Most managers naturally understand the need for their company to make money. Clearly if that fails to happen, it won’t be long before there is no company.
Even so, thoughtful leaders recognise the importance of putting people first. These leaders focus on creating a happy team because they are looking past today and tomorrow. They have a longer term view which raises their thinking out of the hustle and bustle of everyday and helps them look forward.
Why does creating a happy team make such a difference?
Creating an environment where people are happy to come to work is very important. When you have a happy team, here’s what happens:
A happy team is full of helpful people
When you’re angry about your job and someone asks for help, do you feel like assisting them? I didn’t think so.
A happy team contains healthy relationships
Satisfied people are happier and are less likely to engage in bickering, arguments or passive-aggressive behaviour. Conflicts are resolved more constructively, because people respect each other.
A happy team contains people that like the company
What I’ve noticed in happy teams is that people bond with the organisation more strongly. They are less likely to do things that hurt the company or the people within it.
People who bond strongly with the organisation become “organisational citizens”. They are less likely to turn a blind eye to bad behaviour that may harm the workplace. This is why a happy team matters.
Leaders who create a happy team know what works
Leaders who focus on creating a happy team have put thought into who they want to lead. They realise that failing to put people first will leave them in a situation where they lead people who don’t want to be at work.
Do you know what type of team you want to lead? Have you thought about it? Or are you fighting one fire after another, struggling to keep your head above water day to day? Yes, it is a strange world when you can be fighting fires while drowning, but I’ve seen it happen to leaders in many workplaces.
Consciously thinking about the type of team you want to lead means that you can build your team accordingly.
Leaders who create happy teams still need to make compromises
Leaders who strive to create a happy team make a conscious effort to do so, because they recognise the long term benefits. These leaders still need to juggle priorities and handle external pressure, but they rarely give in.
Leaders who create happy teams are always weighing up the benefits of pushing back on their stakeholders relative to keeping their people happy. They also concentrate on setting up conditions that enable them to do their work effectively.
A leader who puts people first may decide to push back on someone who wants her team to work late. But you can’t do this every time. Sometimes, even these leaders must reach a compromise and request their team to go over and above to deliver something.
However, leaders who want a happy team know that if this happens too often, this will have adverse effects and all the good work will be undone.
How do you create a happy team?
Creating a happy team means ensuring that people in your team have what they need to be productive. It also means enabling an environment where your team can work in a way that suits them. Lastly, they need an environment where they feel respected.
1. Create a happy team by enabling flexibility
Enabling your team flexibility in the way they work is a key factor in creating a functional team. Assuming that their arrangements do not reduce their ability to do their job, letting people work from home or have flexible working hours are important in creating an environment where people want to work.
Flexibility allows people to more easily work around their personal commitments. This means when they are working, they can be productive. People who feel as if they can’t attend personal appointments without being criticised are compromising their relationship with their employer each time they choose to attend.
Flexibility means setting up situations for employees where balancing work and outside life is more achievable.
2. Create a happy team by supporting personal development
I’ve worked in many companies where leaders fail to provide development opportunities. On the job experience is definitely critical, but it should comprise approximately 70 per cent of an individual’s learning.
Ten per cent of an person’s learning should come from structured learning activities such as classroom learning or online training.
Learning on the job is important, of course. However, structured learning often helps to get the most out of the on the job experience. This is because the individual is able to apply their new knowledge to their role.
Where possible, you should make an effort to enable more structured learning within your teams. Some companies provide learning materials, but what they don’t provide is the opportunity to spend the time to use them.
Leaders who endorse learning but fail to allocate time for it are shortchanging their teams. If people are required to spend their personal time learning, they are less likely to participate. This is the case even if the learning materials are provided.
3. Create a happy team by supporting positive behaviours
Workplaces have a complex web of relationships that make them run effectively. There are often unspoken rules and rituals within workplaces which are never formalised. As an example, I’ve worked in many places where you can work from home, but it wasn’t actively encouraged. The people who do it have worked out that it’s possible. However, they don’t speak much about it, because it isn’t formal policy.
Others know they can leave early to attend a medical appointment without organising it beforehand. This is because they know how their workplace operates.
What this means is that people try to decide for themselves what is acceptable and then work accordingly. Some people find this stressful because they are concerned that they are “doing something wrong”.
Communicate the unspoken rules in your team
This is why leaders should publicly speak about factors like flexibility and learning in their workplaces. Providing and communicating formal policy is also beneficial because it removes the guesswork as to what is allowed. Employees are then free to act accordingly and all the rules are on the table for everybody to see.
Many organisations offer learning opportunities, but then introduce conditions that make it very difficult to take advantage of them. For example, one organisation I worked for indicated that training was available “if it didn’t affect your client work”.
Well, if you’re constantly busy with client work, this can be a challenge. People who do take advantage of these opportunities are those that push for them. Not all people are like this, and you will leave some behind.
Putting people first is an admirable quality in leaders. It demonstrates conscious thought about the team and creating conditions that people are comfortable with.
The best way to start creating a happy team is to promote flexibility, support personal development and publicly support positive behaviours in you team.