The dog days of summer are typically the hottest, most humid, most uncomfortable days of the season.
Usually, the dog days occur in August. Dog days also refers to a time period that is stagnant due to the heat, and very little progress is made on any projects around the home.
As you think about the dog days, consider it in relation to your role as a leader.
Leadership Dog Days
Do you ever experience the dog days of leadership?
Are there days or even weeks when you just don’t feel like you’re making a difference? Are your followers stuck in a mid-year slump? Is your team failing to make progress toward goals?
A leader cannot provide motivation for each individual member of a team. However, the leader can create an environment in which team members can use their self-motivation to work toward team goals. The U.S. Army Handbook shares this definition of motivation and the leader’s role:
A person’s motivation is a combination of desire and energy directed at achieving a goal. It is the cause of action.
Influencing someone’s motivation means getting them to want to do what you know must be done.
On his website, Don Clark provides a narrative of the Army’s views on motivation. If you and your team are stuck in the dog days of leadership, consider my summary thoughts on his key points, then go to his website for more.
Allow the needs of your team to coincide with the needs of your organization.
The root of motivation is satisfying a need. Get to know the needs of your people and make sure they are aligned with the needs of your company. Dog days can be conquered by making progress toward shared goals.
Reward good behavior.
Rewards that are timely, sincere, and personal oftentimes reinforce appropriate actions. Be sure to also reward strong effort to keep it moving continually toward expectations.
Set the example.
Model the type of attitude, commitment, and performance you want to see. Nothing sends a stronger message that the behavior your team observes in you. If your team is stuck in the dog days, ask yourself this: Are they modeling what they see in you?
Develop morale and esprit de corps.
Be aware of your impact on the mental, emotional, and spiritual state of team members. Team spirit is what people identify with; do people want to be part of your team, or do they shy away from it?
Allow your team to be part of the planning and problem solving process.
Involving your team in creative discussions around common goals can pull them out of that dog day funk. Draw out the energy and harness it for a real purpose.
Look out for your team.
Kouzes and Posner’s The Leadership Challenge includes encouraging the heart as a vital part of leadership. Demonstrate that you care about your team members; listen to them, be compassionate, hold them accountable. Set meaningful and reasonable goals and coach them towards their very best.
Address behaviors of individuals that negatively impact the team. Reminding your team how much you care about their success – as individuals and as a team – can help them move forward.
Take a good look at yourself and your team. Are you or they stuck in the dog days? As their leader, how can you help them make progress?
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