6 Essential Leadership Responsibilities That Build Effective Teams

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.

  On Sale Now

Seven Disciplines of a Leader

  • Named One of the 11 Most Thought- Provoking Leadership Books of the Year 
  • Named One of 3 Books Small Business Owners & Leaders Should Read
  • Named one of 3 books to read by KYW-AM Philadelphia
  • “…like hiring a business coach; it will help you build leadership skills, improve your decision-making and become a more effective leader.” –Small Business Forum
  • “The great value of this book is found in his explanation of the “how” and “why.” In my opinion, the information, insights, and counsel he provides can be of incalculable value to middle managers who aspire to become leaders. Also, to those now preparing for a career in business or who have only recently embarked on one. There is another constituency to which I also highly recommend this book: Owner/CEOs of small to midsize, privately-owned companies who are eager to strengthen their skills in one or more of the areas that Wolf explores.” –Blogging on Business
  • “……is going to become a leadership classic. You’ll mark up every page you read as you spot valuable principles.” – Pat Williams, Co-founder and Senior Vice President of the NBA’s Orlando Magic
  • “…..describes state-of-the-art techniques that leaders at any level of the organization can use to improve their performance. His remarkable advice is sensible, easy to understand, and noteworthy.” -Marshall Goldsmith, author of the NY Times and global bestsellers: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, MOJO and Triggers.
  • “….delivers major benefits for its readers. It very effectively demonstrates how to build core leadership skills, improve decision making, interpersonal relations, and teamwork skills and reveals techniques of highly effective and dynamic leaders.” -Edgar Tu, former President, Home Entertainment of America, Sony Electronics
  • “….has given us a comprehensive list of the many ways that the aspiring or current manager can sharpen his leadership skills in order to be able to compete effectively in today’s challenging business environment.” – John A. Warden III, Colonel, USAF (retired) and author of Winning in Fast Time
  • “….he has laid out a flight plan to guide you through both blue skies and turbulence to achieve your leadership goals. He shows how successful leaders continue to learn and grow….reading it and absorbing its lessons will imbue you with the courage and confidence it takes to become a great leader. Consider it a flight plan to support you team and you en route to your destinations” – Howard Putnam, Former CEO Southwest Airlines and Braniff International
  • “…insightful and straightforward, a book you can put to use immediately. This book is not theory, it’s action.  Real case studies lead to real takeaways you can practice now.  Whether you are a new or experience leader, this book will make you better!” – Andrew Field, CEO, Printing for Less.com
  • “…is a seminal book on leadership in business, a groundbreaking study that leaders in any line of work can use to increase their effectiveness on the job. Its penetrating insights will be helpful for frontline supervisors, managers, and chief executive officers alike.” – Dale Sohn, former President and CEO, Samsung Telecommunications America

 All proceeds go to our wounded service men and women.

How Visions Become Shared

How do individual visions become shared visions?  A useful metaphor is the hologram, the three-dimensional image created by interacting light sources.  If you cut a photograph in half, each half shows only part of the whole image.  But if you divide a hologram, each part, no matter how small, shows the whole image intact.

Likewise, when a group of people comes together to share a vision, each person sees an individual picture of the organization at its best.  Each shares responsibility for the whole, not just for one piece.  But the component pieces of the holograms are not identical.  Each represents the whole image from a different point of view.  It’s something like poking holes in a window shade; each hole offers a unique angle for viewing the whole image.  So, too, is each individual’s vision unique.

When you add up the pieces of a hologram, the image become more intense, more lifelike.  When more people share a vision, the vision becomes a mental reality that people can truly imagine achieving.  They now have partners, cocreators; the vision no longer rests on their shoulders alone.  Early on, people may claim it as their vision.  But, as the shared vision develops, it becomes everybody’s vision.

Building a shared vision involves these five useful skills:

  1. Encouraging personal vision. Shared visions emerge from  personal visions.  It is not that people only care about their own self-interest; in fact, people’s values usually include dimensions that concern family, organizations, community, and even the world.  Rather, it is that people’s capacity for caring is personal.


  1. Communicating and asking for support. Leaders must share their own vision continually, rather than being the official representative of the corporate vision. They also must ask: Is this vision worthy of your commitment? This is hard for people used to setting goals and presuming compliance.


  1. Visioning as an ongoing process. Many managers want to dispense with the vision business by writing the official vision statement.  Such statements often lack the vitality, freshness, and excitement of a genuine vision that come from people asking: What do we really want to achieve?


  1. Blending extrinsic and intrinsic visions. Many energizing visions are extrinsic, focusing on achieving something relative to a competitor. But a goal that is limited to defeating an opponent can, once the vision is achieved, easily become a defensive posture.  In contrast, intrinsic goals, such as creating a new product, taking an old product to a new level, or setting a new standard for customer satisfaction, elicit more creativity and innovation.  Intrinsic and extrinsic visions need to coexist; a vision solely predicated on defeating an adversary will weaken an organization.


  1. Distinguishing positive from negative visions. Many organizations only pull together when their survival is threatened. Similarly, most social movements aim to eliminate what people don’t want; thus, we see antidrugs, antismoking, or antinuclear arms movement. Negative visions tend to be short-term and carry a message of powerlessness.

Never Stop Developing People

How can managers and leaders develop the people who report directly to them so these direct reports can assume more responsibility?

  • To develop people to take on more responsibility, a leader must support and coach people so they can cultivate new skills and embrace opportunities for professional development and personal growth. Leaders must guide others to create their own development plans, not do it for them. People are more productive when they take ownership of their plans.
  • You have to set expectations, encourage people to achieve their goals, praise their success often, and ensure the flow of open communication. Leaders must challenge, probe, and ask questions to reach decision-making. Learn to ask open-ended questions such as: How does that work? What does that mean? If you do this, what do you think may happen? Why do you think it will work? What’s your next step? Which tools do you need? These questions teach people to become analytical and think more strategically. Lastly, you must empower people by giving them ownership, which shows your confidence in their abilities and enables them to succeed or fail on their own.
  • See that each employee is not just doing a job, but that his reach is also being stretched. Assign people to jobs in much the same way that sports coaches or music teachers choose exercises for their students, to push them just beyond their current capabilities and build the skills that are most important. About two-thirds of people’s development comes from carefully chosen job assignments and about one-third from mentoring coaching and classroom training. Put managers into stretch jobs that require them to learn and grow. For people trying to improve, making real decisions in real time is the central practice activity that produces growth. Your hardest experience – the stretches that most challenge you – are the most helpful.
  • Find ways to develop leaders in their jobs. You experience tension between your need to develop people by moving them through different jobs and you need to develop their expertise in certain domains by leaving them in jobs. A division has a tough time competing when the boss moves on every 18 to 24 months (a typical pattern). The challenge is to provide the growth benefits of new stretch assignments without moving people into new jobs so often.
  • Know the critical roles of teachers and constantly provide feedback. Great performance is built through activities designed specifically to improve particular skills. Teachers and coaches are helpful in designing those activities. Yet at most organizations, nobody is assigned the role of teacher or coach. Employees aren’t told which skills will be most helpful to them, nor how best to develop them. Top-performing organizations have explicit coaching and mentoring programs. Careful job assignments and other programs determine the direction of an employee’s development; mentors provide detailed advice on which subset of skills need attention immediately. And people receive frequent, rapid, and accurate feedback to improve performance.
  • Identify promising performers early. Working on people’s development early creates huge advantages, and yet in most companies, development programs are reserved for an elite group of executives who are several years into their careers. Developing future leaders early creates a competitive advantage that lasts for decades, as their pipelines of high achievers become bigger, better, and more reliable.
  • Develop people through inspiration, not authority. Deliberate practice activities are so demanding that no one can sustain them for long without strong motivation. The best leaders contribute to that motivation through a sense of mission. Identifying or even creating an inspiring sense of mission requires a journey deep into the corporate soul.
  • Invest time, money, and energy in developing people. People development is at the center of the CEO’s responsibilities. Indeed, the biggest investment may be the time of the CEO and other executives. As they see what the boss is focusing on, they become similarly devoted to developing people. Not that these companies rely solely on the power of example. Virtually all of them evaluate executives partly on how well they’re developing people, including themselves.

Jacket image, Seven Disciplines of a Leader by Jeff WolfMake leadership development part of the culture. At the best companies, developing leaders isn’t a program, it’s a way of life. For example, honest feedback has to be culturally acceptable; at many companies it isn’t. Devoting time to mentoring has to be accepted.

Adapted from Seven Disciplines of a Leader (Wiley) by Jeff Wolf.

For further information to grow your leaders contact us today at Wolf Management Consultants at (858) 638-8260.

Never Stop Developing People first appeared in Wolf in the Workplace, the newsletter of Wolf Management Consultants, LLC.

Is Work a Laughing Matter?

Perhaps you’ve noticed tomorrow is April Fool’s? With that in mind, the following is a guest post by Kit Goldman. Is Work a Laughing Matter? first appeared in Wolf in the Workplace, the newsletter of Wolf Management Consultants, LLC.

It’s been said that laughter is a survival skill in the often intense atmosphere of the workplace.

Well, guess what? It actually is.

If you Google “health benefits of laughter”, you get 2,240,000 14,000,000+ results. The secret is out! Laughter is a great way to promote physical and mental health, key ingredients for a high performing workplace.

Laughter boosts the immune system, lowers stress hormones, decreases pain, relaxes muscles, prevents heart disease and lowers anxiety, among many other benefits.

Laughter is part of the universal human vocabulary. It signals acceptance, positive interaction and membership in a group. There are thousands of languages, but everyone speaks laughter in pretty much the same way. Babies can laugh long before they speak. Children born without sight and hearing have an inherent ability to laugh.

Laughter is uniquely, innately human – like each of us!

As long as the source of laughter is not offensive, hurtful, or at someone else’s expense, mirthful moments at work can foster harmony and teamwork. Laughter can also help reduce conflict. It’s a lot harder to argue and stay mad at someone when you’ve shared some healthy laughter!

Some people would like to give the gift of laughter, but are afraid to take the risk. A well known survey shows that for many, speaking in public is their number one fear in life. Death was number 2! As Seinfeld observed, “At a funeral most people would rather be in the coffin then giving the eulogy!”

So… if you’d like to improve your humor proficiency and confidence, ask yourself these questions:

  • In a seemingly serious situation, what nuggets of humor can I find?
  • When faced with a potentially difficult situation, could humor help? Could it lead to a better outcome?
  • Am I funnier than I think I am? Less funny? Who will give me an honest assessment of my sense of humor?
  • Could I start my next meeting or conversation with a funny story?
  • What are the humorous situations in my life that have taught me something?

Here are some tips for keeping laughter safe and appropriate for the workplace:

  • Never joke about co-workers’ sexuality. You see the headlines about Sexual harassment. Don’t become one!
  • Don’t joke about people’s appearance. That is an emotionally charged area.
  • Stay away from religion, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation.
  • Avoid joking about bodily functions.

Yes, yes, we are talking about keeping your humor politically correct in the workplace. This can be challenging if the atmosphere of your workplace is down-to-earth and “family-style”. However, we must resist the urge to approach the boundary of harassment for a laugh. It’s not worth it! You can achieve healthy humor that enriches and enhances your workplace without it. Stick with humor everyone can enjoy, support, relax with — goodhearted laughter that gives those great mental and physical perks!

So… what are some fairly safe “targets” for getting laughs?

  • Yourself! Your own flaws and quirks. Making lighthearted jokes about yourself puts people at ease and brings them closer to you. They can relate. Humility is charming!
  • Situations you all face, i.e. new regulations, how busy it is, the industry, difficult customers you all deal with (with no customers present, of course!)
  • Personal characteristics with low ego-involvement. Most of us are sensitive about appearance, but we’re less invested in other aspects of ourselves. For example, I don’t mind colleagues sharing laughter with me about my bad handwriting, my raucous laugh, or how grumpy I am when I get up at 5 a.m. for pilates and there’s no coffee going when I get there! They do it with affection for who I am, not with disdain or ridicule.

We’ve been using humor as a powerful training tool for 20+ years. We’ve learned that people are much more open to learn when we laugh together. Even the most resistant employees are engaged and enlightened once we get them to relax and laugh a little!


Building Better Management Teams

The following is a guest post by John Cotter. Building Better Management Teams first appeared in Wolf in the Workplace, the newsletter of Wolf Management Consultants, LLC.

Designing work for senior management teams starts by identifying the tasks that are unique to the top level of the organization. People accustomed to managing a particular function often think that the outputs of the group that they manage are the same as their own outputs. The challenge is to help them discover what the senior management team as a whole produces. This voyage of discovery starts by developing a shared understanding of how their business fits in the ever-evolving environment. By understanding the business context and the contributions of the management team to the success of the business, expectations evolve about what work is needed and who is best suited to accomplish it. Individual roles are then developed by negotiating these expectations.

Experience suggests the steps to use in developing senior management teams are as follows:

  • Share individual understandings of the current business context and agree about important trends, potential problems and emerging opportunities.
  • Review what the senior managing team currently produces and evaluate its relevance in relation to emerging business developments.
  • Identify any new outputs required from the senior management team to assure that the company will be successful in the future.
  • Examine the processes required to create these outputs and agree about how the management team should work together to support these processes.
  • Redesign and reassign the current roles and responsibilities of senior managers as needed.
  • Define new accountabilities and negotiate new performance and recognition agreements.
  • Provide the management team with the skills, information and guidelines they need to operate successfully.

Senior managers sometimes feel a little foolish creating operating guidelines about how they should work together as a team. Surely, they think, we’re all adults and have years of experience working in groups. That, of course, is the problem. Everyone has practiced dysfunctional behavior for years. Operating guidelines should be explicit, simple, clear and concise. Here are some typical examples:

  • Speak honestly. Make clear and direct requests. Be willing to surface issues or take positions that may result in conflict.
  • Anyone can disagree about anything with anyone, but no one can disagree without stating the reasons why.
  • Listen for peoples’ contributions, rather than editing with assessments, opinions or judgments.
  • Support each other. Operate from the point of view that, “we’re all in this together.”
    It’s not OK to win at someone else’s expense or at the expense of the company.
  • Support people in fulfilling their commitments and hold them accountable for results.
  • Show appreciation by giving, receiving and requesting acknowledgment from others.

Managing at senior levels today involves four fundamental tasks: first, monitoring and influencing the environment to develop new business opportunities: second, articulating, modeling and creating ownership for a vision of what the organization aims to accomplish in the future: third, attracting business leaders, matching them with the right assignments and holding them accountable for results: and fourth, investing, distributing and balancing resources across the organization’s portfolio of businesses.

These are all collective rather than individual tasks. If they’re to be managed effectively, learning acquired from enterprise-level teams needs to be transferred into the executive suite. As AT&T board member Charlie Brown said, “You can’t run the business from memory any more.”