Generating Enthusiastic Cooperation From Your Team

Any seasoned leader can attest to the following fact: It’s lonely at the top!

Being the pioneer for your entire team has many challenges. The one I hear the most amongst my colleagues and key clients is this:

How do you gain enthusiastic cooperation and a positive attitude from your team?

Any average manager can drum up some cooperation, but generating enthusiastic cooperation—the kind you can’t fake—is another matter.

It usually goes like this: You have a great idea, and you’re all excited for everyone to join your quest and jump on board with your vision… So, why isn’t anyone else doing the happy dance? Where are the high fives and eagerness to roll up their sleeves and get started? Can’t they see what I see?

Before you can strike up the band, you’ll need to win their buy-in. That means making them feel like they contributed to the idea and common goal! So if your goal is to gain their ongoing and enthusiastic cooperation, follow these best practices:

  1. Communicate a Clear Vision to Gain Buy-In
  2. Model the Behavior That You Want to See in Your Team to Inspire Them to Emulate Those Qualities
  3. Foster a Positive Work Environment to Encourage Even Your Quietest Collaborators to Speak Up
  4. Recognize and Appreciate Contributions to Improve Motivation
  5. Provide Autonomy and Empowerment to Those Who Have Earned It

Communicate a Clear Vision to Gain Buy-In

“Good leaders must communicate their vision clearly, creatively, and continually. However, the vision doesn’t come alive until the leader models it.”

John C. Maxwell

Painting a clear picture has always come somewhat easy for me as a person in sales. You may have heard the joke about the life of a salesperson: “If you’re not talking, you’re not eating!”

Communicating a clear vision is a lot like a good sales pitch. If you want the team to get excited and jump on the bus, you’ve got to sell the idea. That means providing them with a high-level rundown of what you see. As a leader, you are well within your right to implement any changes you want. However, earning unforced cooperation from your team is the key to having excited team members who feel like they have a seat at the table.

Want to sell a vision? Use a visual!

I love using a vision board to sell my ideas. Aside from it feeding my artsy, creative side, it’s a great way for everyone to feel involved and see the idea come to life. After all, what does a good sales pitch come with if not a proposal, quote, or show of work? A vision board is one of the best ways to show your idea to the team and gain their buy-in.

One year, while working for an executive coaching firm, I got the go-ahead from our CEO to start a podcast. I was so excited! Most of the folks on our team had zero experience with podcasting and, therefore, had a ton of questions. I was also met with plenty skepticism. But one of the things I was praised for was always having new ideas, so fortunately, I always had a voice and a seat at the table. I used my chance to put together a powerful, visual presentation reflecting the potential ROI. In the end, I was able to successfully communicate the vision. Thanks to that, the whole team was on board with my ideas to win new business via podcasting.

Don’t wing it! Take time to prepare your vision and practice presenting it.

The best leaders communicate clear visions

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., is often cited as an example of a leader who communicated a clear vision. Jobs was known for his ability to inspire and captivate his audience with his visionary ideas and presentations.

One notable example is his presentation in 2007 when he introduced the first iPhone to the world. Jobs began by stating, “Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone.” He set the stage for his vision of a revolutionary device that combined a phone, music player, and internet communicator into one sleek package.

Throughout his presentation, Jobs effectively communicated the iPhone’s key features, such as its multi-touch interface, Safari web browser, and visual voicemail. He conveyed his vision of a device that would fundamentally change the way people interacted with technology and revolutionize the mobile phone industry.

Jobs’ ability to articulate his vision with simplicity, passion, and a keen focus on user experience resonated with the audience. His presentation style was characterized by concise and memorable statements, such as “An iPod, a phone, and an internet communicator… Are you getting it? These are not three separate devices; this is one device.”

Through his visionary communication, Jobs not only introduced a groundbreaking product but also ignited excitement and anticipation in the audience. The success of the iPhone and its subsequent impact on the technology industry is a testament to his ability to communicate a clear and compelling vision. Now that’s what I call generating enthusiastic cooperation!

Model the Behavior That You Want to See in Your Team to Inspire Them to Emulate Those Qualities

“Your actions speak so loudly, I can’t hear what you’re saying.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Leading by example goes much further than anything you will ever say. Actions always speak louder than words! If you want proof, observe the people you work with. When those who look up to you feel compelled enough to model your behavior, you know they’re really listening. Keep in mind that imitation is flattery!

I was listening to a friend complain about work over dinner one night. She went on and on about how a young woman just starting out in the career world was copying everything she did. From stealing her actual words, to how she interacts on their company platform, to the very way she communicates with customers. “Why can’t she be original?”

I then pointed out the fact that this young person actually must be quite impressed with her work ethic and style. Otherwise, why would she emulate it? My friend just laughed and totally agreed. “Why hadn’t I thought of that?!”

Choosing the right times to demonstrate the proper behaviors

I get to spearhead our company trade shows at The Leader’s Institute. And this year, I got to lead members of our sales team who had never attended one before. We went over everything from preparing for the tiring four-day conference, to what to say to get people to stop and listen, to how to speak to people, and more. It was a great challenge, but also a wonderful opportunity. I was able to show them how to gauge different approaches and use the communication skills necessary based on the prospect’s body language.

I had prepped them in the preceding weeks for what to expect. To really see where coaching was required, however, I had to stand back and observe as the expo hall got busier. Rather than trying to correct them on the spot, it was easier for me to observe from afar. When the right opportunity struck, I would step in afterward to demonstrate better practices.

Female leader demonstrating task for her team.
Lead by example, and at a time when it’s most effective.

One of the worst things you can do as a leader is to put someone on the spot while correcting them. This will only cause embarrassment and maybe even resentment, especially if you appear angry, irritated, or exasperated. Instead, seize the right opportunities to model the behaviors necessary for the issue at hand.

So, in these particular moments, I quietly slipped into the booth, and demonstrated my own ways of how to get people to stop and willingly listen. Then, I stepped away and trusted my team to take the lead. And they did! Active listening winning on repeat!

At the end of it all, we walked away from this trade show with 470 leads. That’s a company record!

Foster a Positive Work Environment to Encourage Even Your Quietest Collaborators to Speak Up

Establishing open communication is key to fostering a positive and collaborative environment where everyone feels heard. But sometimes, it can be difficult to ensure everyone in the room has the opportunity. This is especially important if a serious discussion is on the table and potentially upsetting for some team members.

Have you ever used a talking stick before? Try it! The Talking Stick, rooted in Indigenous American traditions, is highly relevant to our contemporary needs. The protocol is simple but profound: the stick is passed around the group, and only the person holding it speaks, while all others give their undivided attention. There are no interruptions, ensuring every person’s perspective is acknowledged. This method, used in historical Great Councils, allowed for inclusive decision-making after hearing all points of view.

Fittingly, some talking sticks even look like a microphone! 🎤

Fresh new ideas for workplace collaboration are always great in the modern workplace, especially when you have a group of people from diverse backgrounds. It’s also quite effective when you have a young member of the team who is prone to interrupting people or who likes to start side conversations in the middle of a group that someone is addressing.

If you dress it up, the more fun it becomes, too. Feathers, wild colors, bells; be creative with your talking stick! You’d be surprised at how such a thing can lighten the mood and make people laugh. It’s also a great way to draw attention to the importance of the conversation and that everyone actively participates in the conversation.

Collaborative workplaces always increase employee productivity and provide opportunities for different perspectives. I don’t know about you, but I want to hear from every single person on my team. Especially the quietest ones! Believe me, most of the time, their unique perspective and fresh ideas are closely considered and weighed before being spoken, so you know it’s valuable. And when new employees see their quietest co-workers willing to “hold the stick,” they can’t wait for their turn next.

Recognize and Appreciate Contributions to Improve Motivation

To me, this is one of the easiest and most important ways to gain enthusiastic cooperation from your team. Who doesn’t like to feel appreciated? On the flip side of that, how would you feel if you worked and put your nose to the grind to meet a deadline, exceed a goal, or created excellent word-of-mouth marketing for your organization only for it to go unnoticed? Allowing any of these to go unnoticed is the #1 way to ensure that person becomes demotivated.

A good example of an effective leader who recognizes accomplishments is Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft. Nadella is known for his inclusive and empathetic leadership style, which includes acknowledging and celebrating the achievements of his employees.

Nadella has implemented various recognition programs at Microsoft to honor exceptional work and contributions. For instance, the “CEO Satya Nadella’s Monthly Award” recognizes individuals or teams who have made significant breakthroughs or achieved exceptional results. This award allows Nadella to personally acknowledge and appreciate the efforts and achievements of employees.

Additionally, Nadella regularly highlights and celebrates success stories within the company through internal communications, town hall meetings, and social media. He publicly acknowledges individuals and teams for their accomplishments, giving them visibility and recognition within the organization and beyond.

Nadella’s focus on recognizing accomplishments not only boosts employee morale but also fosters a culture of innovation and excellence. By valuing and appreciating the efforts of his team members, he was successful at generating enthusiastic cooperation and creating an environment where employees feel motivated and inspired to continue delivering outstanding work.

And don’t be afraid to give a shout-out!

It brings me great joy to do company shout-outs when one of my team members deserves it! It’s gratifying to lift others up and watch them shine and bask in the glow of their hard work. Do you remember when Jamie Lee Curtis made headlines for being the girl who raised up her co-star, Michelle Yeoh? She made me cry tears of pride that night.

“Ladies, this is your vibe for 2023. Hype. Other. Women.”

The 2023 Golden Globes sparked a global rallying call for women, ignited by entrepreneur Erin Gallagher, when she captured a pivotal moment. Actress Michelle Yeoh earned the Best Actress award for her performance in Everything Everywhere All at Once.

photo of Jamie Lee Curtis celebrating Michelle Yeoh

Gallagher, however, spotlighted not on Yeoh, who was emotionally covering her face with her hands, but on the exhilarating reaction of co-star Jamie Lee Curtis. Curtis displayed sheer jubilation, throwing her hands skywards and seemingly releasing an ecstatic cheer in celebration of her co-star’s victory.

The takeaway? Be like Jamie! Extend praise. Raise people up. They worked hard, and, yes, they deserve that atta-boy!

Provide Autonomy and Empowerment to Those Who Have Earned It

Okay, so I’m probably going to make some folks angry here, but I will absolutely be hoisted onto the shoulders of exasperated leaders everywhere when I say this:

Being afforded the opportunity to work independently, at your own pace, and within your chosen environment is a luxury that must be earned. And I’m happy to expand upon that.

Some people aren’t ready for the responsibility of remote working…

Simply put, it’s not for every person. Autonomy has many definitions as imagined by different people, but being trusted to work free of the encumbrance of your boss’s eyes comes in the form of an award—an award that is earned. Trust me, though, this is worth every grueling hour you will spend with your nose to the grindstone to prove that you can be trusted to shape your own working schedule, pace, and location.

There is a small percentage of the population known as “The Doers.” My former sister-in-law, a general practice attorney who runs her own law firm, paid me this compliment many moons ago, and she went on to explain just how vital this mindset is to the success of any entrepreneur.

“I wish I had 100 Amy’s because I’d never have to worry again about the job getting done right.”

M. Kathryn Maybury

Autonomy should be earned

I once had a direct report who had an hour commute to the office. She complained about having to make the drive (even though this was agreed upon during hire), and she wanted to jump on the remote train with everyone else. Unfortunately, this person was incapable of doing her job without constantly being told what to do. She was not able to complete a task without my instruction. And if she’s going to need my instruction, I would rather walk into her office and explain it to her eye-to-eye and in-person. At the end of it all, I ended up having to let that person go.

On the flip side of that coin, if the work is getting done unprompted, on time, and better each time, then I don’t care where you are or what time you do it. And that’s exactly how you earn autonomy and empowerment! They are not freely given in the business world. Once you’ve earned it, your leader should absolutely recognize this and allow you to continue rocking your position and handling your business.

“Leadership is not about being in control, but about empowering others to take control.”

Simon Sinek

Let the Enthusiastic Cooperation Commence!

In summary, the essential goal of generating enthusiastic cooperation from your team will be the fruits of your labor, and they will recognize your collaborative efforts and value the emphasis you put on their willingness to contribute as valued and trusted members of your organization. So, next time the art of invention presents itself, remember to communicate a clear vision, lead by example, foster a positive work environment, recognize and appreciate contributions, and provide autonomy and empowerment.

Amy Maybury, Senior Instructor for The Leaders Institute

Amy Maybury is a Consultant and Senior Instructor for The Leaders Institute ®. She is based in Dallas/Ft Worth but teaches throughout the US, Mexico, and Canada.
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