Leadership is more than being liked
Leaders and Leadership are universally the most talked about topics. TED talks are viewed by millions. The demand for executive coaching has never been greater. The focus is nearly always on the leader – the omnipresent, larger than life hero others look to for direction. Rarely is much attention given to the role team members play in the multifaceted team leadership equation.
“Getting a 100% score on your 360° feedback report is a great start, but by no means
can this single metric give you assurance that your team will be fully engaged, resilient or productive.”
What might surprise you is that in the context of leading teams, the EQ of the leader is vitally important, but not sufficient. Getting a 100% score on your 360° feedback report is a great start, but by no means can this single metric give you the assurance that your team will be fully engaged, resilient, or productive. Simply put, it takes more than interpersonal awareness and a great vibe with your team members to build a high performing team that is humming.
What we have learned from our work with teams and our team diagnostics. Based on the team data we have collected and analysed over recent years, there are a number of consistent themes. Here is a checklist that we have prepared to guide you in your quest to maximise your team leadership capability and impact. They are set out in order of priority.
Leader as a strategic thinker and stakeholder connector
A very crucial role that you need to prioritise involves being externally focused – connecting with stakeholders inside and outside your organisation. Build insightful networks to gather contextual scans. What are the changes going on? What does this mean for your team and your wider organisation? Clarify for your team members the role your team plays in delivering its contribution to the strategy and goals set out by the Strategic Leadership Team. And explain how each team members’ role aligns with the team role and goals.
Apply the Platinum Rule – “treat others as they would like to be treated”.
Leader as a role model of self and interpersonal awareness
As a leader, you need to ‘click’ with your team members and other stakeholders (boss, colleagues, customers). This requires you to understand how they are wired-up. Understand their preferences. Apply the Platinum Rule – “treat others as they would like to be treated”. If you can’t click-with others (the foundation of leadership), you have no chance of succeeding in the roles that follow.
Leader as a battery charger
Your personal energy and positivity are required to amplify the energy of your team members. You also need to be on the lookout for team members with a low Mojo. They will flatten the entire team battery. Find out why they have a low Mojo. Is it you / your leadership that is impacting other colleagues’ Mojo? Or are factors arising from outside work the culprit? Perhaps a combination? Be mindful that Mojo is the key to engagement and productivity. Stay calm. Be positive and frame your narrative positively. Energise others.
Leader as a trusted mentor / coach
Once you click-with your team members, they will start to open up with you and share what is going on in their lives. And, of course, life can be tough, and circumstances can change overnight. People are not robots that turn up to work with their concerns and emotions switched off. “How are you?… How are you really?” Listen to their story. Show compassion. Responding to their situation needs to be carefully handled, otherwise, there is always the risk of creating a ‘dependent’ or ‘co-dependent’ relationship, which can be counterproductive. The trick for the leader is to support and enable the team member to self-manage to the extent they can. Ask them what, why, when, and how is this impacting on them? Ask them what support do they need right now? Direct them to where they can get help. If they are really down, give them a hand. Give them a leg up. Be there for them. Provide meaning.
Leader as a resource allocator
Nothing is more frustrating and debilitating than working without having the necessary tools to do the job or having tools that are ineffective. Imagine working on a computer all day using cloud-based tools, if the Wi-Fi is slow or continuously cutting out? Or if you work collaboratively with others in your team, or across teams or divisions if the systems are not integrated? Or even sitting in an uncomfortable chair all day? Provide sharp tools. Enable them to be productive. Make them feel valued.
Leader as a team dynamics architect
Imagine your son or daughter going to school each day and having no friends. Feeling left out. Feeling lonely. It would be even worse if they felt ‘ghosted’ or ‘bullied’. No matter how good the teacher is or how great the school facilities are, s/he would be asking “can I stay at home today?” It’s the same at work and it’s your job as a leader to make sure everyone has a sense of belonging. Team dynamics matter. Look at your team members strategically and see to it that the team dynamics are empowering each team member. And, most importantly, connect your team with other teams to co-create and learn from each other.Be an effective and insightful team dynamic architect.
Leader as the setter and endorser of clear rules and consequences
People need structure. They need to know the rules and the consequences of breaking them. It is your job as leader to collaboratively craft a team charter setting out the team values, as well as the attitudes and behaviours that underpin them. Don’t walk past charter or rule breaches. Be consistent. Be firm. Seek to be respected, not adored.
Leader as an evidence-based professional
Most leaders operate like a pilot without navigation. They literally fly blind. Even on a personal level, they don’t bother to get a periodic blood pressure test, ultrasound or a PSA. The best leaders pulse their teams every 3-weeks to monitor their team(s) vital signs. The cost is typically less than that of a mochaccino per person per month. Given that the fine for workplace bullying in the employment court is significant, and the loss of reputation even greater, it makes sense that leaders pulse their teams regularly to assess team leadership, team mojo, team culture, team engagement, team productivity, team values, and team risks.
Leader as a skill and career developer
Once upon a time, people stayed with one company for a lifetime and were rewarded after 25 years with a gold watch with their name inscribed on the back. But those days are long gone. People typically step up and step out these days over a three to five-year period. As they need to prepare for their next career step, the best will be hungry to learn what and how, gain new tools and skills, and broaden their experiences. It is therefore your job as a leader to provide coaching and invest in their development. Otherwise, they will leave, and the cost of staff turnover will be significant in terms of recruitment, onboarding, and reduced productivity in the period leading up to, during, and after they leave. Provide your team members with a development plan. Invest in their development. Discuss their potential career trajectory options. Support them be the best they can be.
Leader as the purveyor of fun
People of all ages and professions are kids at heart. They are social characters. They enjoy being with others, having a laugh and sharing stories; even playing games and competing for top ratings on their team ‘leader board’. Choose the most social character in your team and allocate them the role of ‘fun champ’ to organise regular, interesting, and enjoyable social events. Those who play together, stay together, and trust each other. Provide the fun that ignites team spirit.
Think of building a resilient and high-performing team akin to building a ‘whare rūnanga’ – a meeting house. A place of unity and peace. A place where everyone has a sense of community, a sense of being welcome, and of being equally valued. A place where there are rules of conduct and consequences for those who break them. Without a clear vision and strategy, team members lack clarity of direction to align effort and the understanding of how their role contributes to the bigger picture. Without interpersonal awareness, there can be no understanding.
- Without a sense of energy from the leader and each other, the whānau feel flat and dispirited.
- Without trust in the leader, the team members will not be willing to open up about what’s on their mind, and heavy on their heart.
- Without trust, the leader will not have permission to engage in connecting with individual team members as a coach or mentor.
- Without a leader who fairly and effectively allocates resources, each person will not be able to efficiently or safely do their work. They will become tired out.
- Without a leader who is an effective team dynamics architect, some team members will feel outsiders and lack the sense a lack of belonging that makes it exciting to come to work and feel included and valued each day.
- Without a leader who cares for the whānau’s personal and career development, each person will feel a sense of being ‘used’ and ‘having no future’.
- Without a leader who sets direction, expected team values and endorsed rules, the team will be like a ‘house of cards’ – unstable and likely to fall apart at any time.
Being a leader is a privilege. It comes with a raised sense of professional and social identity. You will be rewarded with a higher salary and benefits. You will get a sense of pride. But it is not easy. In fact, it is hard work. And in return for this, there will be great expectations.
Leadership is the real work for those entrusted with the responsibility to take care of and empower the people. A leader is much more than a title or a role. It is an obligation to get your team humming.
A question to reflect on
If leadership involves the above roles, how much time are you spending on them? Is your team greater than eight? If yes, how could you possibly schedule time to work with your team members ‘one-on-one’ and collectively on a regular week by week basis to improve team dynamics? Have you stepped up to leadership, or are you still caught in the functional specialist trap?
For those readers who are not from New Zealand, whānau is a Māori word denoting ‘an extended family or community of related families who live together in the same area’. In the context of this paper, whānau relates to a team, group of teams, and their team members – all working collaboratively in the same organisation.
If you would like to know more about how to develop yourself as a team leader or how to build a high-performing leadership team simply contact us.
Find out about how to monitor the Mojo, resilience, and team dynamics of your team members at www.MyTeamPulse.com.