Inspiring team vitality


We’re hard-wired to be critical, continually on the lookout for “what’s wrong”. This might come from our human brains that were needed by our primitive ancestors to be aware of threats in their surroundings in order to survive. This critical thinking plays out in our organizations with leaders continually rehashing things that went wrong or speculating on what might go wrong.

Sound familiar? How often do you communicate what went right or what might/will go right? If you are like most leaders I know, you may admit to yourself that you don’t do it enough. If I asked your team what you could do better I wouldn’t be surprised if they told me you could take a more positive view.

You want your team to have vitality. An unbalanced focus on what’s wrong won’t provide the kind or energy you want your team to have. Can you imagine what it would be like if there were more positivity and vitality in your team? What would you see people doing and how might it impact your business?

What can you do to lead your team to be more vital and energetic?

Have more conversations about the present and future: Once the critique of the past situation, process, project, or individual has been completed, drop it and move on. Focus more of your dialog with your team on what’s right in front of them now and what a successful future will look like. You’ll inspire your team and inspire yourself while fostering persistence toward achieving team and individual goals.

Give more authentic praise: Telling someone they did a good job isn’t enough. Feel it in your heart, be sincere, and provide your team members with the specifics of the good things you’ve noticed they’re doing and the impact on the work. While you’re at it, let them know the impact their work has on the future of the organization’s objectives.

Foster relationships: As a leader, it’s your job to make sure that the relationships and trust amongst your team members is sound and life-giving. This means that you are the “chief relationship manager” for the team. Make sure that inappropriate personal conflict is dealt with and that all team members feel a sense of connectedness. Facilitate the tough conversations and make sure everyone agrees to behavior that moves the team forward.

Remind them of behavioral commitments: As the chief relationship manager, you are also the chief coach. That means you need to make sure that there is accountability for the behavioral norms of your group. Ideally, everyone on the team will be pitching in on this, but it’s important that you make sure that’s happening and step in when it isn’t to remind and coach team members on the behaviors that are acceptable (and what that means for the team’s goals).

Sometimes criticism is needed. However, your team’s energy will come from your emphasis on what the team is doing well now and what it will take to move to that inspired future. Spend more time dialoging and performing in a positive space that embraces the present and the desired future and you’ll be amazed at what can be accomplished.


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Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.


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