We live in a time which revolves around the comparison trap. No matter how fit, successful, or ambitious we are, there will always be someone outpacing us. Our environment has inflated our expectations of what it means to be successful.
As a leader, we need to keep this in mind when we observe our teams.
As Newton’s Law teaches us, “A body at motion, stays in motion.” Taking the time to recognize small wins will encourage more small wins, which will eventually snowball into big wins.
While simple to understand as a concept, this can be difficult to execute. When our team is struggling, it becomes easy to hyper focus on what’s going wrong around us. The five things your team member did may be quickly outshadowed by the one thing that went wrong. This approach will kill your momentum. Your team will become demotivated because no matter how hard they try their leader is going to find something they did wrong.
I’ve worked for this kind of leader. It is the worst.
I’ve been this kind of leader. My team tanked.
My team was climbing to the top of our organization. We started out as a team of misfits, and nobody thinking we’d get where we were made me want to push it even further. I was going to help get us to the top no matter the cost.
So I started digging in and looking for every opportunity we had to get better. I was obsessed.
I was ready to share with them everything they did wrong the previous day by the time they showed up to work.
Imagine showing up to work every day knowing your boss would be there waiting to tell you what you did wrong the day before. Yikes!
It’s hard even writing that. My intentions were good, I wanted to help them get better. But we were tanking, and I was oblivious to what was happening.
Struggling to find the fix, I asked my team to meet without me and talk through what was going on. Fortunately, I had enough trust established with them that they were able to be transparent with me. “Jacob, it’s you. You used to be so good at encouraging us, but now all we hear about is everything we are doing wrong.”
This was the punch in the stomach I needed. I was defensive at first, but after some self-reflection, I came to terms with my errors-. I was no longer focused on recognizing small wins. I had tunnel vision and my sights on that number one spot. This led to me missing the positive actions my team was taking.
Two things to know about recognition:
- The best recognition is unexpected, personalized and genuine
- People like to be recognized differently
Here’s a roadmap for turning a team around using small wins:
1. Embrace Strengths
See the value in each team member. Change your perspective to appreciate their unique contributions. By focusing on their strengths, you set the stage for a positive, nurturing environment. Recognizing their potential helps build confidence, creating a strong foundation for growth.
Focusing on strengths is a game-changer. It shifts the narrative from negative to positive. Emphasize the unique qualities each team member brings to the table, fostering a culture of appreciation and support.
2. Pinpoint One Key Change
Determine the most impactful change that can be made. When you set small, achievable goals, you’re setting your team members up for success. By focusing on one change at a time, you can celebrate the wins and keep momentum strong.
Identifying one key change helps break down goals into manageable steps. By concentrating on a single, impactful change, you simplify the process and make it easier for team members to achieve success.
3. Engage in Conversation
Communication is essential. Actively listen and engage with your team members. Ask open-ended questions like, “What’s on your mind?” This approach encourages them to share their thoughts and feelings, fostering a sense of trust and understanding.
Communication is crucial for building trust and understanding. Encourage open dialogue with your team members, making sure to listen more than you speak. This approach creates a supportive atmosphere where everyone feels valued.
4. Offer Genuine Recognition
Recognition goes a long way in building morale. Be specific and honest about your team members’ value to the organization. Genuine praise can inspire them to continue working hard and growing within their roles.
Genuine recognition is a powerful motivator. Be specific in your praise, highlighting individual achievements and contributions. This approach bolsters self-esteem and encourages your team members to continue striving for success.
5. Set Clear Expectations
Clearly communicate the small change they need to make. Ensure they understand the goal, the timeline, and what’s expected of them. Clarity prevents confusion, allowing your team members to focus on achieving their objectives.
Setting clear expectations is essential for keeping everyone on track. By providing detailed instructions and expectations, you eliminate confusion and give your team members a roadmap to follow.
6. Express Belief in Your Team
Confidence breeds success.
One of the most powerful ways to motivate and inspire your team is by showing them that you believe in their abilities. End each conversation by saying, “I believe in you. You can do this.” This simple statement can boost their confidence and encourage them to tackle challenges head-on. When your team knows you have their back, they are more likely to take risks, innovate, and grow.
7. Follow Up Consistently
Show your continued support and belief in their growth by following up. Regular follow-ups are essential for showing your continued support and belief in your team’s growth. Without follow-ups, they may think your previous conversations were just for show. By consistently checking in and offering guidance, you reinforce your commitment to their success and create an environment where small wins are celebrated and built upon.
Jacob Espinoza is a leadership coach in Salem, Oregon. For more information visit JacobEspinoza.com.