Maybe you find yourself in a new team environment and leading a team for the first time, or maybe you have been working with and leading teams forever. Either way, the keys in this article – whether as new information or a fresh reminder – can make a world of difference in morale, productivity, and results from teams.
Help the team identify its purpose. People work more effectively when they understand the goals they are trying to achieve. As a leader, it is your job to help the team see the desired outcome of their efforts and help them set specific goals and milestones along the way.
Set the scope and boundaries. Teams need to know what they should tackle, and what is “too big” or not their responsibility. By helping teams manage the scope of their work, you will keep them more focused and help them reach their goals more quickly.
Show your belief. If you don’t believe in the team concept, you won’t effectively lead teams. If you do believe both in the concept and in a particular team’s potential, you need to tell them. Show, through both your words and actions, that you believe in them. Once they have purpose, goals, and your belief, they are on their way to success.
Define your role. Your role is to lead, not to do the work or make all of the decisions. Let the team know what your role is and isn’t. Help them see how you are relying on their experience, knowledge, and intellect in the completion of the team’s work. And ask them to give you feedback if they feel you are operating outside of your role.
Be a supporter. Support the team with your actions. Don’t just delegate the work to the team and be gone. Teams will experience obstacles and roadblocks. It is your job to remove those roadblocks, find additional resources, and generally provide support. It is like a hike. If you are in front of a group on a hike, you will do your best to remove impediments that might slow down or injure those that follow. Your role on a business team of any sort is just the same – remove obstacles and alert people to things that could get in their way.
Be a facilitator. Help the team succeed. Provide guidance when needed. Keep your hands off as much as you can. By giving the team a chance to succeed on their own, you are developing them towards greater future achievement at the same time. To facilitate means “to make easier,” and that is your role. Remember that you chose to use a team to accomplish the task, so let them do it.
Keep your mouth shut (at least at first). Teams often look to leaders to make the final decisions or assume that the leader has veto power on any decision in the end. If you really buy the team approach – that you want and need everyone’s input – you have to keep quiet. If you are the first person to talk on a subject, the overall amount of discussion and idea flow will drop. Team members will subconsciously assume that your word is golden – whether they agree or not. Because of your position, you must abstain from the early part of a dialogue on any issue, and share your thoughts nearer the close of the conversation.
Each of these things alone will help you build and lead more effective teams. But when taken together, significant progress can be made.
Look at the list above while you think both about your skills and behaviors and the needs of your current teams. Then, put a check mark (mental or literal) next to the one item you will work on today.
By getting started NOW you can become a significantly more effective team leader, starting with your first action, which can be right now.
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