Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

Yes, it's essential if you want people engaged and productive and you want them to stay.

But let's be careful about what we mean by a happy team.

So what do we mean by a happy team?

If we mean that everyone feels joy, or even unrelenting positiveness, that's unrealistic. It's also unhealthy.

Even the happiest people have down-days, frustrations and disappointments. Demanding unrelenting positiveness can be a pressure to suppress natural reactions to life. It just adds to stress.

Worse, pressure to be a 'team player' - to support the team's optimism, no matter what - leads to 'groupthink', the process that killed seven astronauts in NASA's Challenger disaster.

So how do you create a happy, healthy, engaged, productive team?

A few themes come through strongly in the research on motivation and engagement.

Develop a sense of mission

Making profits for the shareholders won't cut it, nor will bland satements about products or service. What does your organisation do that helps people?

I know a very successful firm of bakers with more than 40 staff and a restaurant attached. Their mission: to provide the kind of hospitality that will make their bakery and restaurant a hub of the community.

Make it clear how the work your employees do helps your organisation achieve its mission.

Encourage relationships at work

Create ways for compatible people to work together. Put someone on to organising social events.

Give your people autonomy

As their skills and experience grow, give them opportunities to make decisions and mistakes. Eliminate the micromanagement, but take care that you don't leave staff feeling abandoned. (It's a particularly significant issue with employees from eastern cultures.)

Help employees to be, and feel, competent

Provide mentoring, coaching and training. Take a real interest not just in their performance, but their progress. Expect high standards. Catch them doing good.

Engaging your team

Creating a holiday camp is not the only alternative to a top-down, 'they're here to work', authoritarian style of management.

There's overwhelming objective evidence that focusing on a few of the right things produces highly engaged teams. Are those teams happy? Sure, but more in the sense of life-satisfaction than the fizzy, hedonistic end of the happiness scale.