When moving into a team leadership role, a manager gains a certain degree of power simply from the authority granted them in their assigned position. They have to make decisions and they have to get work done with and through others. Letting go of the impulse to “do it yourself” and giving your team members the authority and purpose to complete the job is a key factor in ensuring your team perform to the highest level.
To help you become a successful team manager, you should ask a number of questions.
Where are we going?
The team leader must be clear about his or her responsibility for getting the job done. What are the goals and how do these goals tie into the overall goals of the company? Without a clear understanding of what you will be measured on, how can you inspire your team? Performance measurements are critical to the success of any leader. With measurements, you can gauge if each member of your team is moving toward the team’s goals or away from them. If away, what can you do to alter the course and close the gap between what the team is achieving and what the team is meant to achieve? With clarity of the company’s goals along with a good understanding of the leadership role, the team leader has a better chance at engaging the team for achieving successful results.
It is also critical to let the team know what the objectives and goals are, so they are fully up to speed and can see the “end game” or vision and that they buy-in to the vision to ensure success.
How are we getting there?
Along with clear goals, teams are more engaged if the leader gets them involved in decisions that affect them. In other words, let them know how their contribution is important in the overall objective of the team.
Generally speaking, we can all do our jobs effectively and that is why we are hired. It is dealing with people’s expectations and needs that make engaging others a challenge. One of the biggest challenges for team leaders is not to focus on themselves when fulfilling the responsibilities handed to them. In reality, if they focused on their staff and the team as a whole, they could learn how to get the job done in ways that make sense to the individual team player. How do you do that? You look at behaviors.
“You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within.” – Bob Nelson, Management Author
Behaviours tell you much about a person. We all want to contribute but we tend to want to contribute more once we’re recognised for the gifts and strengths that we strive to bring to the table to fulfill the goals of our team and of the organisation. Some people need pats on the back and verbal acknowledgment of their results; some need to be recognised for their competency and wish to have goals that continuously challenge them; others need to play it safe and may wish to hold back or not stick their necks out because it may have been chopped off in another workplace. For each team player, the team leader has to respond accordingly, so it is important to understand each team member’s motivations, and what is important to them.
Draw the person out by asking them how you can help them fulfill their goals and what kind of support works best for them. If you have to teach them a new task ask them what their preferred learning style is and instruct them in a way that makes sense to them. Some might be visual learners and want to have the overview first and be left to figure things out themselves once they have the big picture; some may be more of an interactive learner and want to discuss it with you, work a bit on it, and discuss it some more and go on in this fashion; or some may be hands-on learners where they just want to be left alone and learn about it as they go. You could even have some learners who are a combination of more than one style of learning or it could depend on the project or task.
How do you know which style of learning is best? Ask them. Too often we get ourselves in the way and fail to be open to what is important to the other person. Keep an open mind and remember that you don’t have to have all the answers but you do need to ask the right questions to get more information.
As Andrew Marty of SACS Consult says “corporate culture is when every staff member acts like a leader.” If staff are engaged and feel valued and appreciated their levels of initiative, discretionary effort and contribution to the team tends to rise.
To keep your team engaged, listen to them, ask open-ended questions for clarification, summarise what the team member said, ask them for their thoughts on how to resolve the situation, and let them know that you value their input and will consider all aspects before moving forward with any decision that effects your team.
Be sure to recognise each team member’s contributions as they are displayed and to celebrate team successes in any way that you can, and never lose sight of the fact that you are being measured by the successful engagement of the team you are leading.
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