Team-building. Metrics. Personal and professional development. Career pathing. Mentoring. Goals. By bringing these all together in a balanced, intentional way, it’s possible to make heroes of those with whom you work, of your entire team and your whole organization. But, how? It’s easier than it sounds yet, as with most things that are simple to do, making heroes tends to fall quickly to the wayside as bigger and more looming challenges present themselves. So, what needs to happen within an organization and, in fact, with each individual employee so that it becomes the lifeblood of your people?
Organize your day based on what others need from you
It is sometimes difficult to prioritize what should happen when, especially when everything feels like it was due yesterday. The struggle is real and it swiftly affects our attitude, which affects how we interact with others, which affects their attitude and how they interact with others, and so on. The reality is that the only way to stop this ripple effect is to avoid it in the first place.
A few methods of organization that work:
- Plan tomorrow before you leave work today
- Under-promise and over-deliver on due dates for stakeholders in your project(s)
- Keep your own behavior in check
- Ask yourself what you can do to make someone else a hero
Start with the assumption that people are trying to do their best work
During moments of high stress or the doldrums of a project, over-analysis and blame can run rampant. Once they take hold, they are a steam engine gone rogue and can destroy once-fantastic relationships. Being part of a team doesn’t mean that we engage when we’re succeeding beyond our wildest dreams. It means that when it’s most challenging, we find the bright spots and hold fast to them, so that we are uplifting to others and ourselves. No one sets out to fail and very few people actually enjoy watching others struggle or go down in defeat. By assuming that everyone is trying to do the best they can at any given moment, we bring our thoughts back to a positive focus and can change the course of an entire day in seconds.
Give your co-workers the benefit of the doubt through the following:
- Don’t expect them to fail or they will; expect them to succeed and watch them flourish
- Don’t jump to conclusions. Seek first to understand
- Provide input and feedback in the most positive way you can
- Find ways to diminish defensiveness and to promote creative solutions
- Always accept at least part of the blame for a misfire
Have each other’s back
There is an ebb and flow to any interpersonal relationship. We spend much of our weekly time working, so by necessity, we must work to create and maintain harmony with those we interact with either on a regular or infrequent basis. Being supportive of one another can mean different things to different people. Working with others collaboratively and taking into account their personality will help you meet in the middle. Help encourage everyone to work with one another in the way they need to work.
As with anything that requires communication, remember the following:
- Go to the source whenever possible
- If you don’t feel you can speak directly to a person, talk with their manager and/or yours
- Fear in communication stems from appearing or being unapproachable to your audience
- Listen first, then ask questions to ensure understanding
- Regardless of reality, everyone’s truth is based on their own perception and is valid (even if it’s not correct), because it’s what they believe
Be the first to volunteer
Already have a day that’s packed from sunup to sundown? Still, say yes to helping others. Willingness to help, to find someone who can help, and involving others in a task creates excitement, promotes the value of both individual and collective contributions, and gives hope to all members of your team. We tend to think about everything we have left on our ‘to do’ list and focus so much on what we haven’t done that we forgo giving ourselves credit for what we have already accomplished. Raising your hand when someone asks for help doesn’t necessarily mean that they require assistance immediately; but, it does remind them that they are not alone… and it reminds you that you’re not alone.
Here’s where some of that transparent communication you’ve worked so hard on will come in handy:
- Always offer to help whenever you can
- Be honest about the time you can commit and keep your word
- Don’t keep score or expect that someone will help you because you helped them
- Be all in and give 100% to your efforts
Whether an incremental goal, the end of a year-long project, staying late to finish up an email so it’s ahead of schedule, or simply because you work with others every single workday, be thankful. Celebrating others doesn’t require cake and streamers, happy hour, or special lunches (though these are great ways and shouldn’t be ignored). One of the simplest phrases of all and likely the most often neglected is “thank you”. The effort of each person with whom you interact is important. Most of the time, you don’t single-handedly check off all of your deliverables without some contribution from others. So, say thank you without any expectation of hearing it in return. Your example of gratitude will go farther than your desire to be recognized. As with all great things, the appreciation of others is infectious in the best possible way.
Need new ideas?
- A handwritten ‘thank you’ card – or even a cheerful sticky note
- Bringing coffee or tea in the morning and leaving it on their desk before they arrive
- A ‘thank you’ email reply
- Calling positive attention to their contribution in front of at least one other person
- Stopping by their workspace to say hello and ‘thank you’ with no other purpose
- And, depending on the situation, sometimes even balloons, cake, streamers or cookies
Superheroes aren’t born, they’re made
We all have skills in which we excel and others with which we struggle. Being part of a team makes the highs higher and the lows not so low, because each contribution to the success of others and our team makes us all better, provides a positive environment in which we can all learn, grow, and do our best work.
These habits take time and dedication. They are worth the effort and time we must dedicate to invest in others. By modeling these traits and being a servant of others, we become leaders and also invest in ourselves. Being a hero is not what it’s about. Making heroes of others is the key, and it is the sure path to success. It’s never too late to begin.