Why you need to know how YOU work before you can lead a team
Continuing the ‘team’ and leadership theme, I’m focusing today on new (or existing) leaders spotting gaps they may have in their management skills…
We’ve all heard the saying that people are ‘born leaders’, but in reality, this simply isn’t true. Leadership is a skill like any other.
It happens fairly frequently in corporations: a team member is promoted and is suddenly responsible for others, and the team’s performance. Undoubtedly, the promoted worker enjoys many new perks, such as more pay, better career opportunities, more responsibility, but often, relevant training to effectively manage people can be one benefit missing from the list.
Understanding your own working style, strengths and weaknesses is crucial before you think about leading. For instance, how do you feel about delegation? Does it come naturally, or do you shoulder all the burden? Here are my thoughts on dealing with such a transition:
Don’t think you’ve to control everything. You’re there to manage, not dictate. Though workers will look to you for direction, help and guidance, being the leader doesn’t mean acting like a dictator, or ordering people around – both, sure-fire ways to put team members’ backs up when faced with a new leader.
From working within the team, you’ll already know what people are good at. Use this information. Think how the project in hand can utilise individual’s strengths. Give team members as much responsibility as they can cope with and let them run with it, but remain observant and ready to step in if help is needed. A good leader encourages and motivates, rather than controls.
Stay in the know. Conversely, don’t delegate the whole project then sit back and focus on something else. The leader should have overall knowledge of every aspect the team is involved with and be able to see the bigger picture, as well as individual responsibilities. Though trust is an important thing to exercise, you should always remain on the sidelines in case a problem occurs.
If you need to ask advice from your team, or your peers, to gather this overview, don’t feel embarrassed. Communication is one of the best qualities a leader can have. Mistakes and misinterpretation occur when leaders assume or second-guess.
Set boundaries. Again, this isn’t about dictating or an issue of control but about setting realistic and achievable ground rules and deadlines. If your team has no guidance or measure, they won’t invest in the work. Consistency is key; your team need to know you’re the bench-mark, the measure, the mainstay for when they need steering.
Goals are important in leadership. Agree the details between you and your team before work begins, so that they’re happy and able to deliver what’s expected of them, and also, so you, as leader, have a timescale to work to.
Don’t try to be everyone’s friend. One important aspect of leadership is the managing of your team’s individual expectations, attitudes and personalities. You won’t please everyone. You can never assume there won’t be fallout. You may have to make difficult decisions and confront delicate issues – but that’s why you’re the leader. Without a fixed point of ‘order’ anarchy descends. Being a leader is not about striving to be popular. A fair and helpful leader will be respected and liked but there has to be a professional distance if you’re to lead the group (read my related post here).
You’re there to serve. It may seem tempting to those also tasked with recruitment, to hire employees that make your life easier. There’s nothing wrong in this, but if you’re to lead talented people you must be ready to help them shine. That means removing obstacles from their path and making it as easy as possible for them to do what they do best.
Lead by example. If you’re motivated and passionate about the work you do, it will rub off on the people around you. Inspiring people to do better – be better – is a quality all leaders should have. Question your team and push them, gently, to continually improve. Coping is too close to chaos – once boundaries are set, a leader’s role should be concerned with delivering above expectations and nudging team members to further develop.
Take a retrospective approach when a project is finished. What could have been done better? How could you have brought out the best in anyone that underperformed? Constantly questioning your own methods will help you develop your leadership skills.
These are only some of the qualities good leaders extol. By working through each element and recognising how you’d approach each one will highlight any skills gaps, training or coaching you may need, which is where I come in.
For leadership or management coaching, contact me on 01302 220221.
Thanks to freedigitalphotos.net for use of the images