Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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Business team

Creating a Team of Responsive, Happy People


In both the corporate and the non-profit world, your team members want believe that they are part of something larger than just themselves.  People have an inherent need to feel important, and that they make a difference. We all like to know that our contributions are valued and that we are appreciated. We also need direction so we don’t waste time and resources.  

When managing, try to provide your people with options that work for them in a way that matters to them. Play to their strengths while aligning their talents to the needs of the organization.

Especially when working with volunteers, try to match the work with the person most interested and best at doing a particular job. Make it easy for your workers to perform the work that is important to them, viable for them, and capitalizes on their talents.

For example, when talking with an non-profit volunteer about his or her role, do you want them to focus on membership recruitment, membership dues, creating programs, or membership communication? In other words, you are asking your volunteer if they want to talk with people and sell your group’s value, work relatively independently with numbers and reconciliation of budgets, outreach to external agencies, or work with small teams to people to craft mailings or social media tools. Giving people a choice about the type of work they want to do is a huge advantage in determining their success at a given job.

People also need both the tools and the ability or training to do what you need them to do. If you want your treasurer to deliver a monthly report, then they need the software and the training on that program to deliver the report you need. If you want your conference team to schedule weekly conference calls, give them weekly times, a conference call application, and ask them to carve out that time on their calendar.

I recently changed my office and installed more white boards, corkboards, and a bookshelf. When I started the project, I had one screwdriver and a few screws. Clearly, I needed better tools. The project was doomed to fail until a friend showed up with two toolboxes filled with hammers, pliers, a measuring tape, screws, anchors, a level, and electric drills. There is no way I could have accomplished the office overhaul without these tools and his insistence that we actually use the level.

Having the right tools and knowing how to use them makes a huge different in the outcome of a project, and it contributes to the satisfaction of the people working toward the end goal.

Give people directions that make sense and value their time. If you need a team member to send out a notice for the monthly meeting and you do not say exactly what you want, then you don’t get to criticize the outcome.

If you specify, “please include the deadline of October 1″ and that is not included, you have the right to remind your people that those details are important, but otherwise, trust your people to get the job done. In the Navy we used to say that you can tell someone to do something or tell them how to do something, but not both.

Once you ask a volunteer to do something, it is now up to them to get it done. Few people like being micromanaged.

Asking for numerous reworks when what they did is perfectly fine is demoralizing for them and wastes time for both of you.

Will jobs always be done the way you would do them? Probably not.

Is the outcome effective? Maybe.

Will it get what you need done? If the answer is yes, then it is a success.

If not, go back to the part where you give people good guidance on what needs to happen. Someone else may not do a job the way you would do it, but relax, your way may not have been the greatest way either.

Be clear about what you need, when you need it, pair the right person with the right task, and give them the tools and training they need. Then rewards the results.

For more on appreciating employees, please see


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