A new year means a fresh start, but for many well-intentioned leaders, familiar problems can give way to old habits. Hiring challenges, workplace conflicts, productivity drags -- these time-sucking traps can distract leaders from becoming a source of energy and inspiration for the people they lead.
Without requiring significant time or resources, here are four ways leaders can supercharge their teams in the year ahead and boost the way employees feel, grow, work and create all year long.
Develop a gratitude habit.
Research shows that the simple act of expressing gratitude can literally change the way we feel. In one study, participants who spent 10 weeks writing just a few sentences about things they were grateful for experienced greater optimism about their lives. Not only that, they also engaged in healthier behaviors, like exercising more regularly and getting more sleep.
Develop a gratitude habit that capitalizes on these benefits. Write thank-you notes to members of your team whenever they hit a work-related target or go beyond the call of duty. Make a point to include shout-outs to deserving individuals in your office communications. Start meetings with a something you're personally grateful for in and beyond the workplace. You'll be surprised how quickly the gratitude bug spreads, causing others to experience a lift in their mood and morale.
Deliver more meaningful feedback.
Too often, managers share feedback that's rooted too far in the past and prescriptive in nature. The best feedback helps others understand their strengths and provides the encouragement and guidance to develop those strengths.
Make a point to share just-in-time feedback that actively involves employees in the growth process. Instead of simply telling them what to fix, seek their input on how to build. For example, you might augment feedback with questions like, "What's the best way for us to handle this?" or "How would you do this differently?" When leaders shrink their own voice, they sharpen the vision of others -- and just might be surprised by how far their employees can see on their own.
Design challenge points.
When leaders communicate high expectations, they articulate a clear vision of what success looks like and how others can go about achieving it. Designing "challenge points" for employees -- goals that sit just past their current performance level but remain within reach -- are crucial to instilling confidence and growth.
The most effective challenge points are designed together with employees. Craft a vision plan of near-term and long-range goals that employees will work towards with your ongoing supervision and support. Not only do these challenge points frame a meaningful process of goal-setting, they also create a partnership model that allows you to assess progress and performance without the specter of subjectivity and fear. Your employees will feel both challenged and supported.
Draw out your team's creativity.
When leaders seek creative input from their team, they often resort to brainstorming. Not only does this lead to conformity, but decades of research show that people tend to produce fewer ideas than they would working alone.
Try bumping up the creativity of your team by providing more time and space for individuals to think. A healthcare services provider I keynoted for tried a "6-3-5" approach in which a team of six people must come up with three ideas in five minutes. You can kick-start creativity with variations on this idea, like "brainwriting." By drawing out your team's natural creativity with time-efficient, equitable solutions, you'll let all voices be heard and the best ideas succeed.