Team Leadership – Part 2
In my previous post about leadership, I wrote about balance, how it is related to personal life by ambition, and how you can create a long-term strategy that ends up being wrong for you and your career. Today I’ll add some variety into the mix!
Team members, initially, are just an element in a set. They are not coordinated, and no partners in arms. When you put each one of them in the correct position, when you join them to confront the common fears and coordinate them to help each other, you create a team. In a team, each member knows precisely which the role of the other team members is. Every team member should also be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the rest of the team, so as to be helpful regarding the latter. Ego is not usually of any use in almost any form. It may be helpful if used as a motivation to achieve goals by putting pressure on yourself due to your ego, but you need to bear in mind that ego is not the way to interact with others. Ego separates you from others, and if you are the best of your team, you may become a “hero” but also be resented for that. So, you will be the hero in the eyes of your boss, but not for your co-workers, and that will be a boost neither for you nor for your career. Remember, the leader is the one person that the team recognizes as such. On top of that, the leader is not necessarily the person who knows more than the other team members, but rather the person who is able to get the best of each member and to assist other members in joining their efforts towards one useful direction. So, try to avoid extreme ego by all means.
How can we study team members? Each member is a person, first and foremost, and people have issues, fears, hobbies, ambitions and interests. All the members of a group have their personal ambitions and desires and are in the company for certain reasons. Nobody works in a place to enjoy individualism. My approach is to, initially, meet each member and just engage in small talk, so as to hear what they have to say and get to know something about each one of them. Afterwards, I start a plan (we’ll see what a plan is later on). The plan usually involves helping each member, little by little, to confront their fears, which will eventually give them abilities and skills as individual parts of the group. But the real technique in question is to just add someone else in the mix to reach a solution for each issue. In other words, the idea is to add another team member to the plan to help someone, and then revert the roles and shuffle the members. I usually put two people to work side by side in the same task just to encourage intra-team communication. To help foster communication I also organize different outings, in order to create some good moments as a team. Do you have any great memory of your childhood? What is it? You most likely remember that because you were part of something that you enjoyed and that you want to enjoy again, combined with the fact that you were probably happy at the time. Along this line of thought, when you foster good moments within a team, you will cultivate positive thinking. Laughter is the best ingredient in the recipe!
If your team enjoys meetings, as well as working side by side and accomplishing objectives together, you have the best version of your team. The best version of any team includes a commitment to accomplish the company’s interests and the leader should always guide the team towards that goal.
An advisable thing to do is to really take an interest in members’ issues and fears, in order to know who they are and what they can do.
If you lead a soccer team, when the team plays in a hard and offensive way, they will be a real threat. But what happens if 5 out of 11 players are playing defensively and the other 6 are playing offensively? They will have a gap between layers and if the other team is offensive, there is a danger zone! The first step of leadership is to know each member; the second one is to coordinate a truly communicational and helping spirit, and the third one is to establish roles and clear objectives. It is here where another concept appears… Competition.
We have a good team spirit when all the team members have their place in the team and they are comfortable in that role. This is also reflected when each member is in the best shape possible and in the correct position, as well as coordinated with the rest of the team. Communication is the key from here on.
During the first stages of building a team, we have to be open and strong in our communication. It is vital to say the truth always, and not to have different versions for each team member. As a leader, you have to spend time with all the members of your team and also keep track of the mood of the team. When the team’s spirit is high, you can beat all your enemies. When the team’s mood is down, you have to take actions quickly to identify the problem and the best way to deal with it.
It is key to portray a personality that differentiates you from your boss, as well as from the team members. It is by no means a good idea to be the “best friend” of your team or to be the “best friend” of your boss against the team. You must fight for each team member and spend time with all of them, but if they are not on the same page than the rest of the team, you have to guide them to the correct path and give them some opportunities to change their ways. If all the opportunities are used and this approach fails, you might have to remove that member from the team. The combination of punishment and recognition is the key factor for team spirit balance. Being a leader that is too tough is not good, but being too soft is not good either.