After college, as you move into the “real world” of office politics, coworkers, career advancement, and leadership roles, you’ll find yourself striving to make a mark. With seven in ten seniors graduating with an average of around $29,000 in debt, grads need to forge strong working relationships. Recent grads that develop leadership skills–building strong relationships early and often–will secure safe and stable employment and avoid defaulting on student loans.
No matter what your position is at a new company, you can inspire creativity on your team with a few simple techniques. These tips can help you form sincere and trusting relationships with your team members, as well as put you on the fast-track for advancement.
Create a collaborative environment
In brainstorming sessions and meetings, treat everyone’s ideas as equal. Once you get everyone’s ideas on the table (or whiteboard), you can go through and selectively edit and shortlist the best ones.
If you shoot down ideas during the brainstorming part of the exercise, people will feel picked on and they’ll be less likely to offer more ideas, solutions, or speak up during other meetings. Supporting an environment where the creative people on your team feel free to share their solutions, no matter how “strange” or “silly” they might sound on first pass–can help get the wheels turning in others’ heads as well. This tactic may lead to bigger and better versions of the original idea. Make sure that everyone knows that the brainstorming session is off-limits to criticism and that feedback will have a place only in the vetting session later.
In order to keep the interrupting and shortlisting impersonal, make sure everyone gets a chance to voice their ideas without being cut off as the ideas come out of their mouths. Get all the ideas listed, then go back through as a group and discuss the pros and cons of each one based on its individual merit. This will create a sense of collective collaboration and contentment with the process, help everyone feel heard, and allow your team to more fully commit to the final ideas as well.
Give frequent positive encouragement
Starting from a young age, we become conditioned by positive encouragement from our friends, family, teachers, and coaches. We may have received numerous stars on our charts, awards, certificates, and accolades based only on “participation” and not true achievement. This creates a mindset where we want all our major and minor accomplishments to be recognized and acknowledged.
In a business environment or workplace, however, it’s just not practical or possible to reward every minor accomplishment. You can, however, take the time about once a month to have a chat with your employees or coworkers for a few minutes, letting them know they are appreciated and that you do notice them. This is important whether you are in a management position or are merely coworkers on the same team. Acknowledge their contributions and thank them, let them know you enjoy working with them (if you do). Avoid sentences like, “I love how you…but…” The “but” will kill the positive message. If absolutely needed, save the criticism for another interaction: just keep the positive encouragement short and sweet.
Give constructive criticism
When it comes to criticism, there is more than one way to deliver it. Some managers or coworkers will get right to the point–telling workers all their flaws in a long drawn out list–or pouncing on them with their shortfalls or problems. This can leave employees with a bitter taste and make them feel worthless and unwanted (even if they are contributing positively to the company in many ways). Low job satisfaction can lead to higher turnover, creating confusion as employees cycle in and out. And, new hires take time to train, hurting the company in the longterm.
When doling out criticism or handling performance reviews, be sure to “sandwich” the negative between two positives. For example: “Janice, I was really impressed by that presentation you put together for our clients–your contribution was definitely a large part in us landing that sale. I would like to point out that there were a few spelling errors and misquoted figures in the presentation though. So, next time I would like you to give it a final look-over and check with Steve on the best figures to use and get his feedback on that. Overall, the presentation was strong, and I doubt that our clients noticed the minor mistakes. If we work together to iron out the small flaws, our next presentation can be an even stronger collaboration between our entire team!”
See how I’ve sandwiched the negative criticism in between two positives? This makes the criticism easier to stomach. Like Mary Poppins sings: “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!”
Implementing these tips will help establish you as a kind, fair, and sincere coworker–enabling you to model behaviors that others will soon pick up and implement as well. Practicing leadership qualities during every interaction with your team members will make for stronger collaborations, more positive office spaces, and happier employees. Now, get in there and team-build!
written by Christine Rudolph