4 Ways leaders create a positive work environment

empty childrens playground with slide, stairs, tunnel and bridge.

You have your start-up, you have a team, now what? Before you start firing off in all directions giving orders, stop to think about what kind of environment you want to create for your team. The start-up industry is highly competitive for talent, so the onus is on you to make sure your team is happy, engaged, and doing great work.

Here are four things you can implement to create a positive team environment.

1) Let them be free

If you’ve ever had a micromanaging boss, you know what it feels like. I’ve had several, and have sworn to never fall into that trap. Micromanaging will kill all creativity from your team, so avoid at all costs. A micromanager insists that everything is done their way, there is a system, and they insist you fall into it. They also don’t like good ideas coming from other people, so it’s best not to suggest any good ideas. Be warned, there are some managers that give you the false pretence that they want your input, but then change it all back to the preferred way in the end. Make sure that’s not you.

If you want your employees to achieve above and beyond results, you have to let them be free, and be themselves. Yes, it won’t always be the way you would have done, but 99% of the time that’s actually “okay”. As a leader, you have one main role, and that is to communicate the vision of your business to your team. Ensuring that the work your team does is in line with the vision, and they are working to the values, is all that matters. Let them be free, explore, and innovate. Believe me, innovation is not bred through micromanagers. A micromanaging environment will leave no room for risk, but a lot of room for slacking.

2) Get out of comfort zones

So now your team feels free to be themselves in how they work, push them out of their comfort zones. Don’t assume that they will do it themselves. Comfy is nice, that’s why we tend to stay there.  A good leader will constructively take their team out of their zones so they can sharpen their skills and develop.

I want to highlight the word “constructively”. You want to help them develop skills they are already good at or have expressed a desire in trying.  We all reach a plateau, even the best do. Your role is to ensure your team members don’t plateau. So get to know them, and know what they’re good at, what they love, so you can recognise when it starts to plateau.

You don’t want to push them into a non-constructive comfort zone. Don’t try to get them to be good at things they are fundamentally not good at, or not comfortable doing. Don’t push a very shy person to talk in front of a group of people. This will not be fun for them and can cause a lot of anxiety. Making people do things outside of their personality type will lead you to have major “square-peg-in-round-hole-syndrome,” and your team productivity will significantly diminish. *If you just thought to yourself “that square peg was hired were hired to do that round hole job, they should just get over it” you need to revisit your recruiting strategy*

3) Give them control

Whenever possible delegate control. This will not only be great for you but will mean the world to them. We all love to feel important, and when your manager trusts you enough to put you in charge of something, you immediately feel a sense of responsibility and ownership.

For example, delegate micro budgets. I used to have lots of members of my team coming to ask if they could purchase x, invest in y, go to z event, and a lot of my time was spent doing the cost-benefit analysis of everything. It did not feel like it was a good use of my time. So I flipped it back to them. I gave them a monthly budget, and they had the responsibility to decide if they were smart purchases or not. At the end of each month, we would collectively meet to discuss the budget, and look at the summary of purchases. If it was a good idea, great, what was learned was shared, if it wasn’t, we would discuss why it was a fail, and how to avoid repeating that in the future.

I trusted my team to have the ability to make decisions on certain (there was a cap) purchase orders and to come to me if they needed support. By giving them ownership of a budget, it became their responsibility to insure it was well spent. I was happy for them to make mistakes, as long as they could recognise that to assure it wasn’t done again.

4) Be a Mentor / Coach

Now that I wasn’t being bogged down with purchasing decisions, I had a lot of free time on my hands. This is exactly where you want to be. Leaders need free time to do what they do best, innovate. They also need free time to establish that their team is always in a state of beta. Being there to mentor and coach your team is the key to long-term success.

Mentoring is providing guidance based on your experience and knowledge. Coaching is giving them the confidence and support to act on decisions. These terms are often used interchangeable, but they are not at all the same, and should not be confused. If you’re currently in a leadership role, I would highly recommend you invest in a coaching certification program so you can coach. For me, it was the golden ticket to being a great leader.

Implementing these tactics will help you create an environment that will breed creativity, responsibility, innovation and engagement. When your team feels that they are growing, your results will grow with them. Be cautious of falling into micro-management traps under times of stress of high pressure. Always remember your role is to support and develop, so you can all go beyond the status-quo.