• Google plus
  • Youtube

Archive for the ‘team building tips’ Category

Build a Culture of Trust and Rapport with Your Team

Looking for a quick way to build a culture of trust and rapport with your team? Over a decade ago, I wrote a book called 28 to Influence People as a simple how-to book in building a team culture and improving leadership skills. Interestingly, since I wrote that book, my company, The Leader’s Institute, LLC has become one of the fastest growing and largest team building companies in the world. These principles from the 28 Ways book are time-tested. As a result, they work 100% of the time. However, groups sometimes have confusion between “shared experience” team building event and “behavior change” team building activities.

For instance, sometimes, groups just want to do a fun activity as a group and feel good about the camaraderie that was built in the experience (shared experience). Other times, teams may be experiencing team challenges, or the team may be doing well, but still want to improve communication and teamwork (behavior change). Sometimes, groups want a combination of both.

That is one of the reason why our team building events are so popular. Our instructors mix real behavior changing activities with a fun shared experience. For instance, the first seven chapters in the 28 Ways book are seven ways to build a culture of trust with your team. They are also essential keys to building a team culture. So, in fun activities like a Build-A-Bike ® team building event, an instructor might deliver these seven principles to the group as an introduction. Then, the instructor may reinforce these principles throughout the activity. That way, the group receives real team building skills while having fun in the activity.

Seven Ways to Build a Culture of Trust

  1. Avoid Complaining.
  2. Look at Things from the Other Person’s Point of View.
  3. Smile.
  4. Make an Effort to Remember Names.
  5. Avoid Placing the Burden of Your Problems onto Other People.
  6. Take Responsibility for Clear Communication.
  7. Practice Good Listening Skills.

For a list of our fun team building events, click here. Or, if you want to participate in the online workshop based on these principles, click here.

5 Characteristics of Highly Effective Teams

Characteristics Highly Effective TeamsThe power of a team lies in its capacity to perform at levels, and deliver results, greater than the sum of its parts. Managers and leaders put a great deal of effort into assembling high-performing teams. Considerable resources are often expended to ensure those teams reach their potential. For team members, as well as other people in an organization, recognizing when a team is doing well is important. When improvement is needed, it is important to make positive changes. However, sometimes it is helpful to take a step back in order to recognize when a team is working effectively. The workings of a highly effective team are not always obvious or intuitive to everyone. So, below are a few characteristics of highly effective teams.

Highly Effective Teams have Trust

Being in an environment of trust feels way different than the alternative. Transparency is another way to think of this concept. Effective teams operate in an environment where they have each others’ backs. They take risks, and share successes and praise. Even more importantly, they are quick to reveal missteps. This is important because the earlier mistakes are highlighted, the easier they are to fix, and the faster and more the entire team learns. Operating in a trust-filled environment breaks down barriers and allows people to be more vulnerable.

Highly Effective Teams Debate Positively

A common misnomer about teams is that harmony is a good thing. At a core value level, yes, harmony is probably good. On the other hand, if all a team does is agree and go along to get along, this is a sign of trouble. Effective teams debate. Thanks to mutual trust, this debate is an invaluable exercise to flesh out ideas, concepts and strategies.

It may feel uncomfortable to argue, but that is why it is so important to create a safe, trusting environment. One good strategy to spur debate is to assign someone to play the Devil’s Advocate role during a discussion. Rotate the responsibility among team members as needed. Debating, challenging and defending ideas creates better ideas. To an outside observer it may seem like chaos or dissension, but for effective teams, it’s serious progress.

Highly Effective Teams are Mission-oriented

Great teams tend to be those that get pointed in the right direction early. Even when people are working on different aspects of a project, effective teams understand the end goal. They understand the mission. Habit 2 of Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is “Begin with the End in Mind.” Covey was writing about making powerful changes for personal leadership, but the principle is still relevant to a team.

Bringing a team together to consider questions like, “What are we creating?” “How do we want to make a positive contribution to our organization?” “How will we change the world?” can be profound. Sometimes we limit ourselves unnecessarily. Teams that use this perspective to create a mission statement or are able to rally around an existing mission can achieve great things.

Highly Effective Teams get Results

This characteristic is multi-faceted. There is an underlying assumption that in order to be considered an effective team, there has to be positive results. The team has to hit its mark. This is true over the long run and is important to the sustainability of most organizations.

On the other hand, success is not always guaranteed, nor is it the best teacher. Effective teams do not over-celebrate their wins or get too low following a loss. Teams that take the time to study their results, good and bad, are able to learn and refine their recipe for success.

Highly Effective Teams have a Culture of Leadership

This subheading might be misleading. Effective teams don’t necessarily have to have a great leader. They work best in a culture of leadership. When team members are not worried about who gets the credit. When they go out of their way to serve each other. Teams that seek to learn and improve at all times. When a team has a culture of leadership, it is not about multiple team members trying to be the leader, it is about the team owning its work and supporting each other because they want the team to be more successful than any one individual.

Does Your Team Experience ALL of these Characteristics?

If you’d like to strengthen any or all of these areas within your team, contact one of our team development specialists at (800) 872-7830 for a free consultation. We have a number of solutions to help you develop a highly effective team!

What’s Your Workplace Culture Like?

What is your workplace culture like?When you think about your workplace, how would you describe it? Would you call it warm and inviting? Supportive? Encouraging? Does the atmosphere make it easy for your employees to grow their career? Perhaps your workplace is very accommodating to those staff members with families, like children and elderly parents, to work and take care of their loved ones at the same time. What you are describing is your workplace culture. Workplace culture is what your leaders believe in, what their management subscribes to, and the values that permeate throughout the entire staff. When an office’s workplace culture is good – that is, when it matches up with your own values as a leader – it can help your team work together seamlessly. Employees might think the work itself may be ho-hum, but they’d think twice before leaving, because the management and environment is great.

They feel safe and supported there, and they want to do the best for their boss. Because they know they’re working hard for the good of the company. Employees are at their best, and are productive, creative and innovative.
But when the workplace culture is bad – they dread going in to work, because frankly, they find the behavior there disruptive and frankly, tiring. They look for other jobs in their spare time. Whether you accept it or not, they’re not giving their job 100 percent.

How Does a Manager Create a Better Workplace Culture?

As a manager or a leader, your job is to make the workplace culture as positive and as inspiring as possible for your employees. Creating that culture takes time and energy, and it will take even more time for employees to get on board and get used to the new mentality.

But the rewards will be great. With a better workplace culture comes better engagement, better workplace attendance, greater productivity, and at the end, larger profits.

There are five degrees of workplace health. Read on to find out where you and your company rank:

  1. The first degree – and the lowest level – is dysfunction. Here, employees don’t trust each other or the boss, and work rarely gets done. When it does, the job is mediocre. The employees frequently call in sick and there will be high turnover. There is low morale here.
  2. The second degree is tension. There are disagreements between employees and the managers, and people talk about each other behind their backs. Attendance is slightly better than the dysfunctional level, but employees are actively searching for new jobs, and will jump ship at the first opportunity.
  3. The third degree is civility. Employees and managers get along, but they only barely tolerate each other. They treat each other with respect, and act professional, but don’t really like each other. They get by enough to get the job done, but employees would be hard pressed to say that they actually love their jobs.
  4. The fourth degree is acknowledgement. Employees and managers are thankful for each other and acknowledge each other on a job well done. Staff like each other and everyone is comfortable in their roles.
  5. The fifth degree – and this one is the highest – is validation. Leaders and managers acknowledge the hard work of staff, and give them challenges and responsibilities, which they love. There is a great deal of trust here, and employees are genuinely able to say that they love their jobs. There is room for growth and professional development, and rewards are far more than just monetary.

Which level does your workplace culture fall under?

Author Michelle Riklan: Michelle Riklan is an instructor specializing in workplace development. Call us at (800) 872-7830 to set up an appointment to consult with her.

Identifying the System Players On Your Team

System PlayersIn the sports world, people often refer to System Playerspeople that may not be athletic superstars, but that perform well in the context of the team. These players have skills that complement their team members well, and that makes them valuable assets. The best coaches realize the potential of these players, helping them bring out their abilities and determining how they work well with their teammates. In the same way, the greatest leaders are the ones that can identify these people, get to know their natural talents, and put them to use within the work system.

A system player is more than just a culture fit. An asset who can truly perform in the context of a team fits in with the various roles, responsibilities, and personalities that their coworkers already inhabit.

Below are four tips on how to identify and help your System Players prosper and contribute value to your team.

  1. When looking for a new candidate for your team, look past their resume and cover letter. Focus on their potential, communication style, and personality instead of their experience. New hard skills can always be taught – soft skills cannot. Try thinking outside of the box when evaluating a candidate instead of just judging their past job experience. Check their social media profiles and ask open-ended, thought – provoking questions that allow you to get to know them on a deeper level. When doing this, think objectively about what gaps they could potentially fill on your team.
  2. Get your employees involved in hiring, training, and career development. Candidates should meet several team members during the hiring phase – and once they become a member of your team, have team members help develop and facilitate his or her training. Doing this will ensure team members gain buy-in and ownership, help you identify the new team member’s strengths and weaknesses, and begin to get a feeling for how they’ll work together. Talk openly with them about the people they like to work with and what areas they feel are lacking.
  3. Have your “system players” set their own goals. Telling people what they need to accomplish over a certain time period doesn’t instill the ownership and accountability needed for these team members. Instead, ask them: “How do you want to improve yourself over this quarter? How do you want to improve the company?” By encouraging them to set their own goals, you see what they’re excited about and what they feel they could do better on, and you can respond accordingly.
  4. Give them options for movement within the company. Sometimes you’ll hire the right person, but you may not have them in the right role. If you feel that an employee has potential but may not be excelling in a certain job, encourage them to get to know different parts of the company. Think strategically about where their strengths may serve the organization in a better way. For example, you may have an employee that is struggling with directing clients and up-selling accounts, but that is extremely organized and detail-oriented. This person may be a better fit for a back-end role rather than client communication.

Finding the right person for your team, and not just the person with the most experience or skills, can seem counter-intuitive – and often, it takes a little more work. But once you find a “system player” that can contribute their collaboration and personality to make their team better, the hard work you invest into finding and nurturing them will be paid back tenfold.

As Jennifer Dulski, president and COO of Change.org has said, “Great organizations are built by great people, and if you have the right ones on your team, you can accomplish anything.

Build Trust at Work

Build Trust at WorkDid you know that you can buy trust? Oxytocin is a human pheromone that, when released, increases feelings of trust. The producers of Liquid Trust (you can find it on Amazon) claim that spraying their product on board room tables or documents can give you an extra edge in business. But you don’t have to buy bottles of Liquid Trust (reviews on Amazon are mixed) –there are best practices in communication that can increase trust at work. It’s important to practice these because trust opens doors. Being able to build trust at work is vital to success, though. Relationships built on trust lead to faster transactions, better collaboration and relationships among employees, better connections with clients and faster delivery of objectives. Let’s look at the two ways we can build trust at work and research on one rapid trust builder –self-disclosure.

Business Credibility and Personal Depth to Build Trust at Work

We build trust at work in two different ways, by sharing our business knowledge and by sharing thoughts and feelings. Most of us tend to prefer one type of communication over the other. Knowing our preferences can help us remember to adjust our habits to reach others who prefer the opposite style of trust building. To determine your style, ask yourself: do co-workers seek me out to talk about a business issue? Or am I the favorite when others want to talk about their personal challenges? When I meet a new colleague or customer do I want to demonstrate my knowledge or do I strive to find common ground and build rapport? These two styles aren’t mutually exclusive. It is possible to deliver both business credibility and personal depth. But often we have one favorite style and the other approach can feel less comfortable.

At work we trust others based on how skilled they are in offering these two different dimensions to us. We can identify five different mixtures of these styles at work. We seek out the Technical Specialist for their specific knowledge. We may have a lower level of trust in these interactions; they are simply transactional and specific to our niche needs of the moment. The Business Guru has an impressive breadth of business knowledge. We go to this person with big-picture questions but we might not expect them to be open to hearing our worries or candid sharing their concerns with us. The Trouble Shooter has a medium mix of business breadth and personal depth. We may engage this person on a broader range of topics and expect to have a slightly richer dialogue around our needs and challenges. Our Buddy at work offers lots of personal depth but may be low on business knowledge. While we trust this personal relationship we may be less likely to go to the Buddy for business guidance. The Trusted Advisor is the most trust-worthy. They have lots of wisdom on a wide range of business issues and they are open, empathetic and interested in our concerns. Trusted advisor relationships involve both conventional consultation and honest off-the-record conversations.

If we consistently share our business knowledge with others and listen and disclose both thoughts and feelings, we can become a trusted advisor to others. But not all situations call for this. By understanding what others need and prefer we can customize and adjust our habitual style to give others what they are seeking. Then we can help build trust in any situation.

Self-disclosure Builds Trust at Work

Some research on self-disclosure may help us feel more willing to expand our efforts in this area. Psychologists have found that

  1. People open up more to someone whom they like.
  2. People like someone more if one or both of the pair have shared openly.

In other words, when I self-disclose to you, not only do you like me more, but I like you more too. Sharing openly leads to more sharing. Self-disclosure is a uniquely effective tool for building rapid bonds between two people.

If you are the boss, how much should you reveal? Research by Offermann and Rosh (HBR Blog 2012) described skillful self-disclosure as knowing when and what to share. You don’t need to tell your colleagues everything you ate that day or every aspect of your personal life. Most important is empathizing with their situation and sharing similar experiences of your own.

Dan Cialdini, author of “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” says that unreciprocated openness destroys trust. A consultant friend had this experience. She met her client for the first time and said, “Hi Nancy, it’s good to meet you, how’s everything?”

Her client Nancy said, “Oh it’s been a tough few weeks –my fiancé and I decided to call
off our wedding.”

My friend was caught off guard so she ignored this self-disclosure and said, “Ok, well I’ll
keep this brief then, is there a projector in the meeting room?”

After this interaction my friend struggled to build a close working relationship with this client. If she had merely acknowledged the disclosure and shared a bit of empathy she would have built trust in that moment. She might have said, “That sounds hard. I know it can be a challenge to have these kinds of meetings when we are dealing with Life’s curveballs…” Even if we think a colleague or team member is disclosing too much, this only means that they trust us and want to build on that trust. We don’t have to share as completely but we do need to acknowledge when someone else self-discloses.

Listening to others’ self-disclosure also implies that we are interested in them. Research confirms that others will trust us more if we seem interested in them. If we are too busy pushing our own agendas, trust will be lost.

Individuals who are trusted by their colleagues, clients, customers and stakeholders are ultimately more successful. This is because when you are trusted, you need to spend less time building rapport, influencing, selling, gaining consensus and jumping through bureaucratic hoops, leaving you free to spend more time delivering in your role. By being aware of the need to share our business knowledge and build personal depth with others, we will be more likely to build trust at work.

Laura-Lewis-BarrLaura Lewis-Barr is president of Traning4Breakthroughs, and she is an expert presentation skills coach based in Chicago, Illinois. She teaches team building events in Chicago, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, St Louis, and other cities in the Midwest, and works with clients all over the world.

How to Win the Confidence and Loyalty of Your Team

Loyalty of Your TeamHaving the confidence and loyalty of your team makes your job easier. No second-guessing, no arguing, no fights, and minimal turnover. What’s not to like? You might not admit it, but it’s easier to get things done when employees believe in you. I bet you wouldn’t be as stressed if you didn’t have to serve memos for poor attendance, because your team actually loves their job. If your team is already loyal to your cause, and confident in your ability as their boss, you wouldn’t be reading this article. But since you’re still here, I assume you need a bit of help getting to that point. If so, below are a few tips about how to win the confidence and loyalty of your team.

Bridging the Gap from So-So Commitment to 100% Loyalty of Your Team

Skip the Me, Me, Me Mentality

Why would John be interested in this project? Why would he devote all his time and energy into making this a success? Your answer better not be because you said so.

If you can’t explain how the task is going to benefit John’s career, you’ll have a poor chance of gaining his confidence in your leadership ability.

So think about your employees might react if you didn’t have the authority to terminate them. Chances are, you’ll probably envision one of them with a snappy comeback. Base your reply on whatever snappy remark he or she comes up with then tie it to that employee’s career goals.

Give Help to Get Help

Don’t hesitate to assist your employees, even if you know they should be capable enough to do their own job — or find answers for themselves. You’re the boss, it’s part of your job description to guide them when they need answers or clarification.

Remember, no one’s asking you to do the job. A few suggestions is often enough.
Next time a team member asks for help, or is falling behind; invite him for a quick meeting. Talk about his work and the hiccups he’s experiencing. Some questions to ask:

  • What alternatives have you considered so far?
  • What is preventing you from completing X task?
  • Do you need more time?

Under Promise, Over-Deliver

Your employees might be grown ups, but like children, they still don’t like broken promises. Bonus cancelled this year? Yes, everyone in your team is disappointed. They need to render overtime again this month, even if you said last month was the last time? They’re disappointed, too.

Never promise anything you can’t give, and never promise something outside your control. That includes bonuses, schedules, and promotions. Even if what you’re promising has already been approved by upper-management, it’s still not wise to announce it until it’s in writing.
Embrace Uncertainty and Failure

No one likes working for a perfectionist boss. No one wants to get shouted at for their mistakes. Yes, even if it’s their fault. So let your team knows that it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as they don’t hide it from you.

A team that’s not scared of an angry boss is more productive, innovative, and happy. They’re less likely to resign, too.

Above All, Be Open

Is something amiss at the company? Don’t hide it. Discuss it with your team. What can you do? How does the situation affect all of you? When your team knows they can trust you to keep them up to date with the goings-on in the office, besides their job, you’ll be the first person they talk to. They won’t be tempted to rely on gossip.

5 Signs Your Team Needs a Teambuilding Event

Team Needs a Team Building EventThe word “Teambuilding” alone is enough to get some rolling their eyes and checking their calendar for a scheduling conflict. And while many of our first thoughts of teambuilding go to a comical episode of The Office or a YouTube video of an exercise gone wrong, the process of teambuilding, in whatever form it takes, is an invaluable tool in establishing and fostering trust, communication, and creativity that helps teams reach and sustain high performance. The question often becomes, “How do we know when to embark on teambuilding?” Teams come in a variety of shapes and sizes, working on everything from short-term projects to long-term programs, and there is the vexing difference between newly-created teams and long-established teams. For those in a leadership position, it may be useful to keep an eye out for some of the 5 signs indicating that your team needs a teambuilding event.

Five (5) Signs Indicating Your Team Needs a Teambuilding Event

New Band Members, Same Name and Songs

People end up coming and going from teams. It is downright difficult to keep a team together for a significant period of time. Not all teams are meant to operate long-term, but for the ones that are (or do), it is a given that some turnover will occur. People will move on to new roles, responsibilities, and organizations. In a lot of cases, they are backfilled and trained so well, the operation doesn’t miss a beat in the near-term. But just like a hit band who’s had to replace some of the original members, sometimes it’s just not the same. It may be the same name and songs, but the band has changed. New faces and perspectives can be tremendous assets, but it’s important to keep in mind that new team members will likely have different preferences for communication, working, and productivity. Sometimes it takes teambuilding to recognize what new members are bringing to the team and appreciate that they aren’t just filling a previously-occupied role.

Trust Issues

There are several attributes that great teams share; almost always rising to the top of that short list is trust among team members. It’s not easy to come by; it can be a long and laborious road to establish it, and a short painful one to destroy it. Trust can also erode over time if it’s not maintained. While it’s unlikely that a half-day teambuilding event, or even a weekend retreat, can establish trust between strangers or adversaries, it can be a great jumping off point. Trust is earned over time, but when it’s lacking, starting the dialogue is an important first step.

Group Think

Teams carry so much inherent potential, it’s exciting. What’s interesting about teams is that they rarely get brought together to tackle anything easy. After all, if it were easy, it would have already been done. For a team to effectively take on important work, it needs diverse ideas, thoughts and perspectives. Team members have to understand their responsibility to speak up and offer differences of ideas and opinions. If a team gets a case of groupthink, where everyone goes along to get along, or debate is stifled, team members may be doing a disservice and it’s probably time to remind the team why it exists and how it can best operate.

Communication & Collaboration

Have you ever searched the Internet for “team communication tools”? The number of services and products offered is staggering and at the same time telling. Communication is key for team success and successful collaboration, but it is difficult to achieve. Services offering chat features, file sharing, video conferencing, and the like are tremendous tools, but that’s only half the battle. If a team still isn’t communicating and collaborating effectively or to the extent necessary, it’s the people, not the service. Investing the time and energy to improve communication and collaboration will guarantee more long-term success than the best product on the market.

Loss of Focus

Maintaining focus on a mission or objective is one of the most important factors to any organization’s success. The problem is that in many situations people get busy with work or life or the day-to-day noise and lose sight of the greater cause. To some extent it’s natural not to talk about the mission constantly, but culturally and in reality, it should be at the heart of everything. That mission or objective is probably the greatest rallying point a team can have. When team members begin paying too much attention to outside distractions, or start looking beyond or around the objective, don’t hesitate to remind or re-focus a team on that ultimate mission or goal.

Teambuilding is an important and necessary part of leadership. Giving team members the resources to perform at their best includes recognizing when the team may not be hitting on all cylinders. Spending time time to get to know each other again, improve communication and collaboration, or to re-focus on what matters can be a small investment that has big ROI in terms of team productivity and performance.

If you are looking for a teambuilding event, make sure and take a look at our charity team building activities!

To Re-engage a Team, Refresh, Refocus, and Reinvent

Re-engage-a-teamTeams come in different shapes and sizes, and serve various purposes. When you’re lucky enough to have a team that’s been together for a while or worked on multiple projects, one of the difficulties can be to re-engage a team. Downtime can be great; you can consider it like an “off-season,” but what to do to reignite that spark? Perhaps it is a time when the group is not actively involved in a project or is in between major initiatives. So, if you want to re-engage a team, the steps are to refresh, refocus, and reinvent the way that you deal with your team. Recapturing the positive energy from past successes and sustaining momentum is a major priority for any organization. Regardless of whether the team has a long history together or is trying to show it’s not a one-hit wonder, there are strategies worth employing to getting a team back together and performing at a high level.


For some team members, reconvening after time away is no problem, they pick up right where they left off. For others, it can feel awkward, and these feelings can be shared by people on the same team since we all bring our own perspectives and feelings. In order to get everyone back on the same page, it can help to hit the REFRESH button. No matter how long the team has been apart, all the team members have gone through changes, achieved milestones, learned something new, suffered setbacks, etc. When a team reconvenes, a helpful strategy is to give the members an opportunity to update each other on what they’ve been working on and what’s new in their world. A refresh session becomes even more important when newer members are being introduced into an existing team.


Once the team has been thoroughly reintroduced (or introduced) to one another, it is important to take time to re-visit the team’s reason for being. How similar is this project or initiative to a previous one? Even for teams that have experienced significant successes, trying to apply a previously used recipe doesn’t always end up with the same results. When teams come together after time away, they need to RE-FOCUS on their mission, vision and core values. This doesn’t always mean creating new mission and vision statements, but it is effective to evaluate if the team’s old mission fits the new project. If the objectives have changed, if the end users are going to be different or if you are adding value to a different part of the business, there is a chance the mission or vision could use updating.

Something else to keep in mind is that not every team has a written mission or vision statement, or has thought of its core principles. When re-engaging a team, or looking to take its performance to a new level, taking the time to consider these foundational pieces are strategies that can re-focus a team and get them ready for the next adventure.


Most people recognize that the benefit of working on a team is that the team can accomplish much more than the sum of each individual contributor on his or her own. One person may be able to do every single task required to launch a new product or program, but by approaching it with a team, you benefit from diversity of thought and ideas, more effective use of resources, and team members whose strengths balance others’ weaknesses. One aspect of teams that should not get overlooked is the opportunity to learn and lead.

Bringing a team back together after time away is not only a great opportunity to replicate past success (or even redemption), but it can be a perfect time for team members to play different roles. By taking a long-term and developmental approach to working in teams, helping colleagues sharpen their skills and improve in areas that are less developed becomes a byproduct of effective team performance that will benefit the team in the near-term, and the individual and organization in the long-term.

So much potential lies in working in teams. The greater the challenge there is, the more the potential benefit to the organization. By recognizing the necessary steps to re-engage a team, there is opportunity to not only get off to a great start, but even take the team’s performance to new heights.

Good Leadership Change Whiners and Pessimists into Top Performers

Motivated-People-PerformA pessimist can bring down a whole team without trying. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the pessimists in your team completely. In some cases, these people can add a touch of realism into an overly optimistic team. As a leader, you have two options here: Good leadership can change whiners and pessimists into top performers, or a good leader can also use the negativity of these team members as a way to map out possible points of failure. Either way, you’re turning them into top performers who can contribute to your team instead of just complaining. But which route should you take? When is it safe to say you’ve tried your best and the only option is to let go? Below are a few tips that any leader can use to help improve morale in your team — especially if you happen to have a few team members who like to focus on the negative versus the positive.

Identify the Core of the Problem

For starters, you should determine the root cause of their negativity before attempting to advice or change employees like them in any way.

Asking questions will help you identify the likely starting point of their pessimistic and whiny attitude. It’s not likely they’re just born that way, right?

“What’s the first thing that comes to your mind before you complain about (insert the last subject of their complaint here)?”

Asking about what they thought before verbalizing the complaint will reveal clues about where they’re coming from. Is the employee pessimistic because of past failures, the project’s difficulty or potential problems they see that you don’t?

By asking that question every time they complain, you’ll soon see a pattern to their behavior. Is the negative attitude triggered by a specific event, a particular employee or a time? Could it have been caused by too much pressure or over time?

Once you answer these questions, then you can proceed to developing a solution to their behavior.

Turning Pessimists into Better Contributing Employees

After finding the root cause of the employee’s negativity, the next step is to help them channel their pessimism into something useful. This has to be done in a constructive manner; your aim is to help employees see things in a different light and use their negative view of things constructively. The goal isn’t to make them see how whiny and annoying they are.

The goal is not to change your team member’s values and beliefs.

  • Listen and Understand: When a pessimist in your team shows doubt about a project’s ROI or timeline, listen to it and confirm that you understand the message. Most pessimists are used to being ignored and disregarded, thus creating more negativity. By paying attention and trying to understand the situation, you are showing the negative individual that you care and that you are including him or her in the team as well. Aside from showing how you care about their opinions, their negative remarks might clue you in on potential disasters to avoid.
  • Don’t be So Optimistic to the Point of Stupidity: It is natural to try and put a positive spin on negative remarks. Don’t. This will only annoy the pessimist in your team. When pessimists feel mocked, they won’t open up next time. Instead of being a plain ol’ pessimist, you’ll be dealing with a passive-aggressive employee instead. That’s even more annoying to the whole team.
  • Give Credit When It’s Due: Some pessimists are negative because they don’t trust authority figures anymore. They might have been betrayed, forgotten or left hanging by an authority figure who promised a promotion but didn’t deliver. So now, they’re just out there to complain and spread bitterness.
  • Sometimes, it’s about stolen glory. If an individual in your team has done well, make sure to give credit when it is due. Acknowledge their contribution to the team to encourage them to be positive. Show them there’s still good in the world of corporate politics.

    Pessimists tend to concentrate on negative aspects of things. Don’t let that stop you from leading them towards their potential.

    Michelle Riklan is president of Riklan Resources and an instructor for The Leader’s Institute® in the Northeast region. She is based in Trenton, NJ but she also can conduct a team activity in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and other Northeast cities.

Create More Big Wins by Celebrating Your Team’s Small Wins

Praise-the-Small-WinsCompany leaders always want to celebrate those big wins, but you’ll actually create more big wins by celebrating your team’s small wins. About 65% of employees don’t feel valued by their boss, according to a study by CareerBuilder, and this attitude is often created because employers often overlook the normal, day-to-day successes of their employees. You might think it’s time consuming or expensive to celebrate an the accomplishment if the activity is just a small progress in an ongoing project, or an otherwise unnoticeable upward movement in a long term goal. It’s not like your team was just awarded a huge 100 grand deal, right? Well, those quick “attaboys” mean a lot to your team, and they are a great way to build camaraderie.

Celebrate the Small Wins to Build Teamwork

However small or insignificant a “win” is, it’s still worth celebrating. When the going gets tough, it’s the recognition and celebration that comes from small wins that pushes your team to keep going. Even if everything is going wrong, withholding praise or recognition on a legit accomplishment or progress sends the wrong message. Say that sales are down, but one of your team members closes a small contract that moves the sales team closer to their goal. Most managers will wait until the goal is completed before instilling praise on the group, but a quick praise of the salesperson who accomplished the small win will make encourage the other salespeople to follow suit.

Progress Principle: Progress toward a Goal is Hugely Influenced by Attitude

Prior to becoming Nobel Laureates for building the DNA Structure, James Watson and Francis Crick observed that the amount of progress they made towards their work was hugely influenced by their attitude. This effect was later called the ‘progress principle,’ which states that meaningful progress (small wins) increases people’s motivation more than any external or internal factor.

3 Tips for Encouraging Your Team using the Progress Principle

  1. Cheer them, Cheer Yourselves, Cheer Everyone: One account manager finally convinced a hesitant client to push through with a campaign? Celebrate that with the team. That account manager isn’t the only one supposed to be celebrating. When you celebrate one team member’s success as a team, everyone gets to bask in that person’s limelight, and in turn feel they’re a part of the effort and win. Cheering or celebrating as a group solidifies your bond as a team.
  2. Celebrate Itty-Bitty Milestones: When most leaders think about progress, they imagine a long to-do list finally completed. To most managers, a win is a major dent in a long-term project spanning months, not something that only took days to finish. While such big wins are amazing, they take much longer to come to fruition. Do you expect your team to slave off continuously at their 100% best without any boost from you? No. Only robots can do that. That’s why big projects have to be broken down into manageable to-dos. Small milestones provide a quick boost of morale to everyone at a more frequent pace. Ask individual team members to set their own goals in line with their current responsibility. For instance, a team member assigned to meet prospects and close deals can set a small milestone win after every five prospect meetings. Having team members track their efforts will also help them remember their progress, especially on bad days.
  3. Keep it Positive: Sometimes, even the most well-meant praise can sound sarcastic. For instance, phrases like, “About time you hit that quota!” or “I’m glad you finally finished that report,” will have a negative effect versus a positive one. While you might be really appreciative or glad of a subordinate’s progress, such statements can be construed as a complaint, or sarcastic praise. Keep constructive feedback to formal coaching sessions. For now, let your employees bask in the glory of their accomplishment.

Mementos and Trophies

On a final note, don’t be hesitant to give tangible rewards when it’s well deserved — even for a small win. Some managers don’t know how to do this, or they just don’t know what to give their employees. In this case, remember that you’re giving a symbol of their accomplishment, not necessarily a monetary reward.

Remember how much you liked trophies, medals and awards as a kid? It’s the same for your employees. Even adults like to receive awards.

Contact Us


Contact Us via Phone or Send us an Email

Contact Information

Corporate Office:
The Leader's Institute®
5430 LBJ Freeway, Suite 1200
Dallas, TX 76017
Phone: (214) 989-4131

The Leader's Institute Team Building®
1900 Grandstand Dr San Antonio, TX 78238
Phone: (210) 460-5996

Search for an Office Near You

Our Location


Home | About Us | Blog | Public Speaking Training | Public Speaking Class | Team Building | Team Building Events | Bicycle Team Building | Leadership Training | Keynote Speakers | Contact Us | Locations

Corporate Office: 5430 LBJ Fwy, Dallas, TX 75240 | Team Building: 1900 Grandstand Dr, San Antonio, TX 78238 | © 2010 The Leaders Institute - All Rights Reserved

Site Map | Privacy Policy | © 2016 The Leaders Institute - All Rights Reserved