How else can you learn if your team members are capable of stepping up their game if you are not continuously finding new ways to engage them? Leadership is about enabling the full potential in others. It’s about allowing your team members to be their authentic selves so they can leverage their strengths and skills.

However, mastering the art of team engagement is no easy feat, especially when your team is always under mounting pressure from clients. Team engagement is influenced by a variety of ever-changing factors, which makes it difficult to motivate your direct reports as a leader.

To discuss a few sure-fire ways leaders can use to keep their team members motivated and engaged, I invited David Henderson, President of Cyberstream, for a thought-provoking podcast. With nearly 30 years of experience in the technology space, David knows what it means to engage employees in the ever-evolving IT landscape.

Define clear goals

When your team members don’t have clear goals to stick to, they muddle through their day. You can’t blame them for not being productive if they have no idea what they’re working toward. So, set SMART* goals for your team and align these goals to the mission of your organization. Help your team keep their eyes wide open. Make them focus on the outcome, not the obstacles.

Many leaders don’t engage in active listening, which is a crucial element of two-way communication. Don’t make that mistake. Say what you mean and mean what you say especially during the goal-setting exercise. Keep open communication as your highest priority to create mutual trust as you set team and individual goals.

Demonstrate compassion in everything you do

No team member who is undergoing a vulnerable mental state can work with the same level of efficiency. By practicing compassion, you can help them navigate challenges and get back their efficacy. When people feel that they are valued and cared for by their leaders, they automatically feel positive about their work commitments and voluntarily offer support and care to others they work with.

So, whether it is by providing personal support, exchanging feedback, or expressing your opinions, demonstrate your compassion and care for your team’s performance and skill development. Build a compassionate attitude by conducting weekly 1:1s, team feedback sessions, or by allocating more group projects so that each team member gets a chance to work with the team spirit, and get the motivation to help and support each other.

Provide honest, heartfelt feedback 

People perform well when they know the truth about their performance. So, provide prompt feedback to all of your team members to improve. If done well and effectively, feedback can transform an average employee into a star performer.

Work on your ability to convey hard truths about performance. When giving feedback, never approach an issue from a position of anger. No matter how frustrated you are, the goal is an improvement, not discipline. Reserve all concerns for the beginning of the conversation and guide the discussion with words of encouragement instead. Urge your team members to take even negative feedback as an opportunity for learning and growth.

Take their feedback into account as well

Seek feedback from your team members about training and development initiatives, and use this feedback to shape your training programs. To achieve this, encourage a culture of openness where your team feels comfortable discussing how they feel about ongoing training and development programs. If you aren’t actively involved in meetings, make sure you have an ‘Open Door Policy’ to address issues and concerns.

Get creative with reward and recognition 

Many leaders think that their team is only working for a big monetary reward. However, in reality, most people are driven by being challenged, developing a new skill at work, getting an extra responsibility, and recognition for consistent hard work. Sure, you need to pay people fairly, but not including additional incentives like micro bonuses and consistent SHOUTOUTs is a flat-out leadership blunder.

So, focus on what inspires people in your team and tap into what they truly desire to achieve. Experiment with value-based rewards to laud desirable behaviors. In most cases, ‘meaningful recognition’ is that one thing that empowers your team members to do good work. Keep a stack of cards handy and be quick to write a thank you note when someone performs beyond your expectations.

Final Thought: The secret to an engaged, highly effective team is no secret. Much of what inspires success in a team boils down to putting a great deal of thought and compassion into your team’s performance reviews, goal-setting exercises, and two-way communication.