How to Lead a Team
Leading a team to success can be a challenge for anyone, regardless of whether or not you've had previous leadership experience before. You need to address the team as a whole while also addressing each individual within the team. Moreover, you need to build confidence by leading the team through your own example.
Addressing the Entire Team
Establish an objective.The entire team needs to be on track toward the same set of goals. Create a clear objective that the team can agree on and actively work toward.
- Explain in clear terms how the team's degree of success will be evaluated.
- Make sure that your objectives are challenging yet realistic. If your expectations are too high to meet, the morale of the team will drop.
- You will need to refer to the objectives you set throughout the lifespan of the team. When the team must make a decision, evaluate the options by determining which are most closely aligned to your overall goal.
Construct a plan.Work with your team to plan out the steps you will need to follow to achieve your group objective. Make sure that these steps are described in clear, precise terms so that everyone is on the same page.
- Each stepping stone in your plan should be necessary. Do not create a bloated plan filled with nonsensical steps simply for the sake of having an impressively large plan.
Clear confusion before it develops.Be in constant communication with your team and never allow them to feel uncomfortable about approaching you. Try to answer questions before or as soon as they arise.
- Keep your teammates informed about each new development and change as it happens. Leaving someone in the dark is a sure-fire way to make that individual confused and unproductive.
- Your team members should have a clear, precise understanding of how you think, make decisions, and measure performance. They also need to know how you expect them to work. Without knowledge on all these points, they would be unable to meet your expectations even if they wanted to do so.
Ask for input.Your team needs to see that you are open to good advice and eager for their active involvement. Before making any major decision, talk it over with the team as a group and ask for their thoughts.
Look for patterns before making decisions.Every team of people will have its own group dynamic unlike that of any other team. Watch for the patterns and habits of your team before making decisions that will affect the team as a whole.
- You should also look for patterns within the broader realm your team must work in, regardless of whether it is an industry, organization, or league.
- Only by having all of the facts can you make the wisest decisions. Quick action can demonstrate your ability to lead, but if those actions make matters worse, you will lose your team members' trust and confidence.
Make the final decision.Even though you should involve your team as much as possible in the decision-making process, ultimately, you are the leader. That means you'll need to make the final decision when all else is said and done.
- Aside from establishing your authority, there is an even greater practical reason for being the final decision-maker: you will probably have a greater idea of what is and isn't achievable with respect to the team's resources. Your team members can dream of the possibilities, but you need to be more grounded in reality.
Motivating Team Members
Treat each team member as an individual.Spend some one-on-one time with each person in the team. Let your team members know that you see them as more than just faceless members of a larger whole.
- Check in with each team member as often as possible. At the beginning, you should try to touch base at least once a day. Address any concerns each member might have when you talk with them.
Spot key members early on.Pay attention to the way members of your team naturally behave and cooperate. You'll likely notice that some team members play a more crucial, direct role in work performed by the group.
- Look at attitude before looking at ability. Teammates who are eager to support the goals of the group are more likely to work harder. Those who disagree with the team's objectives may still work hard, but you should watch those who are particularly vocal about their dissatisfaction for signs of sabotage.
Notice individual strengths.As the team leader, it is your job to find out what each team member can contribute to the group's efforts. Determine what each members' strengths are and assign tasks accordingly.
- Take note of each member's area of expertise. You may not be able to use that skill set for the task currently in front of you, but if you need those talents later, you will know where to look.
Divide the workload.Allow some of the other members to take minor leadership roles within the team when certain projects or tasks are being worked on. As the leader of the team, knowing when and how to divvy up responsibilities is a skill you will need to master.
- Delegate tasks to individuals based on who is most likely to complete a specific task in a timely and accurate manner.
- Assign firm deadlines for specific tasks.
- Follow up with the individual you've assigned the task to throughout the process. When your support is needed, lend it.
Keep the members accountable.When you assign a specific task to someone, you need to hold that person to it. The members of your team need to know that you fully expect them to take care of the responsibilities assigned to them.
- Encourage accountability at the start of a task by giving team members everything they need to complete the task. This includes everything from tools to resources to authority.
- Performance reviews are also a good way to keep team members accountable and aware of how well they are meeting expectations.
Thank and reward team members appropriately.A little appreciation can go a long way. Team members who do as they're supposed to and those who go above and beyond the call of duty should be both thanked and rewarded.
- When working with limited resources, recognition of a team member's accomplishments or dedication can be a significant enough reward. Print a certificate, hand-write a thank you note, or give a gift card.
- Make sure that you issue rewards fairly. Acknowledge each team member who make a significant contribution to avoid the appearance of favoritism with any one person.
Encourage creative thinking.To be an effective leader, you need to know when to allow others in the group to think outside the box. Ingenuity is a valuable problem-solving asset.
- One good way to encourage teammates to think creatively is to place challenging tasks in their hands. Allow them to cooperate and compete with each other and independently of you.
Leading by Example
Commit to the team on a personal level.Demonstrate your commitment to the team by actively involving yourself in the work that goes on. Don't simply manage the team from afar; join the team members and lead them from the frontline.
- A healthy and involved work ethic is an important tool you can use to show your commitment, but keep in mind that there are also times when you need to take a step back and direct from the sidelines.
- Demonstrating your commitment is simply done by demonstrating your investment in the well-being of the team through your actions. Make the best decisions for your team at any given moment, regardless of the sort of work you'll end up doing individually as a result.
Get something done as early as possible.Inspire your team by solving one major hurdle or other issue almost immediately. Acting so quickly will show how serious you are about your leadership role and may encourage the rest of the team to be equally serious.
- If you're coming into a previously established team, quickly identify a pre-existing problem and address it early on.
- When you're leading a team from the start of its creation, watch out for early signs of trouble and address the problems as they arise.
Give respect to receive respect.You might be the leader of the team, but if you want the other team members to respect you, you'll need to show them respect through your words and actions first.
- This is especially important if you took the leadership role from someone else who still remains in the group. Avoid criticizing the previous leader's work in direct terms. Instead, correct past errors without pointing out where those errors originated.
Stop fixating on popularity.Perform the work properly and make the best possible decisions, even when doing so is an unpopular move. If you're too focused on trying to “play nice,” you may start slacking on your responsibilities as the team leader. The rest of the team may actually lose confidence in you as a result.
- It's great to be a well-liked leader, of course, and becoming such a leader is encouraged when it is possible. The point is merely to focus on being trusted as a leader instead of focusing on being liked as a person.
Sources and Citations
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