top of page

120. How to Show Your Team You Care Even When Budgets Are Slashed

You want your team to know how much you value them…but there's no money for recognition dinners. You want your team to feel connected to each other, but there's no money for teambuiliding. You want your team to grow and develop..but sending your team to formal learning opportunities like conferences that require travel…ha, yeah right. As a leader who truly cares about helping others thrive, these can be difficult times and may even having you question if leadership is worth it. But, we need your leadership more than ever. So today, I'm offering three "gifts" that you can give to your team without spending any money and just a little bit of time. Follow these tips and and the increased engagement and performance that will result will far exceed what you could gain from a team trip to a fancy dinner. Resources:

Coaching for Good! Support the work of Together Women Rise with a donation (suggested minimum of $25) and get a leadership coaching session with Teri for FREE!

  1. Donate:

  2. Send your donation receipt email to before May 10th and we'll send you the link to book your FREE 45-min. leadership coaching session

Connect with me:

Free Discovery Call to explore your needs:


While it's not perfect, we offer this transcription by Descript for those who prefer to read or who are hearing impaired.

When I asked her if she had any interest in becoming a leader. She said in this environment? No.

That's what I heard in a recent conversation with someone who works at a very large company in Silicon Valley. I won't mention the name. But you'd know it. If I did.

She said that with all the layoffs, there's a hyper focus on getting results. And she saw no reason to increase her risk by being judged, not only on her performance but also on the performance of her team.

And I get it. That's just one of those risks and drawbacks of being a leader in our current times.

Particularly for you. As a leader who cares about bringing more compassion and justice into the workplace. And who wants to see your team members thrive? It's tough.

You want your team to know how much you value them? But there's no money for recognition dinners.

You want your team to feel connected to each other? But there's no money for team building.

You want your team to grow and develop? But sending your team to formal learning opportunities like conferences that require travel. Huh. Yeah, right.

You're in leadership to build others up. But how do you do that? When there's nothing in the budget.

The good news is that there is a way. Steps that can have a great influence on the performance and wellbeing of others that don't require money. Or even much time. They just require you using your skills intentionally as a leader.

We'll talk through a few slight improvements you can make today. That will show your team. You care more. Than any outing to top golf ever. Could.

I'm Terry Schmidt . Leadership coach and founder of stronger to serve coaching and team building. Where we launched leaders past overwhelm. Two careers of courageous impact.

And this is the strong leader serve podcast.

Okay, so let's get right into it.

Now to be honest. I really could just direct you to Tara Frank's book the way makers. And be done with this episode. I really think she's nailed it when she says that all people really want is for things. To be seen to be valued. To be respected. And to be protected.

And she goes deep into the research they've done on these four. And even how they differ among different races, genders, and sexual orientations. So I highly encourage you to check out her book.

And spoiler, we're also working on a time for her to be on the podcast. So stay tuned for that.

But today I'm going to focus on three gifts that you can give that work well with a team. And that overlap a bit with Tara's for needs. But don't worry. These gifts don't take much time. They don't cost anything. And they are measurable. So you can track your progress with offering them.

So number one.

Take time to know your team members. As unique humans. Not as machines that simply get work done.

Now that sounds pretty obvious. But especially when times get tough and we are so focused on getting results and showing the value of our team. Sometimes we can just get into machine mode. We're all we really focus in on is how is the work progressing? And how are we getting things done?

So sometimes it's important to take a step back and reflect on how well you actually know the people on your team. Do you know what their favorite hobby is?

Really important. Do you know what kind of work energizes them? both for your team and outside of your team.

Do you know where they'd like to go in their career and maybe some projects that are happening with other teams. That you could see if they could be a part of.

Do you know what challenges they uniquely face? Both in work and outside of work. This is particularly important for underrepresented groups.

Do you know, what's causing friction in their experience of the job. Meaning what makes it hard for them to get their work done?

And what kind of friction is affecting their life. Even outside of work.

Do you take time to really recognize their potential? To understand what they're passionate about. Understand the skills they have that could transfer to other needs in your organization.

These are just some of the things that are really important to know about your team. Uh, in order to help them feel like you recognize that they are a human being and not just a machine. As Tara says, we all want to feel seen in some way

now that may mean different things for different people. And that in fact is another way that you can really. Get to know your people as a human. How do they like to be seen? How do they like to be recognized?

Now you don't have to set up a formal all day team meeting to get this information.

It can be as simple as making a point to check in informally either by walking by their desk or sending a direct message. To see how their day is going.

You could ask, what's giving them energy today, or what's really draining them as a start.

If that's too direct, maybe you ask them one highlight for the day.

Or you could keep it really informal and just talk about their day and observed their words. Tone of voice. And body language. Uh, to assess what's going well. And what's not. And then use your active listening skills to verify your thoughts on what you're hearing.

If you want to start a team process that helps you all to know each other better and learn about your team. You might want to try. Bernay Brown's two word check-in that they use at her company. I'll include an article about this in the show notes.

But really. You can observe a lot about people just by looking at their body language. Or observing their tone of voice and different situations.

That can give you places where you dig deeper. To help you get to know. Your individual team members.

If you're on a zoom meeting and they seem to be a particularly off. Or particularly energized. take a few minutes to catch up with them right after the meeting.

There are many different ways that you can treat your people as humans first. And they don't have to take a lot of time or any money. But they are a huge gift. So , here's what I challenged you to do this week. And if you make a habit of this, I can guarantee that it will make a difference in the engagement and performance of your team.

And the next week.

Just try to increase the time you spend informally checking in with your team members by about 30%. I'm not asking for anything huge here, but something that will make a distinct improvement. So if you currently spend 10 minutes a day, I'm talking about bumping that up to 13.

Just remember. And if you need to write a post-it note for yourself to remember this, go for it. I have. Human first. Tasks second.

Whether you're having a zoom meeting to talk about talk about a project. Or you're just walking by someone's desk during the day.

Human first tasks, second. Even in these times. Especially in these times.

Now one note before we move on, you may be thinking, I love to focus on being more human with my team right now, but I know if I ask questions like that, It will open up a can of worms and we'll spend all of our time talking and not getting any work done.

If this is a concern on your team, it might be best for you to start with a really structured approach. Like the two word check-in. With quick follow-ups as needed. Or it might be important for you to have a team conversation about what bringing your whole self to work actually means. The types of conversations, that breed connection.

And ways in which you can be respectful of each other's time while still getting to know each other. If this is a struggle for you, or you're not quite sure how to proceed, given the dynamics of your particular team. I'd be happy to talk with you about it.

Okay. So that's the first non-monetary gift that you can give your team. Treat them as humans. The second is to provide stability. Especially when things are uncertain. Giving your team a sense of stability is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. So, how do you do that? Two key areas. Our decision-making.

And communication.

So, let me ask you. Have you ever worked for a leader who was unpredictable with their decision-making?

How did it feel?

I know for me, it can make me feel unsafe, anxious. And like I'm constantly trying to hit a moving target.

Now think about a leader who was predictable with their decision-making. Who was pretty consistent. In their actions. I think of a former leader I worked for , who I knew had values of respect, equity, and honesty. How did I know that. Well, they told us. And they set expectations around them and lived up to those expectations.

The respect of others. And of their environment. And their belief in equity came through in an action. As simple as picking up trash off the floor in our office building. Even though they were the most senior person there.

They also rewarded honesty in performance calibration sessions that we had.

By asking pointed questions and digging in deeper in a way that gave credibility to the feedback while also keeping the focus on the growth of the individual. We were discussing.

So I knew that when hard decisions needed to be made. They would do so from a place of respect for all. Looking for the solution that benefited the most. I knew I could count on that and it gave me a sense of stability.

So, do you know what values you will base your decisions on? Does your team.

Through what you say and how you act, you can give your team a sense of stability. As they'll know what to expect from you when hard decisions need to be made. That can have a tremendous impact on reducing anxiety that is getting in the way of their performance in these uncertain times.

A second way to provide stability is to be clear about communication. As a leader, you're not going to have all the answers. And sometimes when you do have the answers, you're not going to be able to share them. So be clear with your team. About what and how you will share. And what you will do when it's something like a pay increase or an org change that you may not be able to share right away.

Uh, best practice here is to share as much as you can. And provide them a next step. Whether that be a date that, you know, you'll be able to share all the information. Or guidance for how they can keep moving on without the information that they are seeking.

Also let them know that you are committed to advocate for them and seek context from your leader. When there is a decision or changes that you don't agree with. Or that you feel may be detrimental to the team.

As a leader, it's not just your job to disseminate information. It's also your job to manage up. And advocate for your team.

So here's my challenge for you on this gift. Find a way this week to communicate your values to your team.

One way might be to try to explain a decision you recently made. By talking about how your values played into that decision.

Also revisit your team communication plan and make sure your team is clear that you will communicate as much information as you can. And what you will do if you can't communicate something. Or don't have the answer.

Okay. Two gifts down. One to go. We've talked about treating your team as humans. And . Providing a sense of stability.

The last gift that you can give that doesn't require any money. Is to give your team opportunities to grow.

Now I know there may not be many open positions. Or ways that they can develop their skills through a formal training or an external conference.

But. Like we talked about in the first gift. You can make sure that you are very clear on what type of work that they like. And where are they want to go with their career? And you can keep your eyes wide open for any opportunities that exist. For them to either learn about. Or practice those skills.

So for example, I say you are bringing a new person on your team.

And you have one of your team members. Who's very passionate about a particular topic. Have that person onboard the new person. With regards to that topic.

Or maybe you have someone who really wants to get into leadership. But hasn't had much opportunity to talk to other leaders, especially at the higher levels. Maybe they can come along with you to meetings. That you have with those upper level leaders to shadow you and hear how you communicate with leaders and the types of conversations that happen.

It doesn't always take much to help people find ways to.

Develop the skills that they are passionate about. Or feel that they are growing. In their career. But it does take some intentionality on your part.

So my challenge for this one,

Find an opportunity, even a small one for one person on your team. To learn about or practice a skill that they want to develop.

These three gifts given consistently won't cost you anything, but a little time and intentionality. But they will impact the culture and performance of your team. Way more than the fanciest dinner or the most expensive team outing ever. Could.

Treat them as humans provides stability. And find opportunities for them to grow.

If you can do that consistently. It won't. Only help them and help your team to perform better. But it will also help you as a leader who cares. It will enhance your satisfaction with being a leader. And your wellbeing. So put in some time this week. And let me know how it goes. I'd love to also hear about any other gifts that you're focused on giving your team during this time, when there's not much discretionary money floating around.

Send me a note on LinkedIn and let's continue supporting each other.

And until next time, lead with this quote by Maya Angelou in mind: "I've learned that people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget. How you made them feel."


bottom of page