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Paul David Walker—business advisor to mid-sized and Fortune 500 CEOs; founder of Genius Stone Partners, a company that partners with the C-suite to build business performance; and author of Unleashing Genius: Leading Yourself, Teams and Corporations—has guided business leaders to reaching their goals, unleashing genius and inspiring teams for more than 20 years. Based on his vast experience, Walker has compiled four key tips to keeping teams in sync, highly focused and working as a cohesive and inspired team toward a collective goal.

Walker points out that human beings are creatures of habit. We each develop distinct behaviors and routines, and while certain tactics may motivate employees in the short term, reverting back to old habits is nearly inevitable.

“To management and executive teams, corporate goals are typically numbers—we need to make money, score points, defeat the competition, etc., etc.,” explains Walker. “That is like a coach explaining you have to score more points, without coaching the team on how to score. What many leaders struggle to convey, is a clear picture of how to score points. People need to visualize and relate to the mission in their hearts and minds. Money is the outcome of the mission, just as scoring points is the outcome of a well-trained basketball team committed to a championship. A clear and compelling picture of ‘what, why, when, and how’ can both earn trust and inspire a team—the problem often is leadership only presents numbers.”

When Walker leads executives at mid-sized and Fortune 500 companies, he shares the following secrets to develop a team that trusts one another and is focused on a common goal:

Communicate the mission in a clear and concise way. Walker points out that many higher-level business leaders use fear as means to motivate their team to work fast to reach the mission e.g. “we will lose money if this task isn’t completed.” It’s a strategy that simply does not work. Minds shut down, and consciousness is narrowed when individuals are put under that pressure. Walker recommends leaders build a strong culture within their team, and inspire through hopeful and positive messaging to expand consciousness and make team members feel like they belong. Through developing a positive corporate culture, team members feel that they are working toward something “bigger than themselves,” transcend their habits, and become committed to the organization’s success.

Insist that your teams continually learn and grow. A company can only grow as fast as its people. If a leader can create an environment where learning is prized above all, team members will become attached to this dynamic environment, and will feel supported and appreciated—with employee retention becoming a non-issue. When Walker was coaching the former CEO of Star-Kist Foods, he noted that the CEO did not blame his people for mistakes—but rather looked at the weaknesses of his team as attributable to his own failure to ensure each employee was able to learn how to meet and exceed goals. This positivity created a team that trusted its leader and felt compelled to learn more, be better, and consistently achieve goals.

Build a highly accountable organization. A primal need of all humans is to be part of something bigger than themselves, and to feel connected to others. Leaders must leverage this need by making the team feel like they are part of a group that is accountable to one another—establishing a strong camaraderie. Walker recommends taking the team outside the office for team building—engaging in activities like inviting employees and their families to an event, grabbing dinner after work, or even taking the team on a weekend retreat. Consistent team building forces the group to perform in a highly engaged environment, which translates to enhanced team-playing back at the office.

Show your appreciation. The glue that holds a team together is appreciation. Many business leaders think handing an employee a check or not firing an individual is enough. Giving recognition to your team members is crucial to establishing a trusting, inspired environment. Walker suggests taking time in meetings or outside of work to point out individual successes—and not just saying “good job,” but really asking questions to keep the team engaged e.g. “what was your strategy behind that?” or “how will you continue to be successful with this project?” By touting individual success, acknowledging team members, and engaging in conversation that shows true appreciation, peers will grow ever-more dedicated to reaching their personal and team goals.

Implementing these strategies in your workplace will make your teams stronger, more successful, and more trusting in your leadership capabilities. Through inspiring team members individually, and making them feel part of a group — your company will reap consistent business rewards for many years to come.

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