As you become more productive and successful, you’ll have more and more opportunities to lead a team. Here are some suggestions to help you upgrade your performance as a team leader:
Although you’ll probably have administrative responsibilities as a team leader, holing up in your office too much of the time is going to undermine your effectiveness. Recognize that you can do solo administrative work any time. But only when your team is in the house – whether face-to-face or virtually – can you exert your leadership influence and promote your leadership values.
If you want to be a good leader, let your leadership rub off on those you are leading.
To do this, maintain visibility among your team members. Mingle. Interact. Talk with them about team priorities and current projects. Ask for their opinions and get involved in their problems. But share your own problems sparingly. An important part of leadership is absorbing some of your team’s pressures and difficulties while shielding them from some of yours.
And remember: there’s more to team leadership than thinking only about the work at hand. You and your team members are people, too. Act like it.
Be the Team Member You Want Others to Be
Talk is cheap, which is why most people are more likely to follow what you do rather than what you say. As team leader, it’s OK for you to set rules, establish values, and issue orders (within limits). But it’s even better for you to behave according to the rules, values, and orders you want others to follow.
Keep Your Word
People set a lot of store by what the team leader says – right up until the moment they discover that the leader’s promises and plans are worthless. To be an effective leader, never let your words write checks that your actions cannot cash.
You can still be bold and forward thinking. You can still set ambitious goals, and encourage your team to reach very high. But temper your boldness with open acknowledgement that – except in those few situations where you clearly have all the power, control, and freedom of action needed to deliver what you have promised – reality and external forces may sometimes dictate that results fall a little short.
Focus on the Positive
As team leader, it’s important that you spot problems and catch errors before they lead to substantial problems. But too much focus on what team members are doing wrong is a poor strategy for good leadership.
It’s far more effective to notice what people are doing right, however little that may be. Good leaders strive to build on strengths and successes, rewarding and supporting people in whatever positive performances they have been delivering.
Share Helpful Information
Knowledge is power, but withholding information from your team makes you a far less powerful leader than sharing as much as you can (within limits). Regularly keep your team informed of current objectives and progress toward them. Answer their questions with appropriate detail. Be forthcoming about available resources, important time frames and deadlines, potential for upcoming changes, and whatever else will help them improve their productivity and success.
Measure What’s Important
It’s a well-understood rule of thumb: if you want something to improve, start measuring it. Of course, you can’t measure everything. So identify the one or two most important aspects of team performance and start measuring that. Track these measures on a large chart posted where everyone on the team – and perhaps even some people not on the team – can easily see it. You’ll soon find the numbers improving.
If you make a big deal about this improvement – offering certificates of achievement or rewards of some sort – the numbers are likely to rise even faster.
Once you have these measurements where you want them – or at least moving in the right direction – consider tracking other aspects of team performance, as well.
Provide Lots of Feedback
As you are staying visible to your team, asking and answering lots of questions, be sure to give lots of feedback – primarily positive – to each team member. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to praise team members in public and – when necessary – criticize them in private. Formal feedback such as comprehensive annual performance reviews is useful, but good leaders know the importance of more frequent, informal conversations that cover just one or two items at a time.
Incidentally, good leaders not only give their team members performance reviews and feedback, but they ask their team members for the same – generally in private – about their own performance.
Practice Fairness and Consistency
It’s hard to define or explain in detail, but most of us recognize and appreciate fairness when we see it. What’s more, you can’t have fairness without consistency.
Of course, people are all different: It’s natural to like some people more than others, and to agree with some people more than others, and to feel good about some people more than others. In normal human relations, this mostly can’t be helped. But when you’re a team leader, you owe it to your team to be as fair and consistent to everyone as you possibly can.
So work hard every day to consistently treat everyone on your team fairly.
You’ll be rewarded with their gratitude, their loyalty, and their maximum efforts.