Image by Drazen Zigic on Freepik
As a father of three kids and a leader at the Engineering Management Institute (EMI), I have seen a number of similarities between raising a happy family and building a strong professional team. I have also done a fair share of athletic coaching, both at the youth and high school levels and these same similarities exist. In all these situations, you have a group of people who share a common bond, and their success is very dependent on the relationships between members, which many people refer to as culture.
In this post, I’d like to share some actions that I have found to be helpful in both raising kids as well as building a strong team at EMI. I believe that many of the engineers we provide coaching and training to can use these same actions in building their project teams, divisions, and companies.
#1 – Learn About Your Team Members
You can’t lead people effectively in any walk of life without really knowing them. What are they interested in? What makes them happy? If they could do anything they wanted to today, what would it be? Doing this takes time, but getting to know the people you work with on a deeper level will be rewarding in many ways. At EMI, we created a shared document in which all our team members entered personal information, such as their family members’ names and ages, hobbies, favorite foods, and more. Just by reading that sheet, I learned things that I hadn’t previously known about people I had been working with for years. Why did we wait so long to do that?
#2 – Engage in Team Building Activities Outside of Work
I know what you are thinking. How can we engage in outside-of-work activities during a pandemic? Yes, you have to get creative, but these can also be virtual interactions. Maybe you have a game night with some colleagues online, like trivia? At EMI, we recently did a recipe exchange online. Since we’re all from different locations, we shared our favorite recipes from our geographic regions. If your entire team is located close to one another geographically, you might consider a hike together. In fact, my wife and I recently took our three kids on a family hike that I posted about here. During that hike, another hiker passed us, and I heard him say,
“A family that hikes together, stays together.”
Activities like these help you to learn more about your team members as mentioned in #1 above.
#3 – Set Your Team Up for Happiness at Work
As a leader, you can play a big role in how happy your team members are. How? Find out what they are good at and what they are passionate about and try to facilitate them doing these things as much as possible. I feel terrible when a professional tells me that his or her manager never asked them what they are really good at or what they like doing. Instead, they just assign them roles and responsibilities. This applies in athletics as well. Great coaches build their strategies and game-day approaches around the strengths of their players. They don’t just force their players to run the plays that they like or use the playbook they’ve always used. This is actually a pretty simple action to take, but many leaders don’t take it.
#4 – Be Available to Answer Questions
No matter how talented people are, they will have questions and will need support. Good leaders are available to provide that support, just like good parents are. While it’s never good for children or team members to be TOO dependent on their parents or leaders, there needs to be a good balance. Let your team know that you are available to support them, and then BE AVAILABLE. Now, if you find that they continuously ask the same questions, then challenge them to be more independent and explain your reasoning for this. Let them know that their ability to do something without you will ultimately allow them to grow in their careers and lives.
#5 – Teach Them to Do It So They Don’t Need You Anymore
Many parents don’t think of doing this, and many corporate leaders are terrified of doing this for fear people will overtake them. The reality of leadership is that you if you want to be a truly successful leader, your team members should eventually replace you, as uncomfortable as that may sound. I used to cook my son eggs in the morning for breakfast and he would sit on the couch and wait. One day, I thought to myself, why don’t I just teach him to do this? At 8 years old (with my supervision), he was cooking eggs for the five of us. Sometimes, we just don’t think of doing this, and sometimes we think it will take too much time. The reality is that it will free up your time, and more importantly boost the confidence of your team members while making the overall output of the team GREATER.
This article was originally posted on LinkedIn here.
I invite you to PLEASE SHARE strategies, in the comments below, that you have used to build a culture within your team at work (or at home).
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success