I have been honored with the opportunity to lead many people directly, as well as coach others who lead entire teams, ranging from first time managers all the way to CEOs. Over the years, I’ve learned many invaluable lessons, and one that continues to hold true – whether you are leading one direct report or a division of 20,000 – is that a strong and prepared leader will result in a strong and prepared team. Given the weight and importance of management, I’ve noticed a disparity in leadership training with organizations often treating it as something you simply learn by osmosis. Whether you’re new to leadership altogether or joining a new corporate team as a manager, training and preparation is key, which is why I’ve compiled tips to help leaders feel confident in propelling their teams to success.
In the first part of this three-part series, I shared tips that are crucial to creating a purpose-driven culture as a manager, like co-creating team rules, exploring the value of people outside of their work, the importance of providing clear direction and reminding your team of the why. Below are helpful resource-driven tips to use as you begin to delegate and collaborate.
Create Structure + Stability Through Tools, Processes and Roles
Nothing frustrates members of a team more than not being given the proper tools to succeed. Imagine showing up to build a house and realizing that none of the tools that you need are there…yet, this constantly happens in many professional situations. Structure and stability are critical to empowering teams to achieve their goals, and this is created through making sure they have tools, supportive processes and clearly defined roles. First, put yourself in their shoes in order to think of every tool necessary to successfully completing the job. Then, go an extra step to include your team in the discussion to make sure they are in agreement.
Next, you’ll want to define roles. One of the biggest traps for many leaders managing others is not clearly defining expectations around responsibilities. Though this can be tricky due to changing dynamics, pressures and competing priorities in today’s organizations, defining roles is incredibly important, especially as workloads surge around lean teams due to pandemic-related lay-offs or turnover. Remind your team that roles are used to streamline operations, but that everyone is a leader in their own right. This mentality and leader-centric culture will empower your team to make better decisions and take ownership of their work.
Another classic trap is telling a team member that “everything is important and it all needs to be done yesterday.” This is a fool’s errand and will only work to frustrate your team and eventually lead to lack of productivity and efficacy. Be supportive by helping your team identify the top three (max) priorities and continue to be proactive about identifying what can be postponed or delayed. And, to cap it all off, have a communication process in place in order to keep everyone informed. When doing so, consider the following factors: approach, frequency, platform and topics.
Develop an Action Plan for Team Growth
In our fast-paced society, we often become so involved in the seemingly never-ending day-to-day tasks that development and training are a “bottom of the list” topic in many organizations. Putting people in the right seats, moving them around if necessary and providing training needed to help uncover hidden potential is often viewed as too much work or not feasible due to budget limitations. Most likely, those exact funds are usually used in hiring outside talent, an equally lengthy and costly process. Instead, prioritize developing your team to build a culture rooted in learning and improvement. Development options include: executive coaching, team workshops, on-demand training, professional development classes through universities and more.
Outside of one-on-one meetings with team members about daily work, create monthly meetings where career trajectory, performance and growth are the prime focus. As you put processes in place to provide performance feedback and invest in the growth of your team, consider using scorecards. These define and measure what success looks like and helps remove ambiguity and align everyone toward similar goals. And, prepare yourself for difficult conversations. A crucial, and often poorly executed, aspect of training and development is that of providing frequent, specific and balanced feedback. A great resource for providing feedback that blends compassion with candor is the book “Radical Candor” by Kim Scott.
Celebrate the Wins and Utilize Losses
As Thomas Edison famously said, he learned 1000 ways not to make a light bulb.
It’s incredibly important to foster a “learning culture” for your team members. In our haste of completing projects and tasks, it’s far too easy to rush from one initiative to another without truly understanding what went well and what didn’t – and, doing so in a way that removes blame or shame. Consider integrating some of the following ideas for your team:
- Lessons Learned Documents – Identifying what went well (and why), what didn’t (and why) and what could be improved next time.
- “Fabulous Failure” Celebrations – Progressive organizations are actively encouraging leaders and teams to celebrate experiments that didn’t work out. The logic behind this is to help encourage a culture of testing and learning as opposed to one in which people are afraid to try something new.
By having a set structure made of clearly defined roles, processes and access to tools, any team will be set up for success. But, it’s not enough to stop there. Plans need to be in place to help the team continue on its growth trajectory, both as a whole and as individuals. And, part of creating this culture that’s driven to succeed is celebrating both wins and losses as they both yield key learnings. Make sure to stay tuned for part three, the final installment, of this three-part series, where we will explore the importance of listening, empathy and accountability in leadership and more.