10 Leadership Tips to Motivate Your Team in 2021
2020 has been a year like few others, but the core principles of good leadership never change.
I have been exceptionally fortunate and privileged not only to have had the opportunity to lead teams of people all over the world (literally) to achieve extraordinary heights, but, additionally, to have had the good fortune of being able to deeply analyse and explore the why and the how of the leadership journey – both through my own studies and research and by rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s preeminent thinkers and authors on personal, team and organisational success.
My premise has always been to gain commitment – the source – rather than focus on performance or effectiveness, as these are the outcomes. Don’t worry about the scoreboard, invest in the team scoring! When you gain commitment, you gain everything; it is the source of engagement, collaboration, innovation, accountability, well-being, happiness and performance.
Thus was born compassionate leadership as the route to commitment. Compassion is “understanding with positive action”, as defined by the Dalai Lama, and compassionate leadership is to “secure the best for all”. Compassion is not the soft option.
These 10 tips are tough and will take effort and discipline, but you will reap the rewards of your efforts.
1. Shut up and listen
A big lesson from a truly inspirational Nigerian Chief. As leaders we are full of great ideas, enthusiasm and passion. We strive for success and are hugely experienced people. But, how can we act if we do not understand? How can we motivate, relate and inspire if we are ignorant? How can we lead? We cannot. First we must listen. Start the year with your ears not your mouth, and then keep listening.
2. Give your people a return on their investment
When my crew stood in front of me for the very first time at the beginning of the BT Global Challenge, the world’s toughest yacht race, it dawned on me what the first and most important role of leadership must be. These people had given me the most precious gift they could. Their time. Their life. “Here you go Skipper, here is my life”! They will never get these moments back. It is an irreversible commitment, the ultimate gift. From that moment I realised that my foremost responsibility was to give them a return on their investment. That is leadership. That is legacy. Your people have done the same. What ROI will you give them?
3. Take the time to gain commitment
Commitment comes from the heart, not the head. It is an emotional construct, not an intellectual one. It is not freely given; like trust, it must be earned. You will need to tap into people’s sense of self-worth to gain the elixir of commitment. That will take a concerted effort and focused time with your people to listen to them and help them align to the strategic plan and the culture to deliver it.
4. Motivational language(s)
Recognising that we are all motivated differently and therefore have different needs and respond to different motivational language is vital. I had to use the language of achievement, affiliation and influence in order to gain my team’s commitment to take on the biggest energy system on the planet – Hurricane Michael – during the BT Global Challenge. This was informed by the excellent 3-Needs Theory. You will need to break out of your own motivational language and use all three needs.
Recognising that we are all motivated differently and therefore have different needs and respond to different motivational language is vital.
5. Attack the hurricanes
As we sailed south from Boston in the race, we bumped into Hurricane Michael. What do you do? You cannot ignore it and carry on as you were. You could try to run away but at what cost to your strategy? Try to minimise collateral damage? Or … attack! We attacked hurricane and came out in first place. We were in charge of our own destiny. We were not afraid. Whatever hurricanes may be in your path, big or small, turn them into opportunities not threats.
6. Mission and purpose
Engage your people in creating your mission and purpose. Do not gloss over this. It is the most powerful tool you have for clarity and commitment. You need to know and share the why of your business, as well as the what and the how. It defines your culture, enables empowerment and “best, right decisions”, and forms the basis for self-worth and commitment.
7. Don’t just focus on the task
When you are up to your neck in it and it’s all kicking off around you the temptation is to focus just on the task, the scoreboard, the hurricane. The Action Centred Leadership model by the great John Adair has been my guide since my first days as an officer in the Royal Navy. A leader must balance the effort between achieving the task, building the team and developing the individuals within; it is easy to get distracted by the storm, but it is the crew that will get you through it.
Engage your people in creating your mission and purpose.
8. Do the job you should do…
…not the one you can do. Yes I can sail and on my yacht I was the most experienced, so it would make sense that I am on the wheel when it gets tricky, yes? No! Wrong. If I am on the wheel I am trapped, head down. If I am on the wheel, who is navigating? Who is checking the weather, the route, the competitors? Who is leading? No one. A skipper cannot be omnipresent and to empower creates a legacy and commitment. Focus on your job and enable others to do theirs.
9. Focus on the positives
You are going to make mistakes. It won’t all be plain sailing. Things will go wrong. Your attitude in those moments is critical. Your reaction to mistakes either enables learning and growth, or stops it dead in its tracks. Remember, it is not just what you say, but how you say it and how you show it – 55% of the emotional context of communication is on your body language, 38% your tone and only 7% the words you say.
It all starts with you, the leader. In our desire to serve others we invariably compromise ourselves. Hands up if you do get all the sleep you want, you do spend time on your hobbies and sports, you do eat healthy rather than just grab a snack, you do spend the quality time with your loved ones that you wish to, and that you do invest in your own today and tomorrow? Make 2021 the year of you. Become the best version of yourself. Be kind to yourself and then you can serve others to the best of your ability.