I recently conducted a training program for a team moving from ops to sales.
Now, the word “sales”can strike terror in the best of minds and in a new team, arguably so. Most of them were scared of letting go of the familiarity of just processing documents and having to worry about sales targets.
So, a 2 day program was organised to put them at ease about the shift and apprise them with the technical aspects of the job. The content I was to deliver was beautifully designed to help them accept change and see it in a positive light. The session had to begin with a talk from a the regional manager who’d address the team and put their doubts to rest. However, I don’t think it made the mark it was supposed to.
Motivating a team is a critical task where a manager needs the dynamism of a leader. The communication has to weave its magic and foster positivity and confidence in the team. But by the time the so called pep talk was over and I took over, I could feel the energy in the room settle into a subdued silence and the participants seemed to be even more worried.
Here are a few things I noticed could have been done better and these pointers apply to anyone who has a team to inspire and lead:
1. Excellent communication skills: I know that this skill is so oft repeated that it’s almost a cliche that no one cares about. But this is a single most important skill that not just inspires and motivates but also galvanises a team towards the right actions.
There are so many things that encompass communication – words, grammar, intonation, energy levels – when put together add gravitas to one’s words. It is the communication skill of Martin Luther and Barack Obama that inspired an entire nation to work towards its progress.
For a team, communication skills can also help in setting the right purpose and vision for the team. Tell them how the future looks like. Throw light on what kind of support they’ll have while they learn to navigate the new paths.
Excellent communication skills encompass so many things – words, grammar, intonation, energy levels – when put together add gravitas to one’s words.
All these things can greatly put the team’s mind at ease when it is at the cusp of a new challenge.
Further reading: 8 common communication errors we make and how to fix them
2. Structure: The need to address the team comes with a specific goal. And staying as close to that goal as possible will bring in the best results. Preparing your talking points in advance will be of great help here. Losing sight of the goal only confuses your team further. And this can be quite dangerous at a time when they are already going through change. Being structured helps systematically address all the doubts/issues that need to be hit to keep the team motivated.
Preparing talking points in advance to address a team taking on new challenges is a great idea
Further reading: How to prepare for an impressive speech
3. Energy levels: Unless you as a leader are enthused about a new opportunity, your team will hardly find that enthusiasm on its own. It is critical for the manager to exhibit eagerness and zeal for the new opportunities being offered to the team. A little theatrics, a little drama isn’t out of place in such a situation. That extra pizzazz is necessary to up the enthu levels of the team.
The team lead in my session did not have that kind of energy level. The tone was definitely of a boss talking to subordinates. (Read on to know why this is bad) If he could sound excited about how this opportunity is a great thing, the team would look at things quite differently.
4. Deliberate use of positive words: When a team has to take up responsibilities that are a mandate, they are mostly dealing with negative emotions. Deliberate use of positive words can change their perspective and get them to see things in a positive light. It would have been greatly useful if their own manager was able to bring in this positivity in his talk.
So when I started the session, I began with a positive spin on the sales profile by saying that they were going to be central to the fortunes of their company. They would be responsible for bringing in revenues critical for the survival of companies – which is not false at all! But the positioning here was the key bit. And promising that they are going to be the rockstar sales team made a huge difference to allay their fears.
Further reading: How to develop your vocabulary in 4 simple steps
5. Treat people like equals: One of the hallmarks of a good leader is he/she looks at the team as a “we” and not a “you and me”. This reassures the team that the management is right there to support them and it’s a joint effort. Nothing works better than this in evoking trust in the team.
While the manger kept talking to the team as subordinates, it pushed them further into their shells. If leadership is setting an example, empathy is an important trait to exhibit. A sales team is going to be pivotal and deserves that kind of respect too.
6. Read the audience: Right through the manager’s talk, there was pin drop silence and people began to ask questions only when prodded repeatedly. This is not the sign of a confident team. This is also a big clue for any speaker – especially one who is seeking to inspire the listeners.
Read your audience – their expressions, body language and the general vibe they give out.
As a public speaker and as a leader, this is a key skill to develop. All means of communication is for the benefit of people who will receive it. And if the audience isn’t responding to yours, there’s a problem that you need to address.
Further reading: How to analyse your audience for a successful presentation
7. Give them a chance to talk: Inspiring a team does not have to be a one-way communication. A great way to do this would be to get the team talking first. Encourage them to express their fears and doubts. Create a safe, non-threatening space for them to get it all out in the open.
This has a two-fold benefit. One, it is a great way to gauge the sentiment of the team and deal with it accordingly. Two, when the team has safely vented out, they feel lighter and more receptive to your ideas. And this is a great juncture to win them over.
Keeping a team motivated – and supporting it when there is a flux – is a key skill for any leader looking at leading a winning team.
Do you have any skills to add to this list? Put them in the comments and let’s start a discussion!