Managers and supervisors are often required to lead teams and to achieve objectives with the help of others. This means that they have to understand the individuals who report to them so well that they know what is required to guide and support them in the way that most helps them to be successful. To some leaders this can be a challenge. They may be unsure of how to get their individual team members on the right track and they may not know how to work with the team once it is up and running.
It is sometimes not easy as a team grows and develops to engage with the collective as well as the individual. There are multiple theories and concepts about what it takes to address the dynamics of human beings working together in collective effort. In spite of that, there are some constants which are well known and which have been shown to be successful in helping teams to become and remain high level performers. The following are a few key ideas.
Team members should show respect for each other. No one likes to feel disrespected. In teams where this exists, members usually cannot work well together. How the members speak about each other or about the work they are engaged in completing matters. It is also important that they commit to earning and keeping each other’s trust. This is usually the foundation for any level of effective team performance. In teams where there is respect for each other, there is also a free flow of information, members know that their efforts are valued and they are involved in the decision making about what they have to accomplish and how they will go about doing so.
Have fun. It’s not all about work. No one is ever all about work. We spend almost a third of our lives in work activities. We are whole and complete beings before we step through the door to our organizations and after we walk out of them at the end of the day. Therefore it should not be expected that we will leave our personalities, our sense of joy and happiness outside during the day in order to show our professionalism and commitment. There is no reason why these two things, fun and professionalism, should be mutually exclusive in the workplace. Professionalism is about the standard of work produced and the attitude of the individual while doing it. In a truly engaged workforce, where people are committed and willing to work hard, they can also be enjoying what they are doing.
Challenge them to achieve. People often do not see themselves clearly. As such they often do not truly see what their leader or manager may see in them. As a result where the team leader sees potential, the team member may feel doubt, worry and fear. However, no one rises to low expectations. So the more that a leader challenges a team member to grow, shows their confidence in the individual’s ability to achieve the agreed goals, while also providing support and encouragement as needed, then the greater the chance that they can make great things happen with their team.
Be open to hearing ideas from the team. The beauty of working in a team is the opportunity to have the collective brainpower of a group working on a problem or situation. There is great value in that. If any leader is consistently of the opinion that they have to be the one with the big ideas or the one who comes up with the solution then they may lose the chance to hear something new. They may also deprive someone else of the chance to tap into a part of their own creativity that they may not normally engage. Offering team members the opportunity to generate ideas and working along with them to make the idea a reality, helps the team to build confidence in their capability. While for some team leaders this might cause a sense of panic because there is the fear that they might be replaced, instead they should feel a sense of pride that they are building their own skills in developing other leaders. This is a key leadership skill that can only be gained by actually doing it.
Create a learning environment. In a learning environment anyone can admit when they are wrong or don’t know something. This means that people can freely ask questions and it is okay if someone says that they do not know the answer. This is the foundation for creating an innovative and knowledge sharing working space. Many organizations are not encouraging this type of behaviour. Instead they create an environment where people are afraid to speak up and admit what they do not know. This in turn reduces the chance of them getting the knowledge they need, so they never learn and they live in fear. They are therefore afraid to try new things because if it is wrong there will be blame and negative feedback. They do not speak up. They keep their good ideas and suggestions inside. Organizations which do not value making mistakes and which do not create a culture where people can fail and learn from their failure are missing out on some very valuable growth opportunities. Let us remember that many of our great inventions came from individuals who tried, failed and tried again and again.
Be your authentic self. It takes a lot of energy to try to be someone you are not. If anyone is going to be leading a high performing team and vigorously pursuing the achievement of big goals, they would be much better served directing that energy towards productive outcomes. In addition, being authentic gives the other members of the team permission to do the same. This willingness to be vulnerable strengthens both the leader and the individual team members. So if you are a little quirky or a nerd or you love puns, let it out. It strengthens the bonds of the team when you can feel like you understand the person working alongside you. Of course, this should all be taken within the context of maintaining that high level of respect for each other.
As noted earlier these are some of the factors that need to be present to ensure that a team can function effectively and perform at a high level. They offer guidance to anyone who finds that they are either a member of a team or in a position that requires them to lead one. It is a starting point and with a willingness to give and receive feedback, a commitment to listening and learning, the journey to developing a high performing team can be a rewarding and profitable experience.
Marjorie Wharton is a trainer, facilitator and coach who works with individuals and organizations to help them improve their performance. She is based at the Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business in Barbados. Follow her on twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. For more of her writing visit https://marjoriewharton.live