You already know that encouragement and a sense of empowerment lead to a happier, more productive work life. And the more positive the environment, the less caffeine you and your team need to power through the day. When it’s clear that you’re appreciated, you practically generate your own energy.
So, how do you create this positive work environment? Below, we’ve outlined all the tips you need to create a productive, happy team.
Progress, Not Praise
According to this breakthrough idea from researchers at the Harvard Business Review, people are more motivated by their own progress on a project than by praise. If you want to inspire, a compliment is nice, but pitching in is even nicer.
More important than feedback, this study implies, is lending a hand. Show your team that you see what they’ve accomplished, and understand what they may still need to get the job done. Then, help them do it.
Study authors Amabile and Kramer recommend you offer your time and expertise. Try sharing an app or online tool you’ve discovered that might accelerate a coworker’s progress. Just be sure not to insist they work in a certain way.
Instead, get out of their way. Try shifting requirements or deadlines. Your team will know you believe in them, and reciprocate with hard work—and help when you need it.
When do you feel encouraged and empowered? Think about it: it’s never in a vacuum. A random “Great job!” might fleetingly raise your oxytocin levels, but a constant flow of support in the form of time, personnel, and solutions, are what really make you a positive and powerful force.
Make the Work Flow
Author Dorthee Steenberg teaches that within companies, as in the traditional Andean communities she draws inspiration from, you’ve basically got one big workflow that’s enabled—or weakened—by the efforts of each member. Like tributaries winding toward a river, individual goals achieved (or not) affect the strength of the flow.
The key is recognizing ways you can share work that are mutually beneficial. It’s clear these communities mastered the workflow centuries before we discovered internal communication apps. By practicing reciprocity, they ensure everyone has what they need to succeed.
When you offer what a coworker needs to progress, you ultimately smooth the ride for everyone on the team.
Ever rush past someone’s desk you know needs a consult? Your blinders are on because you’re dead set on completing your own task. Next time, you might want to stop and say, “I’ve been rushing past your desk all day. Just checking in!”
Then, you can offer help if you think it’s needed. But first, consider personality type. Some people never say, “Hey, could you throw me a line?” and some people ask for help readily. But not everyone is going to appreciate an unsolicited offer. It’s likely you’re working alongside more than a few introverts who’d prefer to keep their heads down and make uninterrupted progress.
With more independent personality types, you’re better off with a laissez-faire approach. Check on the down-low that they’re all set, and mention that you’ve noticed their contributions.
And always point hard work and progress out to the team. A little, “I’d like to thank so-and-so for her progress on this,” goes a long way. Not everyone’s work is so easily recognized. Once in awhile, turn the spotlight on people who tend to stay out of it, so everyone has a chance to shine.
Getting to Know You
Because you deal with many different personalities, “help” will mean different things to different people—as will encouragement and empowerment.
Not sure what kind of help or encouragement your coworkers would appreciate? Team building activities can help you discover each other’s abilities and personalities. By scheduling recreational and volunteer outings, or even just meetings that start with a social vibe, you’ll help everyone feel more appreciated for who they are.
That’s right—not every team building activity involves you desperately hoping you’ll catch your not-so-petite officemate as he trust-falls into your arms. There are less awkward (and dangerous) ways to get familiar—like attending a conference, going out to lunch, or some good, old fashioned show-and-tell to start the Monday morning meeting.
Once you really get to know who you’re working with, you can empower them by anticipating their needs, and adding all you can to the flow. Amazingly, your combined energy will help create a happier, more productive team.
Written by Jennifer Magliano for The Muse