7 Keys to Building an Engaged Team

As a business consultant, I love being able to work not only with business owners but with their teams. I feel honored to work with high-performing teams, struggling teams, and sometimes even dysfunctional teams. And I LOVE them all! Teams are fascinating. A high-performing team can get off track. A functional team can get sucked into gossip and drama. A dysfunctional team can have a breakthrough. There’s nothing stagnant about a team.  Teams are constantly changing and evolving. One day they’re functioning and the next day they’re off-track.

Leading a team, or even being on a team, will stretch us out of our comfort zones. It will force us to let go of our ego and will challenge us to see things differently. Being the leader of a team is hard work. It can be draining when the team you’re leading isn’t functioning at a high level or it can be exhilarating when you’re leading the dream team.

Building a powerful team, engaging a new team, or keeping your current team engaged requires constant focus. Great teams don’t just ‘happen’ they are created. Strong teams choose to be great, they work at it. They choose to engage, let go of pettiness, and get along. I’m stretched every week in the work I do. The teams I work with inspire me to grow, teach me new ways of doing things, and challenge me to stay the course.

There are many things you can do to grow a team. Below are some keys to engaging any team at any time.

  1. Own your job as the coach. As the leader of the team, you are the coach. It’s your job to set the course, encourage your members, and keep them on track. It’s also your job to let people shine, recognize wins, and to guide tough conversations when they are needed. You’re not the ‘boss’ or the most important part of the team. If you’re the smartest person on your team – you need a new team. As the coach, you get to guide, inspire, and cheer them on. Own this role and take it seriously.
  2. Be transparent. If you want your team to be honest – you must set the tone. Be real. Admit when you’re wrong, share your fears and your insecurities as they come up. Teams know when you’re off, they can sense when things are going on behind the scenes or when you’re keeping things from them. I believe it’s always better to be transparent and tell the truth because if we don’t our team members will make up their own stories. Those stories will most often be much worse than reality.
  3. Practice recognition daily. People want to be recognized. Team members tell me they wish their boss, or team leader, would recognize them for the work they do. They want to be told when they’re doing a good job.  They also want authentic praise – not fluff. Giving authentic recognition goes a long way. If you have a hard time remembering to do this, put it in your weekly calendar and make a focused effort to applaud your team members regularly.
  4. Get to know your people. People want connections – especially in this online world. Individuals want real connections with real people. Your team members will respond better to you when you connect with them on a personal level. This doesn’t mean they have to be your best friends or that you share all your dirty laundry with them [I would not recommend that]. Yet getting to know who they are, what motivates them, and what they are most passionate about will help you coach and lead them more effectively.
  5. Have more fun in moderation. There’s a fine line between being all business and having too much fun at work. I’ve watched many of my clients struggle with this. Building a positive culture and having fun at work makes the days go by faster and can help you attract great talent. On the flip side, too much fun and ‘culture’ can cost a company. Finding a good balance is key.
  6. Meet often, but be sure to make meetings meaningful. Meetings are needed but can be a huge time suck. Start by assessing the state of your current team meetings. Be honest with yourself. Are your meetings working? Are you wasting time? Could they be shorter? More fun? More effective? Ask your team for feedback. What do they think meetings need? It’s useful to assess how effective meetings are regularly. Anything we do for too long can become mundane and stop working. If things aren’t working, it may be time to make some changes.
  7. Change things up. Doing things differently is good. If we do the same thing over and over again it becomes rote. Changing things up can help team members reengage. Change your meeting schedule. Change who leads the meeting. Change the way you give or ask for feedback. Change the way you enter the office each day. Change the way you recognize people. Change something. By changing something our brains reengage. For example, if we drive the same way to and from work each day we begin to drive on autopilot. If we take a new way to work tomorrow we may be more engaged – we will have to think about where we are going.

There are so many things we can do to build a more engaged team. It’s not always important what we do but that we do something. We can choose to be more purposeful and intentional about building our teams right now.