Helping Our People Win at Work

4 ingredients to a winning formula

There’s a longstanding tension between the leaders and the led.  Some might even characterize the relationship as adversarial.  We could certainly debate the presence and source of that friction.  Instead, I’ll simply suggest that friction between leaders and the people we lead impedes performance.

Savvy leaders seek to minimize relational friction.  One powerful way to do so is to help the people we lead achieve the wins they desire.  And what they desire is to secure wins with us.

When I use the word WINS – I’m using it both literally and metaphorically.  Literally, I’m suggesting we need to help our people win more often.  Metaphorically, WINS is an acronym representing the four things we need to look for in our people.  Four insights comprising the ingredients to a winning formula for each employee we lead.

If we’re being honest, we’d all confess that we seek to find favor with our boss.  Whether rightly or wrongly motivated, people want to please the person above them.  That motive is powerful and worth understanding.

So why does winning with the boss matter to our people?  The reasons are many but here are three:

  1. Our people are building careers…and we are the gatekeepers to their success.  We deliver performance appraisals, and hold the keys that unlock the doors to new opportunity.
  2. Our people are seeking affirmation…and our feedback carries weight.  Our peoples’ sense of worth ebbs and flows with our perceptions of them.  We either speak life into them or suck it out of them.
  3. Our people are providers for their families…and we write the checks.  Those checks get larger, or not, based upon our perceptions of their contributions.

As a long-time coach of youth sports, I’ve come to believe the essence of winning is the degree to which the coach capitalizes on the strengths and minimizes the liabilities of each team member.  Winning in the workplace isn’t much different.

As leaders, helping our people achieve wins requires we understand them in more than a surface way.  We must study them – in 4 very specific areas.  Understanding our people in these specific ways empowers us to help them find the WINS they’re seeking.

  • Weaknesses: Our people have them, and we must know what they are.  Not only that.  We must seek to protect them in these areas of vulnerability.
  • Interests: Our people have longings in their hearts we can creatively help them pursue.  When we cultivate these interests we unlock passion that ignites performance.
  • Needs: Our people have deep-seeded needs as professionals and humans.  To ignore these is to say to our people, “I don’t care about you.”  To tend to them is to display our commitment to their greater well-being. As if to say, “I love you and am committed to you.”
  • Strengths: Every one of our people has strengths.  To understand them, value them, and leverage them…is deeply affirming.  It’s also just smart.

In future blogs I’ll explore in more detail specific tools and techniques for studying our people.

For today…my question is twofold:

  1. Are you committed to helping your people secure WINS?
  2. Have you studied your people and are you intimately familiar with their weaknesses, interests, needs and strengths?

If you answered yes to the above…good.  You may be a leader for which people want to work.  A leader that helps his or her people achieve their greatest potential.  A leader who delivers uncommon results through highly engaged people.

If you answered no to either or both of these questions, your people may not feel secure in your knowledge of, or appreciation for them.  Your people may be busily preparing resumes, and drafting exit plans.  Regardless, they’re certainly not performing at their peak.

In fact, if your team is not winning as much as you’d like, your stunted performance may have more to do with you, the leader, than it does the people you’re leading.

If you reflect on your own success, I’d venture to guess at some point you had a leader that understood your weaknesses, interests, needs and strengths.  Your very best leader probably knew how to both leverage and protect you.

Question: How did one of your leaders invest to help you secure important wins…and did it alter the trajectory of your career? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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