Managing a team is complex, especially since as a leader, in addition to your technical knowledge, you are going to be dealing with other people and, therefore, with different needs, expectations, and personalities.
When talking about leadership, it’s advisable to consider a progression from the inside out; that is, from the potential manager’s initial self-reflection to how they act in the environment, thanks to the proper use of communication.
With this road map in mind, we can identify five principles to keep in mind:
1. Give significance
Your role as a leader demands that it is primarily you who has to give meaning to your work. How? Analyze your personality and how it can affect those around you and be willing to receive and give feedback as a basic tool to improve teamwork.
Once you have completed this self-reflection exercise, it’s time to define the objectives that will guide you and your team. Make sure they are concrete, measurable, achievable, relevant, and always visible in one way or another. To ensure the latter, you can use a visualization system that allows your team to always keep these objectives in mind. Any medium can work: monitors, posters, stickers, etc.
In addition, it is important that you adequately track and monitor these objectives. Avoid thinking of this monitoring system as a control mechanism; rather, it is a question of carrying out a suitable analysis to identify deviations and resolve them on an ongoing basis.
On the other hand, the objectives will promote both the definition of team guidelines and the roles and responsibilities of its members. That way, everyone will always know what to do, will give as much meaning to their work in the team as you do, and will understand the extent to which they are contributing to achieving common goals.
2. Create a team
The second principle of leadership is related to synergy or the union of forces. Synergy results from several parties working in coordination to achieve a better outcome than what would be achieved by the simple sum of individual actions. In order to achieve the desired synergistic effect, your role as leader involves:
a. Encouraging mutual understanding
Fostering interpersonal relationships within the team is important to facilitate communication and collaboration. The more we know about others, the more empathy we generate and, consequently, the more trust (a vital element for successful teamwork).
b. Generating a team identity
Team identity can be defined as the connection established among its members, as they share objectives, communicate with confidence with one another, and generate a group awareness, leading them to recognize themselves as such in relation to other groups.
Your challenge as a leader will be to lead your team members towards that sense of belonging. This can be achieved, for example, when you define goals and involve all the team members, and then determine consistent guidelines and responsibilities accordingly. It can also be achieved through team building activities that allow the team to collaborate in a non-work context.
Motivation is the fuel that moves the parts of the motor that is your team. If there is enough fuel, the motor starts up and accelerates when necessary, and it can adapt to changes in speed when you ask it to.
As much as possible, try to find out what factors get your team members moving. Don’t hesitate to ask them, as well as observe them, as this can become another great source of information over time. However, it does take just that, time, while an interview or a conversation on this issue can answer many questions in the few minutes it lasts.
In addition to these individual motivational elements, most people usually respond to a number of general factors, which have to do with:
Recognizing your team’s effort, progress, and results is vital to keeping their motivation up. Committing the common error of only pointing out faults and areas for improvement can lead to a feeling of exhaustion and frustration.
To back up recognition, consider rewarding them in some way from time to time; taking care to be fair to all team members, depending on whether they are group or individual achievements. This way, you can also take the opportunity to reinforce the behaviors and attitudes you are looking for.
c. Well-being and fun
Last but not least, a good atmosphere is a motivating factor; a pleasant ambience that, no matter what activity the company or the team is focused on, is created by the members themselves. When they have fun (which helps them relax), motivation becomes more sustainable, self-esteem grows, creativity improves, conflict is better managed, and routine and fatigue are overcome.
A leader must first and foremost be a facilitator. As such, you are at the service of your team, and you are responsible for offering them everything in your power to ensure that they can perform their work in the best possible conditions to obtain optimum results.
In other words, you will be developing:
You will have to identify which personal skills (interpersonal communication, assertiveness, time management, empathy, conflict resolution, etc.) your team members need to work on and help them in that task.
You’ll be the one who has the best vantage point and best understands which activity flows are most effective for the team, while identifying or anticipating obstacles that can get in the way, in order to avoid them. Analyzing and continuously improving these processes are spin-off tasks that will also be among your leadership functions.
You’ll have to provide your team with the tools they need to do their jobs properly. To do this, it is essential that you ask yourself if you have the necessary budget or if the number of team members is sufficient to achieve the expected objectives, in addition to questioning other conditioning factors such as communication systems, analysis systems, measurement systems, or instruments and physical elements relevant to each position.
Finally, strengthening the work of your team members will be paramount if you want to be the best version of the leader you can be.
Do this so you’ll have more time to offer added value through your position and to boost the self-confidence of each member of your team.
b. Give feedback
This is the only way to improve things that aren’t working properly; but you can also recognize what is working, if the return you offer is positive.
c. Use coaching
In this way you will help the people on your team to develop their full potential. The conversations in a coaching session are intended to ask the right questions to help the person receiving the coaching to discover their own solutions for improvement.
As you may have observed, it would be impossible to put any of these five leadership principles into practice without communication. Developing good interpersonal communication skills will be vital to your work. Some aspects that you should master, in this sense, would be:
- Empathy, or putting yourself in the place of the other person.
- Active listening, or getting and retaining the information you need from a conversation or encounter.
- Assertiveness, or defending your own interests with respect and without attacking the feelings or needs of the other person.
Based on your own experience, do you share these principles? Do you find them useful?