Many leaders truly want strong, productive teams. At times though, it seems the harder the leader tries, the less effective team interactions become. What to do? Here are 3 specific actions leaders can take right way that can turn around an effective or dysfunctional team.
1. Delegate more.
When leaders try to do it all themselves “so it’s done right”, or “because it takes too much time to teach staff,” they undermine employee confidence, growth and engagement. Often the leader does not have a clear sense of the employees’ abilities and desire for development. The best delegation is based on knowing each employees’ strengths, weaknesses and appetite for challenge and assigning tasks based on those factors. Delegation is not complete until the tasks, timelines, outcomes and stakeholders are clearly discussed with the employee.
2. Listen and promote mindful, reflective listening among team members.
Good leaders know the necessity of sending clear messages to their teams about expectations. But, if a leader is not approachable, not trusted or “has no time to listen,” then that top- down, one -way communication stops team members from taking the risk to ask a question. Thriving companies know that communication must be 2- way; across levels and roles so collaboration, and mentoring can occur.
Deep listening takes precious time so it can seem like a luxury, but skilled leaders listen actively using reflective listening and asking stimulating questions that help the employee generate learning, reduce mistakes and innovative solutions.
This type of listening creates a culture in which employees are actively engaged with envisioning the goals of the organization so they are more satisfied with their work and the company which increases productivity.
3. Welcome problems and “bad news” and conflict!
The best teams face barriers, make mistakes, miss benchmarks due to unforeseen challenges, and disagree! We human beings can’t avoid these problems. Often, a leader “doesn’t want to hear it” or they want people “to work it out themselves.” While many situations can be resolved by the team without involving the leaders, sometimes the perspective of the leader from 40,000 feet can stimulate new data points and possible solutions from the team.
In the case of conflict, when open, respectful conversation between the two parties is encouraged, diverse viewpoints become part of the norm and collaboration improves. The leader can encourage dialogue so underlying issues, facts and potential solutions can be generated. Lastly when its safe to tell the boss about mistakes and missed benchmarks then the leader and team members can course- correct more quickly.
Leading a team takes knowledge, skill and experience: leading a collaborative, team where trust and connection is the norm, requires the leader to actively develop Emotional Intelligence so they can foster a culture of open communication and more productivity.
Shifting the mindset from Manager to Leader – a composite case study- names and identifying details changed
John was a key contributor at the Director level in his large organization. He was recommended for coaching as part of his company’s initiative to improve the culture and build more connections up, down and across teams, departments and locations. As we processed how to implement suggestions from his 360 assessment, it became apparent that John had a hard time differentiating between managing and leading. He was a well-respected manager: his direct reports gave him high marks for being constructive, for listening to and empowering them and for being respectful. John’s challenge (which is a common one for great managers) was how he could “lead” those he had no direct responsibility for!
As his coach, I asked him to think about those who had influenced him in his career thus far: who in the past had he viewed as a leader regardless of their title? We explored together the facets of executive presence: how to use body language, tone and presentation skills to increase his confidence and the impact he had on others. As a result of our coaching, John began to explore getting and giving feedback across roles and levels within the organization. He experimented with making himself available to peers in different departments and offices to be a thought partner and collaborator. John began to network within the organization not “to get ahead” but to genuinely contribute to and develop the collaborative culture that Sr. Leadership was seeking. He started acknowledging other’s contributions in meetings regardless of who they reported to. As he took an active role across silos, his newfound influence generated greater positivity in potentially contentious meetings. Gradually peers and upline leaders sought John’s input on company- wide projects.
At the end of our 8- month engagement, the feedback John received was that he was increasingly regarded as a leader in his company.
If you would benefit support and strategies to shift your mindset, presence and reputation from Manger to Leader, contact me or ask your HR Executive for an opportunity for coaching. Marjorie@ascendconsulting.net