A team of people working together in professional attire.

Do your team members feel like you understand and care about where they’re coming from? Are they comfortable sharing their own ideas, or do they feel pressure to conform?

In Leadershift, John C. Maxwell discusses simple but significant management changes you can make to help your team operate at its highest level. Maxwell writes that leaders must: 1) understand instead of command, and 2) encourage diversity instead of uniformity.

Read more to learn how to get the best out of your team by putting Maxwell’s principles to work.

#1: Understand People’s Needs and Desires

Maxwell’s first piece of advice on how to get the best out of your team is that you try to understand each team members’ needs and desires instead of simply imposing orders without considering their perspectives. Teams achieve better results when the leader and team members are on the same page about what needs to be achieved and why. However, many leaders mistakenly assume they understand their team’s thoughts without asking them. As a result, team members may feel out of sync with the company’s goals and the tasks they’re assigned. They may complete their work but without full commitment, affecting its quality.

To learn about another person’s needs and desires, encourage people to share their thoughts by asking questions and then thoughtfully listening to their answers. This approach isn’t easy, Maxwell writes, because we can get caught up in thinking about how to express ourselves and how to get the other person to see our point of view. To avoid falling into this trap, remind yourself daily to make listening a priority. Pay attention to when you interrupt people, and ask others to let you know if they feel you aren’t listening to them. When you learn about people’s thoughts and feelings, you help them feel valued, align your expectations with theirs, and uncover the best ways to motivate and lead them.

Understand People’s Needs By Improving Your Emotional Intelligence

Even if you have conversations about people’s needs, you’ll struggle to apply the information you’ve learned productively and constructively if you lack emotional intelligence. The authors of Primal Leadership argue that emotional intelligence is a crucial skill for effective leadership, allowing you to accurately read and respond to any situation in ways that elevate and empower your team. Conversely, leaders lacking in emotional intelligence may struggle to manage their emotions well and may misread the emotions of others, inadvertently undermining their team.

According to the authors, emotional intelligence consists of four skills:

Self-awareness—the ability to understand your own emotions.

Self-management—the ability to manage and rationalize your emotions.

Social awareness—the ability to understand other people’s emotions and consider why they may be feeling a certain way.

Relationship management—the ability to use your understanding of others to manage your relationship with them.

#2: Prioritize Diversity Over Uniformity

Besides asking questions and listening well, leaders can also empower their team by fostering a culture that celebrates diversity instead of homogeneity and conformity. Maxwell writes that a diverse team—one where team members have different backgrounds and perspectives—achieves greater results than teams where everyone thinks similarly. When teams are diverse, one team member can make up for what another lacks in knowledge, perspective, or experience.

Some leaders shy away from diversity because it can generate conflict if people disagree on plans and ideas. But Maxwell argues that conflict often allows teams to generate better ideas. Instead of settling on the first ideas pitched, diverse teams challenge one another’s assumptions and perspectives. In doing so, they generate more innovative ideas and excel at solving problems.

Maxwell suggests you ensure your team environment is a safe space for sharing ideas. To achieve this, encourage people to participate by putting less emphasis on job titles and roles, acknowledging people’s contributions, and sharing responsibilities, task ownership, and rewards.

Harness the Power of Diverse Teams

Other experts agree that, when managed properly, teams with greater diversity can achieve better results. Let’s look at some additional insights on how to ensure that diversity is an asset and not a hindrance to your team.

In Rebel Ideas, Matthew Syed argues that diverse groups are more intelligent than homogeneous groups for several reasons: In homogenous groups, people reinforce one another’s perspectives, share the same blindspots, and become overconfident about incorrect assumptions.
However, Syed argues that diverse groups with dominant leaders who suppress views different from theirs are no more effective than homogenous groups. Thus, for a team to benefit from having diverse members, team members must feel comfortable sharing ideas.

A team environment where everyone feels comfortable expressing their ideas has what other experts call psychological safety. In The Fearless Organization, Amy Edmonson explains that psychological safety offers numerous benefits: It allows team members to learn and grow and exercise creative and innovative thinking. It also helps the team avoid preventable problems because team members raise concerns instead of remaining silent and letting problems go unaddressed. Edmonson writes that psychological safety also improves employee engagement and performance.
How to Get the Best Out of Your Team: 2 Tips From John C. Maxwell

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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