[Tweet “An Open Letter To Team Leaders #Leadership”]
If you’re a senior level executive, you’re probably managing some type of team. You may have received extensive management training or maybe leadership was sprung upon you without much of a warning.
One way or another, you are now responsible for the success of a team.
Leading is challenging, and maybe more work than you bargained for, but people typically want to work hard for leaders they respect. In other words, it’s mutually beneficial for you and your team if you’re a strong leader.
Understanding vague leadership concepts is not the same as having to lead. Of course you should be a source of guidance, empathy and constructive feedback, but what else makes a great leader?
You might be wondering how I’m qualified to give advice on this topic when I’m in my early 20s and just starting to understand how I can be an effective leader. Luckily for me, I’ve been on a lot of teams.
5 Crucial Gifts Leaders Give Their Teams
In my experience, there are 5 crucial things that the best leaders give to their teams.
1) More Work
Sometimes it’s more efficient to just do something yourself, rather than take the time to teach someone else how to do it. It may seem easier in the moment, but it’s not sustainable.
The task you’re doing yourself to save time will likely happen more than once, and you’ll be left in the exact same situation. If you continue doing it alone, you’ll end up wondering why your team is bored while you chip away at the work that’s piling up on your own plate.
Your future self will appreciate your past self taking the time to teach someone how to do something correctly, even if it’s inconvenient at the time. Your team will also benefit from your faith in them to get the job done.
2) The Whole Story
If you’re leading a team, you’re probably the one with the strategic vision and the most information. It may be tedious to give frequent updates, but any good PR professional knows that if an audience feels like they have all the information, they’re less likely to speculate or become frustrated. In this case, the audience is your team.
When delegating tasks to people, make sure they know why they’re doing it and how it fits into the bigger picture. Outline your expectations for communication, timing and results.
Ensure each member of the team knows his or her role and is clear on the responsibilities. Similarly, clue the team in on what you’re doing. If your team is capable of thinking strategically, keeping them in the loop will help them go above and beyond blind tactical execution.
3) Credit When It’s Due
In team situations, it can seem counterintuitive to single out one person for good work, but individual recognition should be given when it’s warranted.*
If someone has a good idea or executes something really well, tell them! Endeavor to create an environment where people feel comfortable celebrating their own accomplishments as well as each other’s.
Not only does recognition let your employees know that you’re advocating for them, it also assures them that they are on the right path and encourages them to continue doing good work for the benefit of the team.
*When it’s warranted is the operative phrase here. No one needs praise just for showing up and doing the job – even us Millennials.
4) High Expectations
Leaders can understandably have trouble trusting their teams. If the team fails, it’s often the leader who has to clean up the mess.
However, nothing is more demotivating than working for someone doesn’t expect much from you. Every job comes with a bit of busywork, but a person with any ambition at all is likely to become restless if all he or she is asked to do are mindless tasks.
There’s an implicit learning curve when you’re working with new people, but allow your team to prove their capabilities before making assumptions. Set high expectations first and then make adjustments accordingly based on each person’s skill.
With that said, there is a difference between high expectations and hands-off management. If you throw your team to the wolves, they might fail.
Combining the proper support with your high expectations for success can help them learn and operate more independently in the future.
5) A Voice
If you’re not sure where to start, you can always ask your team how they’d like to be led. There’s no one-size-fits-all leadership style, and some teams require a different approach.
Maybe you didn’t sign up to be a therapist, but as a team leader, it is your responsibility to know your team and what will inspire great work from them.
Would your team be more efficient if you gave more frequent or more specific feedback? Are you unintentionally micromanaging them? Are there some members of your team who want more responsibility?
You’ll never know for sure, unless you ask.
You don’t need to tiptoe around the feelings of your individual team members, but their opinions may create better conditions for an improved team dynamic. It can be intimidating for a lower-level employee to speak up, so if you give them a say in how the team is led, I guarantee it will be remembered and appreciated.
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