By Saki T Nikodemus
Becoming A Better Team Leader – Part 2
IN my previous article on this vital subject, I alluded to the fact that teamwork is indispensable to leadership. When it comes to true leadership, teamwork is a must. I also highlighted the benefits of effective teams. I want to stress again that all true leaders are always team players, because they are always cognizant that no great accomplishment has ever been achieved by one individual. As leaders it is important to understand that teamwork does not happen by osmosis. To the contrary, effective teamwork is a product of a deliberate and intentional resolve and effort by the leader.
The success of a team greatly depends on the value the leader places on the team members. It is my belief that true leaders are humble enough to recognise that they have both strengths and weaknesses, and need the strengths of others to be a support where he/she is weak. To become an effective leader, you must learn to embrace and encourage the unique gifts, abilities, differences and value that each team member brings to the mix. True leadership success, therefore, is measured by how much work one can accomplish through the team.
Henry Ford once stated, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” The reason why most leaders miserably fail in their leadership is simply because they erroneously believe they know it all, or they can do it all. All true leaders know that no one can be the best at everything. But when all of us combine our talents, we can be the best at virtually anything.
The words of Ralph Waldo Emerson certainly demonstrate this truth, “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.” I want to suggest that the 21st century leader does not care who gets the credit. She/he is more concerned about getting the job done, rather than a pat on the shoulder. If you are always seeking for accolades, then you are a poor specimen of a leader. Because genuine leaders are self-motivated, self-confident, intact and in sync with themselves, they never depend on the kind words of other people to validate who they are. They are driven by a passion greater than the praises of men – which often are short-lived.
It is crucial that we now look at how one develops a solid and vibrant team as a leader. Remember what I mentioned in my previous article, “A team is much more than just a collection of individuals”. In essence, teamwork is defined as the ability to work together towards a common vision. Before you can develop a strong team, it is critical to understand that besides the unique gifts, abilities and skills each member brings to the organisation, every member brings with him/her a set of needs. And as a leader, you will do yourself a great favour to recognise these needs. So, what are these needs?
a) The need to belong: Every individual joining any organisation has the need to belong and be part of what really is happening in that organisation. And that is why isolating and sidelining people is against the law of true leadership. As a leader you must always be sensitive to this need which is inherent within every individual.
b) The need to feel worthy: Every member on the team has the need to be appreciated, valued and respected. True leaders place much worth on people. As a matter of fact, people are the highest resource to any authentic leader.
c) The need to feel competent: As a leader, you need to recognise that every member on your team has the need to feel competent. All team members want to feel they are making a meaningful contribution to the group they are connected to. And that their contribution is highly valued. Remember, there is no such a thing as an unimportant job.
The list is obviously not exhausted, but these three needs are the major ones – and understanding them is perhaps the first critical step in building solid teams as leaders.
Let us now look at how to develop strong and effective teams. After recognising the needs of the team members (as described above), the second step is learning to position the team members at their right places. The right place for any team member is where he/she can deliver his/her best. I cannot emphasise the importance of this truth enough. See, you may have a group of talented individuals, but if each person is not doing what adds the most value to the team, you will not achieve your potential as an organisation. The worst thing you can ever do as a leader is to place people in wrong positions. We call that wasted potential. As a leader, you must learn the skill of positioning people in their right places. It is perhaps vital to note that true leaders move people out of their comfort zones, but never out of their gift zones. To be able to position people in the places that utilise their talents, and maximise the team’s potential, three things are needed. John C Maxwell has isolated the following important facts about developing successful teams:
– You must know the team: You cannot build a winning team or organisation if you don’t know its vision, purpose, culture or history. If you don’t know where the team is trying to go – and why it’s trying to get there – you cannot take the team to the height of its potential as a leader. You must know the strengths and weaknesses, and the potential of your team. Potential always speaks of the future.
– You must know the situation: Even though the vision or purpose of an organisation may be fairly constant, its situation changes constantly. Good team builders know where the team is and what the situation requires. For example, when a team is young and just started, the greatest priority is often to gather good people. But as a team matures and the level of talent increases, fine-tuning becomes more important. At that time a leader must spend more time matching the person to the position.
– You must know the individual team member: This may perhaps sound obvious, but as leaders we often go wrong on this one. It is important as a leader that you know the person you are trying to position in the right niche.
Leaders tend to want to make everyone else conform to their image, to approach their work using the same skills and problem-solving methods. But team building is not working is not working on an assembly line.
Finally, as you work to build a team, evaluate each person’s experience, skills, temperament, attitude, passion, people skills, discipline, emotional strength, and potential. Only then will you be ready to help a team member find his/her proper place.