Getting the best from your team can sometimes feel like an elusive goal.

Sometimes it seems like, no matter what you do with the best of intentions, there are those who take what you say the wrong way and assume the worst of you, or just ignore you and carry on with what they have always done.

At moments when it just isn’t working for you, it may be worth thinking about your behaviour within the team and whether there is any room for improvement.  So for a minute, let’s get away from the facts and figures, even leave aside the things you say, and think about the way you behave with them.

Let’s look to the experts

Dogs and their wild cousins, wolves, are fantastic at working in teams.  Wolves hunt as a pack over miles of open countryside, taking on different roles in order to successfully catch their prey.  In doing this they follow and respect their leader unquestioningly.  There is no back-chat or dissent.  And it says something about how adaptable dogs are, that they have adjusted to our lives enough that we can share our homes with them, and can learn from them.  So let’s take a few hints from dog training.

When you first get your lovely new puppy in your house you soon discover just how little it knows about how to behave.  It is happy and loving but it will chew your shoes, or the rug, or any other item it finds lying around.  It will run away without a thought, it will pee wherever it happens to be, and help itself to any food it can get hold of.

So how do you get over this?

From the very first day in the house you start to get their attention with a few clear words and give feedback with praise and treats.  You quickly find that they repeat behaviours if you show your pleasure, and if you catch the moment of bad behaviours, a sharp word can express your displeasure in a way they understand and remember.  You soon find they learn what is acceptable.  But you also find that they don’t get it right every time and need constant correction until gradually the right behaviours happen more often than the wrong ones.

You also find that you need to be there for them.  They thrive on your feedback and look to you constantly for reassurance.  If you go away for too long they get stressed and unhappy and the bad behaviours creep back in.

So the messages we can take from this into a human leadership situation are:

  • Be very clear about what you want.
  • Praise good behaviour immediately – really show your happiness with smiles and enthusiasm!
  • Swiftly correct bad behaviour – catch it happening, say what’s necessary quickly, on the instant and don’t hold grudges.
  • Be there with them - take part in the team, work with them, talk with them, listen to them and get to know them.

In this way you will get great performance.

If you want to learn more about managing a team you may be interested in our Managing and Appraising Performance course.