There’s a fundamental and often monumental difference between a “team” and a “work group.” Yet what most advisors refer to as a team, is more often than not, the latter – a group of people who work together to process a great deal of complex work, but with a task-oriented approach rather than a strategic mindset.
How do you know which one you have? Next time you hold a meeting to set team goals, step back and take a look at the level of active participation. If only one or two people are driving the conversation and the rest are silent with blank stares, it’s a pretty clear warning sign that you have a working group rather than a team.
How to Be a Great Team Leader
A huge step towards being a great leader, is being sure to engage every member of the team in creative thinking. Try to take a coaching approach towards your team, understand what they want to achieve, both individually and for the team as a whole. Ask them what role they can play today and in the future? What skills do they need to acquire today that can help the team become more valuable in a year or two or three down the road? In asking these powerful questions, you can all envision the same “future company” and you will see a strong team before you, not a work group.
The following five behaviors will greatly assist you in affecting that change:
- Common Goal Your team’s long-term success hinges on engaging the members to think strategically and make decisions that support achieving the team’s common goals. Having a common goal will ensure everyone on the team is fully committed to extraordinary success of the group as a unit, and hold themselves mutually accountable for the achievement of that success, as well as the methods by which success is achieved.
- All should be a part of significant decision-making Are you hiring a new team member? Depending on your team size, invite them all to be a part of the interview process.As team leader, it’s incumbent upon you to evoke meaningful contributions from every team member, showcasing their individual strengths, and advancing consistent and effective group decision-making. Communicate that all input is welcome. Your team needs to know that, regardless of their role, their wisdom and insight is valuable and they play an important part in co-creating strategies and making decisions. Regardless of whether it’s ultimately used, partially used, or not used at all, you want your team members to embrace the idea that their individual input helps create the best and most informed decisions for the team.
- Let them take the reigns Of course, there will be times as team leader where you will need to make unilateral decisions or even override a team decision. But these moments must be the exception rather than the rule. Strive to participate in team decision-making as a team member, but also understand that your role as leader affords you a unique perspective and viewpoint to help the team stay aligned with common purpose and not get derailed by individual goals.
- Challenge them! Great leaders constantly seek out performance opportunities for their team members rather than themselves. It not only demonstrates a belief in the abilities of your team and its members, but helps other stakeholders (the organization, senior management, and most importantly, clients) get a full and complete view of your team’s capabilities which ultimately fosters even greater team success.
- Share leadership frequently Lastly, and perhaps most difficultly, learn to actively share leadership – not by abdicating your responsibility to guide, encourage and redirect, but by allowing others to lead the team at various times based on the nature of a project and the skills required. Recognizing that others on the team may have better skill sets than yours in a particular discipline and ceding leadership cultivates a team with tremendous belief in each other and cements their ability to work together for the common good.
Remember, it’s your responsibility to cultivate the future leaders of the organization. Do you have the leadership capabilities to make these changes?
Coaching Questions from this article:
- What actions can you take and what behaviors can you demonstrate to help your team think more strategically?
- Think about some of your team’s key performance opportunities (e.g., new business presentations, client reviews). What can you do to shift more of the focus onto individual team members rather than yourself?
- Who are the future leaders (and potentially owners) of your team? Which leadership responsibilities might you consider ceding to or sharing with those individual?.