How the best leaders inspire and engage their teams

It is known that managers are responsible for leading a team of people towards a common goal. Everyone on the team plays a different role, but this end result stems from their collective efforts. It is the manager’s duty to make sure that each person’s performance is in perfect harmony to achieve this result, but someone has to inspire performance. The key to this inspiration lies in an entirely different role – the role of a leader.

Let’s face it, not all managers are leaders. There is a thin line between the two, but in my experience, the ability to inspire team members comes from having the courage to improve for the good of the group. Only then will employees be really enthusiastic enough about the work they are doing.

Inspire engagement in your team

Your team’s engagement starts at the top of the corporate hierarchy and spills over to those who are dedicated to their work. While the captain may be at the helm of the ship, it is important to remember that it is the sailors who keep him afloat.

Each individual has their own leadership style, but a method that I have developed over the years has proven to be very effective in inspiring my teams. It revolves around three leader actions, or as I have come to call them, the three Ls of leadership: love, listen and laugh.

These three L’s represent not only my leadership style but also the culture of engagement that I cultivate within my teams. Each group has a distinct goal in achieving corporate goals, and each person on the team has a role to play in determining that success. Here’s how I used the L’s to inspire my team:

1. Love encourages loyalty

To guide your team with love, show empathy in difficult situations. Don’t be afraid to spread tough love every now and then, and never hold back positive emotions or miss any opportunity to showcase a team member’s accomplishments. As in personal relationships, it’s important to consider individual styles and preferences when communicating with your team.

My team members all get the same message from me, but I get the message across to some people differently based on my intimate knowledge of their communication styles. Some of my managers respond better to hearing a “great job on this sale”, and others enjoy one-on-one meetings rather than my vocal praise. I care enough about my team to take the time to understand how they communicate, and the result has been loyal employees committed to the mission of the team and the organization.

2. Listening reinforces respect

Being a manager doesn’t automatically guarantee total respect from employees – an inspiring leader knows that respect builds over time. This process begins by facilitating an open dialogue among your peers. Actively listening to their thoughts helps create these conversations. I can say with complete sincerity that by listening to others my team has been able to form and implement successful strategies with impressive results.

There is a great phrase that the managers of my sales teams use during meetings: “Don’t hesitate to challenge me, but…” a culture of engagement. Also, the best information I get doesn’t always come from a spreadsheet, it comes from what my team tells me. I can make better decisions with the help and support of my team.

3. Laughter creates equality

There is one element of business management that many people tend to forget: the human aspect. Teams are made up of individuals who have emotions and personalities – no one is like the other. Laughter humanizes leaders and flattens the hierarchy of the workplace, it sets the pace of the environment you create. If your team members aren’t laughing and having fun at work, something’s wrong in your office.

An example of the importance of laughter comes from the founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. When the two first met, their strong dueling opinions kept them from getting along, but it didn’t separate them. “We had some kind of joke” said Brin. They were loud, but they were constantly pushing each other’s ideas, like a knife sharpening another. To date, Google employees, which is known for its great culture – say that if the couple is leading a sales meeting, they start with daddy’s jokes. This does not mean that they are unprofessional; on the contrary, they put everyone at ease and show that they love the work they do.

Find your leadership Ls

As an admirer of George Washington, I often find that my personal management style has been influenced by his prestigious career. Washington was a great leader because he viewed his people as human beings, not just as tools to accomplish their goals. This is not only a testament to the caliber of ethics in Washington, but also reflects my approach.

Leaders who must strengthen their authority with all have a dangerous weakness. It is through your conduct as a leader that you will inspire your team and create a culture of engagement. I have found success in this business through my three L’s of leadership – they guided my actions and served as a solid foundation for my team members’ successes and their ability to bounce back from failures. I gladly care about their needs, listen to what they have to say and enjoy working alongside them. In return, they show the same loyalty and respect that I have shown them.

Great managers recognize that they can only manage tasks, not people. People need to be guided, they need to be given a purpose through which they feel they can make a difference. Whether or not these three L’s work for your organization is entirely up to you, but the takeaways apply to leaders in all circumstances. Find your style, inspire your team, and you’ll see how an engaged workforce benefits everyone.

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About Nancy Owens

Nancy Owens

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