My son-in-law once asked my daughter, "How often are these plants meant to be watered" Three hanging baskets of greenery hung in their living room bay window. He touched the soil of each plant to see if they were dry.
"Oh, I don't know, " she shrugged, "They looked fine so it didn't cross my mind to water them."
"Even though something looks fine, " he said, "it still requires regular care."
Many leaders make the mistake of neglecting the responsibility to give regular care to their team because everything "appears fine". I believe there are 4 key areas that leaders need to regularly care for in regards to their team:
It is the role of the leader to stir inspiration into the morale of the team. Team members need to be regularly reminded of the "why" they are doing what they are doing. Team meetings should not solely be about "what" needs to get done but "why" it needs to be done.
It is the leader who holds the paint brush and therefore they alone can paint a picture of "possibilities" for their team to draw inspiration from. If a leader fails to do this, the team will lose heart when the inevitable challenges interrupt the work. It is this picture of vision that will encourage the team to keep going despite the difficulties they face.
Leaders ought to take responsibility in educating their team in the skills, values, and greater understanding of the task at hand. Leaders should encourage and arrange team members to attend to conferences, local workshops, events, and even enroll them in online courses that will further sharpen their ability to perform at maximum potential.
Leaders can also host special "educational" workshops 'in house' which will give them the unique opportunity to tailor the experience to the specific needs of the team. I have known great leaders to invite guests will special skills and experience to "take over" a staff/team meeting and help enhance the team with an education of how to accomplish the goals of the organization. Team members feel valued when leaders invest in them educationally.
The very best leaders are very good at catching their team members do something "right". It is crucial for the care of team to recognize great work. Team members need to be praised by their leaders. Each leader may possess their own style of "recognizing" team members but what is MOST IMPORANT is that it is done regularly. Not only will this foster further excellent performance but it will sow confidence intro each team member... and confidence produces results.
Team members who believe that their leaders are "cheering" them on will find strength to keep pushing through the difficult areas of the work.
To really care for the team, a leader must be willing to evaluate each team member and the team as a whole. What is working? What is not? Who can improve? What are the next steps in moving forward?
The most effective way to conduct an evaluation is to decide when and how will it be done and then to just DO IT! Leaders need to know how their team is doing but more so, team members need to know how they are doing. They need to hear the unique perspective of their leader in regards to their performance. This will help them to strengthen in their weak spots as well as recognize their own growth.
Leaders, do not make the mistake of neglecting to care for your team! Even if everything appears to be fine, take a closer look! Don't wait until your team is burned out, shriveled up and ready to kill each other before you step in and give some TLC. Choose to make it your practice and responsibility to care for them regularly. You will find that if you do, your team will grow strong, healthy, and give life to your organization.
Todd Polyniak is a partner at SAX and is an expert in Not-For-Profit financial health for over 30 years.