Invest in the recruitment process
"I used to think I needed to hire people based on education and experience," says Tammy O'Rourke, who leads a medical clinic in Belleville, Ont. "But now I pay more attention to things like personality and fit." Using an objective assessment process that measures the fit between the candidate and your team is a good place to start.
Make time to think together
Create regularly scheduled time to share observations and ideas without a structured agenda. It could be a semi-annual half-day to reflect on your successes or it could be more frequent and less formal. Dr. O'Rourke starts each day with a "daily huddle," an eight-minute meeting to keep the lines of communications open.
Don't be afraid to take risks
Encourage an entrepreneurial climate, where risk taking is celebrated. "If people know that attempts to innovate are accepted, rather than punished, there's an increased likelihood of seeing creative problem solving," says Christie Andrus of The Human Factor in Kingston.
Challenge your assumptions
When we don't know the full story, we tend to fill in the blanks with assumptions, many of which have little grounding in reality. Instead of assuming, take the time to learn the real story. For example, if a team member doesn't answer your question right away, it doesn't necessarily mean she's being difficult or passive aggressive. She might just need a little time to think.
Learn from when things work
It's important to identify challenges, but why stop there? Invite your team members to share stories of how they overcame challenges in the past. Then encourage them to apply those lessons to their current challenges. "Connecting to past successes inspires people and leaves them more willing to use discretionary effort," Ms. Andrus says. "This is where real performance gains happen."
Mind your manners
Remember that no one's perfect, and respond accordingly. It's easy to react to a team member's misstep with a sarcastic quip or a roll of the eyes, but what kind of message does that send? Exercising a bit of self-control will help ensure that your actions are aligned with your message, which will make you a more credible – and more effective – leader.