How to Champion Your Team Members Into High Performance

Jul 5, 2017 | Leadership | 0 comments

How to Champion Your Team Members Into High Performance – Guest post by Julie Boyer.  

(Yes, it’s another Julie Boyer, and coincidentally we are both writers on similar topics)

Do you feel at odds as a leader?  Are you lost as to how to get your team having more fun, feeling more motivated and performing better?

Chances are you already know how to champion someone into high performance.  You just need to claim your personal relationship skills and bring them into your workspace as a leader.

There’s a reason why we may not make this connection when stepping into a leadership position. If you’re a woman, you may have learned early on that your natural skills of empathy, connection and encouragement are personal, but not professional, skills.  Our models for leadership in our developmental years were often authoritarian, top-down, heavy on logic, and light on heart.

Not only that, but our culture is still, by and large, feeling-phobic, and interprets feminine attributes like vulnerability and sensitivity as signs of weakness, rather that evidence of human connection.  We drive a clean wedge between our personal and our professional selves, for the sake of appearing strong and in charge.

But now, however, we’re discovering how that limits us.  There are a lot of reasons, as it turns out, to change our concept of how we create high performance and become good leaders.

Look how research is disrupting outdated paradigms of leadership:

> We’ve learned from Margaret Heffernan that teams with the best social safety and rapport outperform teams with the most talented individuals.

> From Deloitte’s research we’ve learned that diversity alone on a team doesn’t boost performance, but diversity plus inclusion- where each member feels seen and valued by the others- will.

> Simon Sinek has shown us how our motivation to buy and team buy-in comes is most powerful when we connect through our personal stories.

> We’re learning from Google’s research that the best managers don’t have tech expertise, but they know how to coach, connect with and empower their employees.

This is a perfect opportunity for us to reclaim skills that come naturally to us in our personal lives and start leading with them at work.

I’ve put together a 5-step exercise that, if you’re a leader of a team, will help you jump-start your relationships and infuse your team’s work with motivation.  It’s simple and fairly easy, and yet it takes courage if you’re not used to it.

To do these steps, you’ll need to be willing to:
  • Be honest, if not vulnerable, with your co-workers or team members.
  • Trust your intuition about reading people, and listen to your heart to do so.
  • Lean into your instinct to connect personally, even if it feels off-topic at first.
  • Be willing to be generous, and see others as powerful.
  • Tap into your sincere desire to make a difference, personally, in the lives of your team members.

How to champion your team members (you can do this on an individual or group basis):

Step 1:   Tell the story of your why.

Why do you do this work?  What gets you out of bed in the morning?  When I ask this, I’m not looking for a summary of your company’s mission statement.  And I’m not looking for anything like “I want to be great at what I do”.

What I want to get to is your real why.  What is the part of this work that touches your heart and soul?  And why does it touch your heart and soul?

For example, my why for the coaching work I do is:  “I know what it’s like to be a smart, sensitive creative person who loves to work but doesn’t fit a mold. It can really suck. For years I suffered, thinking I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t have value, and that I didn’t belong.  I was unfulfilled, lonely and exhausted, when there’s no reason for any of that.  Now that I’ve totally transformed myself and my life, I know my value, I love my work, I express my gifts in what I do, and I also know I’m making a positive impact and that feels awesome.  I want that for everyone.”

To be real about our why, we need to get vulnerable and let others see us.  It’s not about ego, or about how hard working we are; or how much we want to change the world.  Those things are true about us, of course, but our why is about how we came to care in the first place.  It’s not simply that we’re good people.

It’s that we’re human, and we’ve had human experiences that have shaped us.

What experiences have shaped you?  What’s the real reason for the work you do?

*Note, your why can be purely personal.  Your why could be about supporting your family, because you love them and would do anything for them, and right now they need stability.  It’s not a professional reason that echoes your company’s mission, but it’s real, and that’s valuable.

When you share your why with your team member, you open the door to authentic conversation.  When you make yourself vulnerable and get real, you give them permission to do the same.

Step 2:  Invite them to tell you the story of their why.

Once you’ve laid the foundation for trust and let your team member know she’s safe to share with you, you can invite her to share what her why is with you.

My advice: be generous here.  Step out of your leader role, and step into the role of human being.  Let go any agenda you have for your company for a moment, and allow this conversation to simply be about the other person.  Give her permission to share her story, even if it doesn’t have to do with the work your organization does.

Get curious, and ask questions.  “What’s important to you about that?” is a question that will usually take someone deeper, and help her get to the essence of what she values.  You can ask that single question over and over again.

If she doesn’t really know why she does this work, other than it’s a job that she’s fairly good at and it pays her money, open the conversation up to exploration.  Ask questions like “what do you care about (in life)?”  “What drives you crazy?”  “What makes you smile?”  All of these questions will allow her to reflect on her values and open up about what’s important to her.

Even if you don’t get a complete story of your team member’s why, you’ll still know her a lot better, and you’ll have more insight into what really motivates her.

Step 3: Appreciate and acknowledge them.

When you hear about your team member’s story or her why, you’ll have several opportunities to notice new things about this person.  When does her face light up?  What impact does she have on you as she shares?  What strengths or gifts are showing up in her story?

From that single conversation, you’ll know her better.  And you’ll be well-poised to acknowledge what’s moving, wonderful, or impressive about her as a person.  Whatever strikes you about this person, fully appreciate it.  Allow yourself to slow down, truly be present with her, and feel the happiness or delight that comes from listening to who she is.

There is something to appreciate about absolutely everyone.  And when we feel appreciation, our entire mood shifts.  It’s an emotion that changes the blood flow of our brain.  So when you do this, you’ll be doing it on behalf of your team mate, but you’ll benefit from it personally, too!

Now that you’ve appreciated her, tell her what you see.  Acknowledge what’s good, or impressive, or striking or reassuring about her.  Put words to it, and start with the words “You are….”  And follow with words of appreciation: “I really appreciate that about you.”

When you do this sincerely, you bring the gifts of care, respect and positive regard into the relationship.  It’s a wonderful antidote to our habit of moving fast and keeping our nose in our work.

Step 4:  Champion them.

Once you’ve gotten to know your team member better, you can ask yourself: “What do I sense this person is capable of?”  To do this, you’ll need to use your intuition.  You’re not looking for what they’ve done in the past, or what their job description is.  You’re sensing by sheer gut-feel what you could see this person doing.

The best leaders will see more in their team than they even see in themselves.  Everyone needs a champion, and being championed is an incredible confidence and motivation booster.

You don’t have to know for sure (logically speaking) what your team member is capable of.  You just have to let yourself dream.  It’s a gift, dreaming on behalf of another person.  Simply by doing this and telling them what you see for them could change their perception of themselves.  By championing someone, you can change their life.

So when you have an instinct for what you see for your team member in the future, let her know.  Be direct- be bold!– and say:  “What I see for you is…..”  “I believe you can do it.”

Stick around for her reaction.  Does she look shocked?  Or unsurprised?  (If it’s the latter, try again and dream bigger this time!)  Or does she look scared?  Get curious and ask how it landed.  Use it as a starting place for more conversation about what’s possible for her.

Step 5: Ask them to reflect on their bigger dream.

After you’ve had the conversation where you’ve shared your whys, and you’ve acknowledged and championed your team member, take some time to write her a hand-written note afterword.

Summarize what you learned and appreciated about her in your note, so she knows you took this conversation seriously.  Then, give her homework.  Ask her to reflect on what she really dreams of for her future at this work place, or in life in general, and come up with a Big Vision of the future that makes her excited just thinking about it.

Let her know it can be anything, and no dream is too big.  If you’ve established safety and trust in the relationship, she’ll be honest with you.

Give her a deadline, asking her to share her big vision with you by a certain date.  Know that as her manager, helping her to dream big will prevent her from getting burnt out.  Burn-out results from lack of meaning and fulfillment, not from overworking.  We don’t just burn out when we’re tired.  We burn out when we’re bored.

Next, celebrate her dream, and remember it for her.  Even if her dream is unrelated to her current job, there are things she can do and achievements she can work toward that will move her closer to her dream.  As her manager or leader, do as much as you can to help her achieve her dreams.

If this feels like a risk because you’re not sure how this will help your bottom line, you may want to spend some time reading about Richard Branson’s philosophy.  He’s achieved massive success by being very good to the people who work for him.  Sincere generosity has its returns.

By lifting up your team members and championing them into their best version of themselves, you’ll be creating a win-win scenario, where they are authentically invested in their work, and you are authentically invested in them.

In summary, use your gifts of empathy, connection, storytelling, and courage to fully step into your role as leader!

Stand in your natural social talents, your intuitive wisdom and your genuine hope for others. That will help your team mates feel safe, valued, and free to flourish.

how to champion your team membersJulie Boyer, MFA, CPCC helps people who are stuck in the wrong job find their true purpose and make a life from it, so they can finally enjoy satisfaction and success. She believes every creative outlier has a purpose, and it’s not to fit in- it’s to create change. In her blog, she discuss things like: how to find your purpose, how change really happens, common traps we create for ourselves (and how to eliminate them), and how to own your emotions and leverage them as a leadership tools. Julie works one-on-one with clients over the phone. You can find her website at, and contact her directly at julie (at)


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