A favorite memory of working with a new leader was the time I explained, simply, what leadership is: Getting results through others.
This new leader stared at me blankly and replied: “Great. How the hell do I do that?”
It is not unusual for someone to be put into a leadership role without having had training, guidance, or even a general heads-up as to what duties are required. This new leader was in that boat. She was taking on a long-term interim management role. Due to budget cuts, she was told the position would not be permanently filled for at least a year, maybe two. She agreed to it but needed help and didn’t know where to begin.
This is a tough and all too common situation, getting into management without any training or guidance. It’s an excellent opportunity to learn which is why so many agree or volunteer for it.
Tapping into our own experiences as members of a team helps. There is little we do more often than work with others to achieve an outcome. This is teamwork. It is ever present in our careers, but it is also a routine activity in our communities and at home. Working with others to achieve a common goal is a nearly universal experience.
Leaders and teams that work well together are not left up to chance. It’s not a coincidental collection of personalities that work well together. Rather, there are well established behaviors and techniques that when employed will enable the leader and the team to not only achieve their goals but often exceed them.
Yet, if it’s all new to you, where do you begin? Or, if you have been leading for some time without any training or mentorship, how might you confirm what you are doing is fostering the kind of collaboration on your team that is getting the best results? How do you identify what’s missing in your team leadership?
It begins with an understanding of what high performing teams do. Here are the 5 must-haves:
Psychological Safety This is a sense of confidence that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking. This means, one can admit mistakes, share concerns, and disagree without being avoided or punished for doing so. Leaders of the team have the greatest influence, but every team member owns it too. Each person speaks up with about the same frequency, which means everyone listens to each other with that same regularity.
Defined Goals Teams are clear on what they are trying to accomplish, as broadly as the overall mission of the team and as narrowly as in a single work meeting. Nothing gets done without a clear goal.
Clear Roles and Processes Assumptions fill the gaps when roles and responsibilities are not defined. These assumptions can breed stress and conflict. Determining clear roles and processes is what takes the guessing out of teamwork.
Productive Conflict Disagreement is inevitable and helpful. Inviting dissent is what helps teams get to the best solution or idea.
Routine Debriefs This is frequent group and individual feedback, more positive than negative. Teams that appreciate and recognize each other, perform better than those who say nothing or focus on criticism.
How do you know how your team is doing, specifically, in each one of these components? Self-assessments are an excellent start. They tap into an understanding of a concept and identify gaps. Leading a team can be overwhelming and using an assessment can narrow down what to focus on first.
Growth Partners Consulting has created a (free, no strings attached) Leading Teams Assessment to build self-awareness and provide guidance on how to advance the performance of a leader’s team. It focuses on the 5 Essential Components of Team Performance: Communication, Defined Goals, Clear Roles and Processes, Productive Conflict, and Routine Debriefs.
If you are leading a team now, take the assessment. Are the scores you received surprising or confirming? If you are new to leadership, it will provide insight as to what activities and behaviors need to be in play for high quality team performance.
Before you begin, here is some guidance:
Download the assessment and save it to your desktop. This will enable the scoring functionality.
If you lead more than one team, consider just one while completing the assessment.
You will receive one score for each of the five components. There is no total team leadership score.
Scroll to page 2 for specific activities and techniques.
Choose one of the components to focus on for the next couple weeks. Pick the one that sparks the most interest. If all are of interest, begin with Psychological Safety. Whichever you choose, read the corresponding article (linked on page 2 of the assessment) and try out some of the suggested strategies. The articles take no more than 5 minutes to read and include links to additional information and resources. Explore as far as you’d like to go.
Leading teams effectively is not a mystery. It just takes knowing the specific, ongoing behaviors and activities that make teamwork…well…work!
Until next time!
Amy Drader is a management consultant and credentialed coach with over 20 years’ experience in HR and operations. She knows first-hand the joys and challenges of leading people and is dedicated to helping managers and teams advance their performance. She is the owner of Growth Partners Consulting, a boutique leadership and team development consulting firm that provides customized training and coaching.