What your staff wishes they could tell you…
They’ve bought in to the vision. They’re committed, dedicated, hard working, loyal and steadfast in their determination to help you succeed. They come in early, stay late, and pour their energy into their work. They’re also tired, discouraged, starving emotionally and desperately need to hear from you – their leader. Your team needs to know that you see their efforts and appreciate their commitment. This isn’t about idle pats on the back or stroking egos. This is about breathing life into your team.
As leaders we have a great responsibility to be good stewards of the resources God has entrusted to us. As we charge forward with huge visions and seemingly impossible goals to serve people and to help better their lives, let us be careful to not forget to serve those closest to us – our families and our team members. For if we lose them, we will not succeed in our mission nor will we finish well. I say this not to condemn or discourage, but to remind you of what you already know – that your family and your team members are of utmost importance. Be the excellent steward of those God has entrusted to you and take care of them. In turn, they will take care of you; they will follow you and will labor with you to achieve incredible things.
Now, let’s get practical – here are a few ways you can show your appreciation and take care of your team:
1. Thank them publicly – At a staff meeting, service or event, share a specific story about something one of your team members did that you truly appreciated. Something that was over-the-top amazing. Tell the story in detail; tell what that person did that was so helpful. Tell how that person’s actions made a difference in someone’s life. Be specific and say thank you. Just watch as that person’s face lights up as they drink in gratitude.
2. Have fun – Cater lunch for your team, eat with them and just chat. Catch up on family news, listen to stories of their kids’ latest antics and enjoy their company.
3. Listen – We all long to be heard and understood and your team is no different. Be open to hearing their concerns, answering their questions and letting them vent a little. If you haven’t responded well to their open honesty before, you may need to apologize and let them know that you’re going to change that going forward before they’ll feel comfortable sharing things with you. They need to feel safe bringing issues to you without fear of judgment or reprisal (granted, they should also bring possible solutions, but teach them to do that without being harsh about it). You’ll gain valuable information as your listen to your team members. They’ll bring great suggestions, new ideas and will help you solve problems all because you’re taking the time to listen.
4. Communicate – As important as it is for you to listen, it’s also critical that you communicate to your team. If you casually mention a huge new initiative without any details, they’ll get concerned. If you say you’re going to make some organizational changes, they’ll wonder if they need to update their resume. People tend to think the worst when there’s a lack of communication. They also get frustrated and don’t feel like they’re empowered to be effective in their jobs. Tell them what you expect and why. Don’t make them guess! They can’t read your mind and shouldn’t have to try. Invite them to ask questions if they’re unclear about something. Don’t withhold information unnecessarily. If it’s not confidential and they need to know – tell them!
5. Make sure they have sufficient rest – Due to the nature of your work, there may be seasons of long hours, including weekends. When that happens, find a way to give them time off to recuperate. They’ll come back refreshed and will be more productive (and appreciative that you recognized that they needed the break!).
6. Develop them – Provide your team with training that will help them become more effective in their work. Buy books for your team and lead a group book study once a quarter. Don’t expect them to just figure it out – ask what they need to learn and then provide them with the tools and information they need to be successful.
7. Take care of yourself too – As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, you need rest! If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have much left emotionally or mentally to give your team. Take a vacation, attend a conference, etc. You’ll come back to the office refreshed, relaxed and ready to lead your team to even greater success.
We all need to hear “thank you” on occasion and your staff is no exception. Yes, you need to provide direction, challenge them to think bigger and push them to do things they didn’t think were possible. Along the way, make sure they know you care about them as individuals (not just as worker bees). You can ensure they know this by showing your appreciation, listening (and acting on what you hear), and developing them. They’ll be more effective and will stay with you longer (and with a great attitude) if you do.