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Coach Them Well: What birds can teach us about leadership…

In nature, mother birds coax their chicks in learning to fly with food and other tools.

This offers a teaching opportunity to their young that the journey to get food, even after a fall or struggle, becomes easier over time. This mindset and methodology can be used by coaches and project managers to empower their teams as well.

Motivating your team to be the best they can be is one of the most difficult tasks managers are faced with. By maintaining communication with their teams and leading with purpose and understanding, coaches can inspire greatness. They know that by replacing the top-down dynamic, their team is encouraged to participate on a deeper level in communication and strategies to drive the company (and its mission) forward.

Every project presents an opportunity for growth and collaboration for team members and project managers. When project managers become coaches instead of bosses, they help their teams learn to become more self-sufficient and self-reliant in moving tasks forward.

Here are five ways you can coach your team to success:

1. Ask open-ended questions, allowing your team to innovate new solutions.

To ensure your team is engaged and provide an opportunity for them to share creative ideas, ask open-ended questions. These open inquiries will encourage your team to express their opinions and ideas more than questions that give people limited options for response. When you listen to what they have to say, showing interest and respect for their input, it shows you care and the impact can be significant. Drop the “yes” and “no” questions if you really want to get the best out of your team. Here are some examples to try:

  • How do you feel about your part of this project—are there any opportunities or gaps we haven’t addressed?
  • Tell me about a similar project you completed in the past. Is there something we haven’t considered?
  • What can I do as a leader to help you be more successful?

2. To help your team understand how their task supports the overall goal, be descriptive and clear about the project’s goals.

Engaging with your team members and connecting their efforts to the larger business goals can directly impact the bottom line. Disengaged employees can cost companies billions of dollars per year. Let’s face it, no one likes to feel like they are working in a silo. Employees have better outcomes when they feel passionate about their part in the overall mission, and when that’s made clear the end result reflects that.

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3. Make everything actionable and measurable when describing a task by choosing your words carefully.

As a leader, using certain words can alienate or create tension while others encourage. Start a project off by using action words and a collaborative “we” sentiment to keep everyone focused and motivated. Understand what type of language excites and inspires your team and use it generously. It’s also crucial to ensure each team member clearly knows their role and what success looks like for them.

4. New ideas and perspectives should be encouraged within your team.

If you really want to establish an environment where employees are encouraged to speak up, then openly declare that and make it clear that dialogue is a priority. Change can stir up emotional responses that often cause people to pull back rather than lean in. Inspiring and enabling your team to affect change requires having conversations that move people from reaction to action. By setting the tone in your culture that every voice is important, you’ll receive buy-in as well as strong engagement.

5. Empower your team to talk freely and openly to help spark new ideas.

Open communication is crucial for all parties involved. Let your team know you welcome ideas at any time, in any form: by e-mail, voicemail or text; in a suggestion box; at staff meetings or during hallway conversations. This encourages everyone to share their ideas in the first flush of enthusiasm, so that good ideas don’t end up on the back burner where they may be forgotten.

This all plays into a powerful reciprocal effect. When a team learns to become more independent, the project manager will also find more time to think strategically and better align what their team is doing with the business’ overall mission.

Whether your team is gearing up for a big project in 2021 or heading back into the office together for the first time in months, now is the perfect time to solidify great leadership and clear communication. If you want to create higher performing teams, use clear, concise communication to coach better employee productivity.

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