There are very few times in your leadership role in which you will not be involved in a team of some sort. In fact, the best way to approach your leadership responsibility is to think of yourself as leading a team. As a leader you may be responsible for the team, but it will be the team that makes you successful.
Teams are made up of individuals, each having his or her own motivations, likes, dislikes, ideas, and personal issues. That’s what makes teams so effective. Synergy, meaning the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, accurately describes effective teamwork.
So, how do you lead teams? First, you must recognize that everyone on the team is an individual who may or may not have the same motivation as you. So it’s important to make sure everyone is moving toward the same goal. Every team, whether short-term or long-term, must have a common focus; a mission. As the leader, it’s your responsibility to set that mission and make sure everyone understands it.
Next, you must ensure all team members know the team’s goals. These may be goals you set or goals that are provided by the boss who chartered the team.
Third, you must establish an atmosphere of mutual respect from the very beginning. Team members don’t have to like each other, though that is certainly helpful, but they do have to be able to work together. You set the stage by treating each member in a courteous, professional manner.
Any time you bring individuals together as a team, you’ll have conflict. If you follow the steps above, you will be more likely to keep the conflict to a minimum, but you won’t avoid it entirely. Understand that conflict is not all bad. There’s an old saying that if two people always agree, one of them isn’t necessary. Conflict in teams is what challenges ideas and develops better solutions. You cannot, and should not, try to avoid all conflict. Instead, strive for constructive conflict which wrestles with ideas, not personalities.
As the leader, it’s your responsibility to recognize conflict and work to prevent it from becoming personal. Here are some signs of potential problems in a team.
- A team member is constantly overbearing. This person can poison the team as other members quickly become weary of the overbearing attitude and quit working. Be sure to give everyone a chance to express their thoughts and don’t let the overbearing member assault other’s ideas.
- A team member is shy and retiring. This may be a result of a perceived personal attack or may just be the individual’s personality. Either way, you must work to overcome it so the person will be a contributing part of the team. Make it a point to draw them out by asking questions and seeking their opinion. Give them a chance to win, then recognize them. Don’t overdo it though. A truly shy person doesn’t respond well to a lot of public attention. You may need to work with them one-on-one at first.
- The team member who is uncharacteristically quiet. This is a big red flag. The person who is normally a significant contributor but has become unusually reserved is signaling a big problem with either the team or themselves. Talk to them one-on-one and determine if the problem lies in the team or the individual themselves.
If you determine there is unhealthy conflict within your team, you must deal with it immediately. Sometimes it helps to just review the team’s mission and goals and get everyone refocused. The problem may be caused by one individual on the team though.
Your first approach should be to sit down with that person and talk about the team. Tell the person that you see a problem and you need their help solving it. In most cases, that will be enough. If it isn’t, you will have to take a more directive approach. Remember that the team has goals to achieve and you cannot allow one person to jeopardize them.
By Lauren Mathews