12 Most Helpful Team Leadership Tips
We’ve all been there: the point in our careers where all of a sudden we’re presented with the chance to lead a team. We’ve earned it through blood, sweat, tears plus our skill and will are both ready, willing and able. When it actually does happen, many of us do have a moment of abject fear.
Some suggest reading books. Sure – there are a bunch of great leadership and management books out there and one of Parissa’s personal favorites is Marshall Goldsmith’s “What Got You Hear Won’t Get You There”. As great as those books are, we find that hearing personal anecdotes of what works and why can be helpful. There’s something about people just like us sharing stories that reduces psychological distance and gives us courage to press on.
With that, we’re sharing with you some of the things we’ve used when leading teams and why they are favorites of ours. We know that you have many other useful tips and we can’t wait to learn from you.
1. Be available
When you’re available, you’re regularly communicating with your team and you’re attuned to team nuances. When Amir was managing and training sales teams across Europe, this meant a lot of air travel. Your team wants to know you and wants to know you care and, sometimes, communicating your care means being completely silent and hearing (and owning) your team’s feedback either about you, your style or the company.
2. Be a champion
To us, a championing leader means granting autonomy and trust. The best thing a leader can do is to let an individual contributor shine and bask in his or her own spotlight on stage. Giving decision making power to your team and believing these individuals act in the best interest of the company delivers great morale and great results but you must walk the talk here. You can’t say you champion them without the behaviors to back it up.
3. It’s a marathon and not a sprint
Patience is a tricky thing in the business world and board members and shareholders don’t always have it. As a team leader, it’s important to have the EQ to recognize peaks and valleys in an individual’s performance. If the drive and will are there, it’s important to support and help people get out of their own way. Constructive feedback is a must but there’s no need to be a bull in a china shop, either.
4. Hit the streets
We mentioned in #1 that Amir travelled regularly to visit his teams. Go out and walk in your team’s shoes for a day or two, see who their customers are and understand critical issues up close to gain an appreciation for why there is success (and also understand some of its barriers). Sometimes it means rolling up your sleeves to help with a project to truly appreciate all that your team accomplishes day in and day out.
5. Love thy enemy
We all have heard “Love Thy Neighbor” but here we suggest that it’s good to teach your team to appreciate what makes your competition successful not only for product but how they go to market beyond a basic SWOT. Parissa often advise her teams to live and breathe your competition so you can beat them at their own game and infuse this within your team. It helps to focus and the indirect benefit is a bonding device.
6. Test limits
Sometimes, we find it’s best to take a Yoda like or even Socratic approach to team leadership and management. The answer isn’t always apparent and we must resist the urge to save the day. Parissa often says that when managing people, your goal must be that they become your peer or take your job when you move on to greener pastures. To make this happen, it sometimes has to (gently) hurt.
7. Say thank you – specifically
We can all agree on the importance of celebrating successes and we all like having fun. There’s something a bit missing from team fun days or outings when the heartfelt, meaningful and specific thank you goes unspoken by a leader. A meaningful word of appreciation can sometimes go much farther than a company outing – but don’t stop doing those!
8. Say sorry – specifically
We know that death and taxes are inevitable and we’d add making mistakes to that list. Leaders are not all knowing and sometimes we err. By making a specific apology and acknowledging the boo boo makes your team respect and like you all the more as long as you demonstrate that you’ve learned from your mistakes.
9. There is no “I” in team
This isn’t a new thought but it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be repeated. It’s so crucial for the leader to build a karmic, virtuous circle of goodness within the team and respect contributions of all. This can mean tempering the team diva, encouraging the silent and welcoming new employees among others.
10. Celebrate team errors – even the yucky ones
To ensure the karmic, virtuous circle of goodness in #9, it means taking hold of an error and quickly turning it into a meaningful lesson. It’s easy to devolve into the blame game but that’s an opportunistic disease which kills mercilessly. Teach your team to remove the emotion, set things right and commit to better decisions and brighter days.
11. Promote healthy competition
Employee of the Month reserved parking works as a motivator! It’s perfectly okay to talk about an individual’s success to the rest of the team to re energize commitment to their personal development plans. The trick here is to tie tangible behaviors directly to the tangible success. The risk for not being specific is accusations of “playing favorites” or similar.
Amir jumped out of a plane. Why? It was the fulfillment of a promise he made to his team as part of an AIDS charity fundraising drive. In this case, charity did begin at home because the team rallied around a goal that had nothing to do with business results. We don’t recommend extreme gestures like this but it was an eye opener.
Thanks for allowing us to share our 12 Most list with you. We’re certain you’ve a bunch of effective techniques so please start a conversation with us! It would be a pleasure to engage with you!
Featured image courtesy of Dawn (Willis) Manser licensed via creative commons.