To create a fully functional team, the leader needs to exhibit six leadership traits.
1. Build trust. Trust is a three-way street: A. You must be able to trust each member of your team. B. They, in turn, must be able to trust you. C. Team members need to trust one another. Trust is earned, so set the stage for success by creating regular and ongoing teambuilding opportunities. You can start with small projects involving two-and-three person teams. In due course, you’ll want to expand team size and the scope of assigned projects. Never compromise your team’s trust in you by assigning a task that is well beyond their skills level. This managerial mistake sets them up for failure, and it can irreparably damage your relationship.
2. Communicate. Watch any police drama on television and you will notice how law enforcement officers remain in constant communication during tactical operations. Their lives depend on it. You can’t expect your team to understand and execute a task without clearly communicating your goals and objectives. In some cases, you will be a hands-on leader, participating in the task and offering close supervision. In other instances, you may assign a team leader, who will be charged with keeping you up-to-date on the task’s progress.
Communication must flow in several directions: How you articulate your message. How others hear your words (the takeaway message). How well you listen to-and hear-what team members say.
Any glitch in these communication channels can lead to a major disconnect, even project failure. And if you rush through communication efforts, rattling off details without ensuring clear messaging or ending a meeting with “Got it? Okay, let’s do it,” you discourage team members from asking crucial questions that may make or break their endeavor.
3. Offer sufficient resources and autonomy. Teams fail when members lack the time and resources required to complete their assignment. Perform a reality check. Ask yourself how much time and how many tangible resources you would need to fulfill the project’s demands. Next, determine whether your team, based on members’ experience levels, requires more, less, or the same amount of time. Seek input from team members, asking them to honestly assess how long specific components of the task will take. Your goal is to develop an accurate, realistic timeline.
If you have chosen a team leader to lead a task, allow this person to delegate responsibilities as she sees fit. Make sure the leader knows the difference between delegation and abdication. The team leader’s job is to set the vision, delineate strategies (often with the help of other team members), and provide the conditions and support needed for success.
As for autonomy, don’t micromanage your team (or team leader). Give members an attainable goal and enough autonomy to complete it. Monitor progress, but avoid being overly intrusive. You’re the leader – not a babysitter. Let team members feel empowered enough to embrace responsibilities and enjoy a sense of ownership. Remind the team that you are available if anyone needs consultation.
4. Build self-efficacy. Team members must know that you have confidence in their abilities to complete a task. They, in turn, must feel secure in meeting your goal.
If an employee feels uneasy about his role on the team, consider pairing him with a high-performing peer. This strategy can help boost the self-assurance of an employee who has not yet achieved self-efficacy – an individual’s judgment of his ability to successfully complete a chosen task. Team members’ self-efficacy will affect the choices they make when working on a task, as well as their doggedness when setbacks occur. It’s your job as the leader to uncover the employees’ fears and barriers to success and alleviate their concerns, including shyness; self-consciousness; poor communication skills; fear of conflict; impatience with, or dislike of, other members of the team; and bias.
5. Hold team member accountable. Every team member should be held to the same standard of excellence, regardless of training or years of experience on the job. While each person’s precise task will vary, all team members’ commitment to completing the job should be unwavering.
6. Conduct routine debriefings. Debriefings should focus on high and low points during the project’s run. When you review your team’s completed work, note individual performance and provide meaningful praise. Team members should be rewarded when they cooperate, coordinate, and share knowledge with coworkers. And when a team member fails to cooperate or complete her task, speak with her in your office. The meeting should be private, but team members should know that it is taking place – and that there are consequences for failing to pull one’s weight or working well with others.
Before ending a debriefing, ask each team member to share thoughts on improving performance in the future: What would they change? Which steps could have been streamlined? Were any of the steps unnecessary? Were any steps overlooked? Are any procedures archaic…performed simply because they’ve always done it that way? Is a technology update in order? Was there any overlap or redundancy among team members’ jobs?
You may be surprised at the constructive feedback you receive. Employees also appreciate that you value their opinions and suggestions, and that you’re willing to make changes that solidify future team efforts.
Contact me today to discuss how we can partner together to help develop your leaders and teams: email or call me at 858-638-8260.
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