What was your best job ever? Why was it your favorite? Or let’s take this in another direction: What was your worst job ever, and why?

Almost invariably, what made a job best or worst for you was your leader. Regardless of what role that leader has, what they do matters in shaping your attitudes about work—and ultimately, your performance.

As John Maxwell puts it, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” So let’s explore five strategies you as a leader can employ that lead to happier, more productive workers.

Kristen Dressler
Team Builder Recruiting Kristen Dressler

1. Answer the Big Questions
Teams operate better when they learn your answer to fundamental questions: What is the mission of our company? Why are we in business? And how do we serve our customers? They don’t need every detail, but they should understand the company’s goals, directions, and plans. Knowing those things will help them make those concepts personal, by being able to describe why their job matters to the company, the customer, and the team.

2. Hold Your Team Accountable for Behaviors and Results
By behaviors, I’m referring to things like rudeness, poor communication, cockiness, putting others down, and gossip. Such actions can cripple a company, leading to troubles in meeting deadlines, contributing ideas, completing assignments accurately, following through on commitments, and being on time.

Accountability issues can manifest themselves through slackers who underperform, but sometimes a worse form of accountability failure comes in the form of people who deliver big results but in a way that poisons the team’s attitude. The high-performing but egocentric sales rep is a classic example.

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to make sure you’re not sacrificing the good of the team by allowing for problematic behaviors. If you keep dysfunctional people on the team, good people will leave. So bring the problem to light and then address it with kindness but also firmness. Provide support for the person to change, and make sure the bad apple understands the consequences of not changing. Address the problem every time it happens, and be prepared to drop the hammer if needed.

3. Give a Hand Up
If you were in an accident tomorrow, could - your team operate without you? Or have you been hoarding key information? Failure to share, to teach, and to help all your team improve ultimately will hobble your own growth, not to mention the team’s evolution. To Empower your Team:

  • Teach them what you know;
  • Give them challenge assignments;
  • Delegate responsibilities;
  • Encourage collaboration; and
  • Cross train

4. Appreciate and Encourage Your Team
Truett Cathy of Chick-Fil-A had a favorite line: “How do you know if someone needs encouragement? If they are breathing.”

Everyone loves being noticed and praised when they do well, and it doesn’t take much work for you to do it. Consider a handwritten thank-you note, a gift card to a favorite restaurant—or just a favorite candy bar left on their desk. Buy the team lunch at the end of a hard week.

Double the impact of your praise by complimenting your staff in front of a customer or someone higher up in your company. And defuse the typical fear people might have of a profit meeting in your office by using that setting to praise your team, not critique them.

5. Know Your Team as People, Not Producers
We are far more than the sum of what we do at work. What happens outside of work impacts all of us, and when the boss recognizes that and shows true concern for the worker’s entire life, the worker becomes more loyal. Besides, you’ll learn things about the workers that could help you help them … and in turn, improve your group’s performance. For one thing, knowing team’s strengths and passions can be used to organize your group for optimal results. That supposed lazy millennial might turn out to be the tech whiz your group needs.

Show you care by spending time with your workers. (Example: Have lunch in the breakroom.) Ask purpose-filled questions that reveal key information. (Don’t ask “Did you have a good weekend?” Instead ask “What did you do this weekend?”) Host events that involve your employees’ families.

My company has instituted a Friday Report Card (an idea I snagged from Dave Ramsey). Before clocking out on Friday afternoon, each person answers five simple questions to let me know how they are doing::

  • What was your high point this week? (It doesn’t have to be work related.)
  • What was your low point (Ditto)
  • How is your stress level?
  • How is your work load?
  • How is your morale?

Nothing I’m suggesting here is rocket science, but it is something that requires intentional actions. You CAN improve the dynamics of the team and achieve great things together.