively participate and contribute ideas?
  3. Do you hear rumors that the staff get together after meetings to discuss issues they didn’t feel comfortable bringing up with the group as a whole?
  4. Do people on the team take time to recognize each other for a job well done—without prompting from management?

The answers to these questions reveal a lot about the functionality of your team. If people feel valued, cared for and comfortable, they present their ideas freely. They feel safe sharing even the craziest ideas, because they aren’t afraid of rejection. If the group feels valued during a meeting, everyone contributes ideas as a unit and builds on one another’s suggestions. You don’t have to work hard to get people to speak up. You know that the whole team is emotionally invested in building the business, because they feel they are part of the business.

If your team holds cliquish “water cooler” meetings after your formal group meetings, you have a dysfunctional team on your hands. No topic, idea or concern should be discussed outside the group if it can’t be discussed inside the group. When this happens, a small problem can quickly become a larger one.

Sometimes, problems are difficult to bring up, especially if they’re not positive. But good teams discuss all the issues and work together to provide solutions. Dysfunctional teams grumble, gossip and destroy. Once the grumbling starts, it’s like a cancer: if it’s not cured right away, it will continue to grow and spread. And the disease will infect even the healthiest team members.

If your team takes the initiative to publicly recognize others for a job well done just because they want to, you know you have a group of people who have bonded with each other. This is the essence of a team: people helping other people become their best.

Simply stated, teams that share ideas freely, tackle issues openly and communicate respectfully are unstoppable. This environment can exist only within a group that feels cared for, valued and appreciated. Your role as manager, supervisor or owner is to create this culture. If you want your staff to care about your business, engage other team members and connect to customers, then you must start by modeling those behaviors yourself.

Getting Started

Here are five things you can do right now if you need to change your team’s culture:

  1. Engage your team. Talk to your team members individually, and find out what gives them joy in their work. Provide cross-training opportunities in areas that offer the greatest fulfillment.
  2. Get to know the people on your team. When you take the time to connect personally with the people on your team, it sends a clear message that you care. Pay attention; remember important personal details that matter to members individually.
  3. Be accessible. If you say you have an open-door policy but your door is always shut or you’re never around, you are not being accessible. Your team needs an active leader, so be present for them.
  4. Demonstrate transparency. When people feel they are in the loop, they feel valued. Don’t keep people in the dark about what’s happening in the business. Be open and inclusive. This builds trust and dispels rumors.
  5. Get results. Teams like to win. Playing on a team that continually loses, or doesn’t know that it is winning, isn’t any fun. A team can’t stay a team under those circumstances. Get results for your group, and show your team members they are on the winning side. Their motivation will increase, and they will want to push the team forward to more victories.

A high-performance team is today’s secret weapon for business success. Armed with the right people and the right attitude, your business can be virtually unstoppable. In the next part of this series, we’ll look at employee retention and team-building strategies—to keep your dream team working at peak efficiency.

Donna Hutchinson

Donna Hutchinson owns On The Edge Fitness Educators. Based in North Vancouver, British Columbia, she is a fitness business coach and author of How-To Guide to Starting Your Own Personal Training Business. In 2007, she was nominated for the Women of Excellence Award and the Business Person of the Year Award. Find out more at www.edgefit.ca.

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