Motivate Your Team Stop Treating Them Like Family

How to Motivate Your Team – Stop Treating Them Like Family

Thinking they’re a family doesn’t motivate your team.

You’ve probably heard leaders say it and you might have even said it yourself when you were hoping to motivate your team.

“I treat my team like family” or “We’re one big family here at XYZ Corp.”

It feels like a nice thing to say. You want them to know you care about them as people; that everyone cares about each other; and we may fight at times, but we always come back together.

We are all about genuine caring and connection. Winning Well leaders focus on both results and relationships.

However, there are three problems with comparing your team or company to a family and they can badly undermine your leadership and your team’s effectiveness.

1. You don’t know what “family” means.

Each team member will interpret “family” differently depending on their past. For some, the definition of family is “that safe place where you are always accepted no matter how badly you’ve screwed up.”

For another team member, the family might mean a dysfunctional, tense situation that they left as soon as they could.

For another team member, family means they just wait for their parent to tell them what to do and they don’t have to think for themselves.

As soon as you use a word like “family” you’ve lost a shared, mutually understood set of expectations about what success looks like.

2. You’re not a family.

When it comes to motivating your team, one of the biggest problems “family” language creates is the obvious one: you’re not a family. One big difference that I’ve seen create problems for many businesses is the idea that you can’t fire a brother or sister for poor performance.

I’ve listened to sad employees receive a letter of separation and tearfully tell their manager, “But we’re supposed to be a family. This isn’t right.” And they believe it, and they’ve been allowed to believe it, because the manager so frequently spoke in terms of family.

Teams exist to achieve a shared goal, whether it’s to serve your customer, create change in the world, or solve a significant problem. When your behavior doesn’t align with that goal, you can and should be removed from the team. Families may or may not share a common goal, and rarely does poor behavior get you removed from a family.

3. You make growth difficult.

Small teams and businesses will often speak of themselves as a family. It’s natural–the constant time spent with your team, high pressure, the informal meetings, and lack of structure that often come with small organizations can feel very family-like.

However, this mindset makes it very challenging to motivate your team when you want to grow. Team members who enjoyed the casual environment and lack of structure start to complain when you introduce role clarity, define MITs, and increase accountability.

This is where you hear things like, “We used to be a family, but now we’re becoming so…corporate!” Corporate is said as if it were a poisonous snake (and, to be fair, if their experience of corporate has been to be treated like a number, not a person, it may have been poisonous.)

How to Motivate Your Team When They Talk About Family

When you hear your team talking about being a family (or if you’ve used this language yourself), I invite you to Ditch the Diaper Drama with your team and have a straightforward conversation. You might start with:

“I’ve heard us talk about being a family and I’ve said it as well. I want to talk about that. Family can mean different things to different people and I’d like for us to make sure we are on the same page and understand one another.”

In this conversation, you want to reinforce that you are a team (or organization) focused on both results and relationships. Clarify the MITs and What Success Looks Like. You might use the Expectations Matrix to facilitate a conversation and identify gaps in expectations.

Clarify your culture (How people like us act) with regard to how you will treat one another with respect, compassion, and hold one another accountable. If growth is in your future, talk about how it will require more role clarity and more structure, and how treating one another with respect, compassion, and holding each other accountable should never change.

Your Turn

Remember that “family” can mean something very different from what you intend and create bad misunderstandings for your team. To motivate your team, take the time to clarify shared expectations about your purpose and the ways in which you will respect and care for one another.

We’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment and share your thoughts about what it means for a business team to be “like family.”

leadership development Karin Hurt and David Dye

Who's Your Leadership Pit Crew? A Saturday Salutation

Who most serves as your leadership pit crew? How have they made a difference in your leadership? When is the last time you really thanked them?

Support Makes A Difference

Last weekend, my friend Julie and I (along with our three, 6 year olds) had an opportunity to serve as cheering squad and pit crew for our husbands competing in the Wisconsin Ironman, 140.6 mile swim, bike and run.

It’s impressive to watch the endurance and perseverance of these athletes on this important day, after so many long hours of training. I have deep respect and salute all the finishers. Equally impressive was the long line of limping athletes waiting to sign up for next year’s competition.

What was also fascinating to watch were the serious hordes of volunteers and supporters for the race. There were over 3000 volunteers for this race, nearly one for every athlete. Many competitors had large fan clubs of friends and family members with matching tee-shirts, hand-made signs, silly hats, noise makers and carefully mapped out strategies for catching their athletes at strategic points along the race.

These supporters had as much energy after 12-15 hours as they did at the beginning, and there were still plenty of cheers when the last finisher crossed the line at midnight. I also know that preparing for a race like that requires additional behind-the-scenes help not celebrated with glitter and face paint.

I must admit, I don’t have much experience on that side of the racing bib. I am grateful for all the water handed to me one the years, and for my cheering children and those who have watched with them as they have grown up in the racing scene.

All these invested supporting players got me thinking about how vital it is for the leaders to have a strong pit crew. Leadership is emotionally, physically, and logistically challenging. Two career families make choices as they carefully balance the needs of all journeys.

Kids learn the importance of making the most of time we have together. Families make sacrifices, big brothers grow strong, relatives pitch in, friends offer support. I have had tremendous help over the years for which I am truly grateful. I have been handed lots of water from my crew.

As today’s Saturday Salutation I encourage you to reflect on, and thank those who have served on your leadership pit crew.

Your Leadership Pit Crew

Who has…

  • Listened intently as you struggled with leadership decisions
  • Encouraged you after disappointments and setbacks
  • Sacrificed something in their career to support yours
  • Learned to cook while you were on the road
  • Watched and influenced your children
  • Been available in an emergency
  • Understood when you were tired
  • Supported your risk taking
  • Given you perspective
  • Made you laugh
  • Understood

To all those in my life who have, and continue to, inspire and support my leadership journey. I thank you. Namaste.

Who’s Your Leadership Pit Crew? A Saturday Salutation

Who most serves as your leadership pit crew? How have they made a difference in your leadership? When is the last time you really thanked them?

Support Makes A Difference

Last weekend, my friend Julie and I (along with our three, 6 year olds) had an opportunity to serve as cheering squad and pit crew for our husbands competing in the Wisconsin Ironman, 140.6 mile swim, bike and run.

It’s impressive to watch the endurance and perseverance of these athletes on this important day, after so many long hours of training. I have deep respect and salute all the finishers. Equally impressive was the long line of limping athletes waiting to sign up for next year’s competition.

What was also fascinating to watch were the serious hordes of volunteers and supporters for the race. There were over 3000 volunteers for this race, nearly one for every athlete. Many competitors had large fan clubs of friends and family members with matching tee-shirts, hand-made signs, silly hats, noise makers and carefully mapped out strategies for catching their athletes at strategic points along the race.

These supporters had as much energy after 12-15 hours as they did at the beginning, and there were still plenty of cheers when the last finisher crossed the line at midnight. I also know that preparing for a race like that requires additional behind-the-scenes help not celebrated with glitter and face paint.

I must admit, I don’t have much experience on that side of the racing bib. I am grateful for all the water handed to me one the years, and for my cheering children and those who have watched with them as they have grown up in the racing scene.

All these invested supporting players got me thinking about how vital it is for the leaders to have a strong pit crew. Leadership is emotionally, physically, and logistically challenging. Two career families make choices as they carefully balance the needs of all journeys.

Kids learn the importance of making the most of time we have together. Families make sacrifices, big brothers grow strong, relatives pitch in, friends offer support. I have had tremendous help over the years for which I am truly grateful. I have been handed lots of water from my crew.

As today’s Saturday Salutation I encourage you to reflect on, and thank those who have served on your leadership pit crew.

Your Leadership Pit Crew

Who has…

  • Listened intently as you struggled with leadership decisions
  • Encouraged you after disappointments and setbacks
  • Sacrificed something in their career to support yours
  • Learned to cook while you were on the road
  • Watched and influenced your children
  • Been available in an emergency
  • Understood when you were tired
  • Supported your risk taking
  • Given you perspective
  • Made you laugh
  • Understood

To all those in my life who have, and continue to, inspire and support my leadership journey. I thank you. Namaste.

Dad Says: Best Advice From YOUR Dads

In the spirit of Fathers Day, my son Ben (17) and I set out to collect as much fatherly advice as we could in a week. We asked everyone we knew or ran into friends, work, school, church, airports, restaurants, and random encounters “what’s the best advice you ever got from your dad?”

The question also became a conversation piece in a wide variety of contexts and our whole family got involved. We had people talking about this in team-builders, men’s breakfasts, church meetings, fire stations, summer camps, executive dinners, knitting groups and through our social networks. One friend got so engaged in the process he collected responses from 4 generations of family.

Sebastian (6) also got into the game, taking his own notes “be a taim plare (be a team player)” and “folo yor hirt (follow your heart).”

Ben and Mom’s Top Picks

  1. Don’t listen to your father (Karin’s Dad, from his Dad, MD)
  2. Have faith– but there is no RIGHT faith (Ben’s friend, Matthew who collected 4 generations of advice, MA)
  3. Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance (Sean, our waiter, CA)

We received hundreds of responses from 5 countries.

The folks we talked to fell into 3 clusters:

  • the eager to engage

About two third of the folks we asked were excited to engage, and had compelling and interesting stories that came along with their advice. A few got choked up, as did we more than once in the process

  • those who preferred not to talk

MANY others had almost the opposite reaction. In these cases our questions were answered with silence or a quick attempt to change the subject. This was the most troubling and surprising part of this process

  • and “gee, my dad didn’t SAY a lot but showed a lot in his DOING

Our favorite was from Magesh in India “he once helped a poor child in the area by paying for him to have a heart operation. I sure learned a lot from him.”

“Sorry Ben. This is one that I can’t contribute to. Not many words were passed from my Dad to me that would fall into your category.
The only thing that I can share is, don’t let it happen to you- always talk to your kids and encourage them without shouting or threatening.
Love you guy”.

So when Dads DO talk what do they say?

Top Topics (and some good -or fun- examples)

Tried and True (19%)

“Do unto others”

“Don’t sweat the small stuff”

“Measure twice, cut once”

School & Knowledge (14%)

“If you don’t ask, you won’t know”

“Girls are just as good in math as boys”

“Never listen to the damn doctor”

How to Be and Improve (11%)

 ” Du kannst dich drehen und wenden wie du willst, der Arsch bleibt immer hinten” ( you can turn around as much as you want, the ass always stays in back)

“Figure out what people need and give it to them”

“Names are important. Really important. Never bluff. Ask again”

“As you know, my parents escaped from Vietnam to come to America. The one advice that my father gave me that stays with me is Ask yourself what you would do if you were not afraid My parents taught me to not let fear stop you, but rather move you.”

Dreams, Inspiration and Spirituality (11%)

“Believe in yourself and continue to inspire others the way you inspire me”

“Put your effort and time into the things you love doing”

“Talent is handy, it’s not essential”

Integrity and Respect (10%)

“Strive to always tell the truth, regardless of the consequences”

“Don’t worry about what others say if you are doing it for the right reasons”

“Be honest, open and upfront about anything and everything. You may not be liked today, however you will be respected tomorrow.

Relationships and Dating (9%)

“Girls like to be kissed”

“If you want your wife to be pretty, you’d better clean your plate. When you leave bits of food all over your plate, that’s what your wife’s face will look like.”

“Marry this one”

Family (8%)

“What did your mother say?”

(If I spoke rudely) “Mom is your mother, but she is my wife don’t forget that”

“Find something specific about your daughter to like every day. Let her know you found it”

Sports (7%)

“Don’t throw like a girl”

“Whenever possible, throw strikes”

“When in doubt, grab a glove and go out back”

The Basics: Finances, Food and Drink (6%)

“Cheese and crackers and a beer make a nice snack”

“Don’t complain about your weight while eating a snickers bar”

“Never walk over a penny”

Cars and Driving (5%)

“Don’t date a man with bald tires on his car”

“Always remember where you parked your car”

“Turn your head when you change lanes”

Thanks, Dads. Happy Fathers Day.

Namaste,

Karin and Ben

Please let us know your Dad’s best advice