As any good leader knows, from the manager of the local big box store to the President of the United States, a good leader is only as good as his or her team.
Whether you are leading a group of scientists in new discovery or a staff of twenty in the first grueling days of a start-up, the importance of your team operating as a well-oiled machine cannot be understated. One broken cog can throw the whole wheel off-balance and the downstream effects on projects or plans can be devastating.
Ultimately, the responsibility for the success or failure of a team is entirely yours, as its leader.
Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish. ~Sam Walton (Source)
Open communication is fundamental to any good team and that can only exist in a respectful environment. Leaders have to respect the people working for them and vice versa; team members need to respect each other. Respect includes an element of trust. A team can tackle any situation that arises if they trust and respect one another. If they don’t, they’ll work at cross purposes or in individual silos, which can only result in goals and targets being missed.
How do you build respect?
- Make sure that team members have a chance to get to know each other, even if they are not working from the same location.
- Put together team values and goals that everyone understands and buys into.
- Foster a respectful environment by ensuring that each member’s ideas are treated as being valid and valuable.
- Be aware of how your team is working together and areas where improvements in communication might be made.
- Make sure that team members feel free to share information with one another and encourage active listening.
Part of working cohesively as a team is knowing the rules of the game. That’s where processes come in. As the leader, it’s up to you to be clear on directives: how the team is to work, communicate, make decisions. These processes have to be communicated clearly so no one is unsure of how to operate.
How do you build processes?
- Ideally, by consensus. People buy into the ground rules if they had a hand in making them.
- As a leader, you can lay out some fundamental goals and then allow the team to establish how they will go about achieving them, with input and direction from yourself.
Related to processes, above, once you have a clear idea on deliverables on a project, make sure that your team does too and then delegate the ability to make consensus decisions amongst themselves. They need a stake in the goals to take them on fully. Remember however that delegating does not mean telling your team to do something and then walking away. It means letting them get the work done with minimal interference on your part; however, the team needs to know that you are still present, participating and willing to step in if discussions go off the rails.
How do you delegate?
- A huge part of delegating is trust on your part, as the leader. You have to trust the people on your team to get it done.
- Be specific on what you are delegating. Tasks versus entire projects are easier to manage and follow, at least in the short term, until the team has a solid working relationship with one another. Eventually, you should be able to get to the point where you can outline the entire project and let the team proceed.
- Your job as a leader isn’t to tell them how to do the work, but to support them by giving them what they need to get it done and removing any stumbling blocks from their path.
- Make sure there is a framework in place to deal with situations where consensus is not being achieved or where team members are not fully participating / being bullied by others. A solid team should not have this issue but people change over time. They have their own issues and agendas and that can change the team dynamic.
As I said before, one broken cog can send the wheel flying so ensuring that your team members are amenable to working together is best achieved by involving existing team members in new hires.
How do you hire smart?
- Involve existing team members in the hiring process. A person can look good on paper with the right skills and experience, but the key to ongoing communication and good teamwork is whether that person fits with the rest of the group, in terms of personality and softer skills, like social interactions. A bad fit can be as damaging to a team as a lack of skills.
Be a Reliable Leader
For a team to trust you, they need to know that you have their back. So while you have to delegate and give them the freedom to pursue the goals you have set out, you also need to continue to be involved, to monitor their progress and act on their behalf with any obstacles in their way. Being reliable becomes something that your team members will admire in you and perhaps even choose to emulate.
How do you become a reliable leader?
- Be involved. Be true to your word: if you say you are going to do something, do it.
- Show that you are monitoring the projects by creating a method by which the team can share status updates and any concerns that they have. A team that feels that they’ve been abandoned might flounder: stay with them!
- Celebrate the successes, big and small.
- Make sure that every team member knows that they can speak with you if they need anything. An open door policy is communication at its best.
The idea of building a good team is not just an abstract: these are real people, real projects and real goals.
You know, as most entrepreneurs do, that a company is only as good as its people. The hard part is actually building the team that will embody your company’s culture and propel you forward.
~ Kathryn Minshew (Source)