In good economic times and bad, some businesses find a path to success while others are forced to board up their windows and doors.
What’s the difference between those that soar and those that flounder?
“Ultimately business success comes down to how well the people who work for that business perform,” says Jeanet Wade, the ForbesBooks author of The Human Team: So, You Created a Team But People Showed Up!
And employee performance, good or bad, usually can be traced to leadership – whether company leaders want to admit it or not, she says.
“When teams break down and employees disengage, leaders and managers typically don’t question their own strategies,” says Wade, founder of the consulting firm the Business Alchemist. “Instead, they blame the people assigned to carry out those strategies. If they are feeling charitable, leaders and managers say those people were bad fits. If they aren’t feeling charitable, they call them whiners, complainers, or failures.
“But in about 80 percent of cases, I believe it’s not that the people are the wrong people for the job, but rather that leaders aren’t prepared to handle what I call ‘human moments’ because they fail to understand and address these natural human needs.”
Wade says there are six facets of human needs that leaders must take into account in order to expect teams to perform at the highest level possible.
In too many workplaces, Wade says, people are unsure what’s expected of them or how their jobs fit into a larger plan.
“People on teams sorely need clarity, or they’ll lapse into confusion,” she says. “Specifically, team members must understand the purpose of the team itself, their role within it, the team’s outcome goals, and how their team fits within the larger organization.”
Human connection is indispensable to healthy teams and is premised on connection to common core values, physical place, and a larger company culture, Wade says. The trick is in creating those connections. Wade suggests one way is an exercise she refers to as 3-2-1. People in a group are asked to share three events they’ve experienced, how they responded to them, and how those events impacted them. Then they share two childhood stories or coming-of-age adolescent memories. Finally, they share one of their biggest fears.
Wade says teams within an organization should never exceed 15 people, and leadership teams should be even smaller. The reason: The larger the team, the less inclined individuals are to contribute.
“One of the best things we can do as leaders is acknowledge the human psyche’s need to contribute and to reward it,” she says.
Leaders and managers often are hesitant to challenge others, Wade says, not wanting to push people or make them uncomfortable. “But when we withhold opportunities that challenge people, we ultimately deny others an important human need,” she says. “The trick is to make sure challenges are productive. They should be difficult, but not so overwhelming that people withdraw if they fall short.”
Everyone feels the need to be recognized and valued, Wade says. Unfortunately, leaders and managers often spend so much time on toxic or poor-performing people that they neglect everyone else.
“You can’t obtain and retain top talent if you don’t show them respect and consideration at every stage of the journey,” Wade says. “They must be recognized for good work, thought about for promotions, and reminded of how critical they are to the organization.”
Confidence is fragile and can be easily shaken, Wade says, which is why it’s critical for leaders to instill confidence in their teams. People fearful about failing become hesitant, avoid difficult challenges, and are less productive.
“But if you have confidence, even the hard stuff doesn’t seem so daunting,” Wade says. “When leaders, managers, or facilitators help build confidence in their teams, they can inspire others to achieve audacious, improbable goals.
“When all six of these facets are fully accounted for in teams,” Wade continues, “people are able to gel with one another, operate harmoniously, engage in healthy disagreement, and achieve important objectives.”