Creating a cohesive and inspired team is one of the hardest things to do as a leader, but it’s also one of the most important. You can recruit the best and brightest from Ivy League schools and mandate that all employees have an advanced degree in their area of focus but any experienced manager knows that doesn’t ensure business success. Without a positive and collaborative work environment, employees can become uninspired, distracted or frustrated.
As CEO of a tech company in a highly competitive industry, attracting and retaining talent is paramount. Throughout my career, I’ve learned first-hand how to create a culture where employees not only feel valued, but excited about the company’s mission and their role in achieving it.
Here are three tried-and-true strategies I’ve used to build winning teams:
1. Lead with trust and be inclusive.
By demonstrating to employees that your instinct is to trust they will do the right thing, you’ll find that people rise to the occasion and meet or even exceed expectations. Instilling this sense of purpose in your employees will make them feel valued, and they will often surprise you with what they’re able to do. Plus, it creates a team of incredibly loyal employees. At a young age, my managers invested and believed in me, which blew my career wide open. Today, I’m mindful of doing the same for my team.
Along those lines, it’s essential to be transparent and inclusive with your team; people want to feel important and be in the know with what’s going on at the company. A shocking 70 percent of workers are disengaged at work, according to a Gallup workforce survey. Don’t be in the majority here. If members of your team feel that they are in the same boat, they will help you row.
2. Facilitate exposure to outside ideas.
Though my company Sonian is based in Boston, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Silicon Valley over the years by virtue of being in the technology industry. During my time on the West Coast, I have noticed the Valley’s tendency to continually look outside office walls to help spark constant innovation and fresh thinking inside of them. It’s a simple but effective strategy and one that any company can implement from inception.
Always be on the lookout for ways to broaden every employee’s perspective. For instance, you may consider starting a company book club and facilitating a monthly discussion. Or maybe you institute a guest lecture series where successful people come in to share their personal tips for achieving goals. Inviting a mix of presenters inside and outside your company’s domain can be hugely impactful because they serve as reminders that there are universal tactics for accomplishing objectives. (One of the best speakers I’ve ever used was a professional soccer player!)
3. Foster collaboration but allow for independent work.
A collaborative environment is also crucial for business success. According to a BusinessWeek study of white-collar professionals, 82 percent reported they needed to partner with others throughout the day to get their work done. Interaction with others helps inspire employees and exposes them to new ways of thinking -- both fueling innovation. To enable a collaborative environment, think about updating your floor plan to encourage an interactive setting where co-workers can easily ask questions and talk through ideas.
I recently moved out of my corner office and onto the main floor so that I could be more accessible to my colleagues. I find that I get just as much out of the new layout as they do. (In the process, I opened up a space for an additional meeting room.)
Like anything else, there needs to be a balance. Make sure you have designated quiet areas where employees can retreat to make sales calls, work on time-sensitive documents or conduct research.
The environment you create for your team is an oft-overlooked aspect of getting the rock stars you’ve hired to perform their best. It’s a constant challenge to keep your company’s culture from stagnating. The introduction of new concepts and viewpoints from individuals outside the organization (and even the industry) can help your team incorporate different ways of tackling problems and keep everyone on their toes. By building an environment where individuals know that following their instincts is encouraged, you’re empowering your team to push the limits of what even they may have thought possible. In the end, they may surprise both themselves and you with what they can achieve when you remove roadblocks to empowerment, collaboration and creative thinking.