6 Keys to Building and Leading a Team
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” -Lao Tzu
You don’t manage a team to victory. You lead them. Building a great team requires a great leader. John Wooden was considered one of the great team leaders of all time. He led the UCLA basketball team to 10 NCAA victories…7 in a row. He didn’t manage them to victory. He led them and they loved and respected him.
Team building is a combination of art and science; the art of understanding people and the science of leadership.
A leader needs an acute understanding of people, their strengths, their weaknesses and what excites them to work on a team. And in order to lead a team effectively, you must first establish your leadership with each team member and then the group as a whole. Remember that the most effective team leaders build their relationships on trust and loyalty, not fear or the power of their positions.
Here are the keys that I think are most important when building and leading your team:
- Have A Clear Idea Of What You Need To Accomplish. If you don’t know what you want to accomplish, what your standards for the team’s success are, what they’re responsibilities are and what the time frame is for completion, you won’t be able to communicate that clearly to your team. Clarity of communication is paramount. So, know what you want to communicate before you address the team. This will also ensure that you can accomplish the next step.
- Play To Each Team Member’s Strength. Once you get to know each team member and the group as a whole, you can begin to put each member in the right position on the team. You want to make sure that each member is in the best position for them, a position where they can be successful. This leads to more success as a team and better teamwork among the members.
- Trust & Transparency, Cooperation, Collaboration & Communication. The relationships established among the team members are just as important as the ones you establish with them. So, you want to encourage cooperation, communication, and collaboration and take the steps to improve them if necessary. Respect among the members and respect for you, their leader, comes with transparency and the building of trust. Clarity of communication and an open dialogue between you and the team is essential for transparency and trust. Communication is the single most important factor in leading a successful team. Be careful not to hold too many superfluous meetings, though, where nothing really gets done. Instead, keep the lines of communication open, be clear in your directives, ask questions, listen to suggestions and offer your help. When things go wrong, and they sometimes do, let the team work it out themselves as the first line of defense. You don’t want to be put in the middle of any conflicts and you want them to understand that your leadership strategy is for them to work it first. If you have set clear parameters for consensus –building up front and clear directives, they will have a much better chance at arriving on a consensus. After all, your job is the lead the team, not manage them. If that fails, then and only then should you step in and mediate to resolve the conflict or stalemate. Emphasize for them that each member’s contribution is important to the success of the team and reaching their goal. While you must be sensitive to the frustration that the team may feel when there is a stalemate or conflict, it is also important to be aware of a consensus that is struck too quickly. If this happens, you will need to discuss with each team member individually how they feel about the proposed solution so as not to let any ill will fester.
- Set The Ground Rules. The ground rules are established by you and the team to ensure by-in and success. The rules can be as simple as everyone must be on time or an understanding that all ideas and suggestions are valuable. Just make sure that the team commits to the goals as a team and as individuals.
- Let Them Know You Have Their Back. Consistently evaluate the progress each team member is making to move the team towards their goals. Make sure to impress upon them that all ideas are valuable and each member has an important role to play in the success of the team.As the leader of the team, each member must be keenly aware that you have their back and that you are their biggest supporter. Your job is to remove any obstacles in the way and to support them throughout the process, no matter what, so they can contribute with confidence.
- Provide an Incentive. Once the team knows the goal they are working towards, an incentive can be put in place. This can be monetary or even time off. Just be sure to rotate the incentive since every team member has different values and motivations and will respond differently to the incentives. This will help to ensure the success of the incentive.