Many of us are taught that leaders must be in complete control of what is happening in their team. This approach however is more likely to lead to error and poor performance.
If there is a culture of dominant leaders within your organisation and team, then there is only ever one voice dictating what happens. There is no overlap of thinking that prevents blind-spots. The more views that are heard the better quality of decisions. Being the leader does not make you the most competent person in the room. If you stifle opinion by demanding that your voice is the final voice or worse the only voice in the room, then you really are putting the activity and possible people’s lives in peril. If you are that dominant leader then members of your team will not be telling you what they see, they will not tell you that things are about to go wrong, for fear of being chastised. As the leader it is your responsibility to ensure the best plan is constructed and the best decision is made, they do not have to be yours. The role of the leader is to support the team to deliver the best possible performance, not to dictate the performance.
If you want to improve performance and reduce risks, you will have to completely re-think how you lead. Having a high performing, flexible team, that is able to effectively manage risk, whilst being innovative is quite straightforward. All it takes is a mindset shift and perseverance. It requires you and the team to change some habits that you have formed over your working life. This is going to take some practice, it is straightforward and obvious not easy, if it was easy you would be doing it already. Below are the steps you need to take to start this transformation in your team.
Establish the purpose of the team
Are you and everyone in the team clear on what the purpose of your team is. It is worth as a team writing your mission statement. But before you jump in and write a team mission statement, ask everyone to write their own first. If you write a team mission statement first it is likely to be dominated by your thoughts and the thoughts of the more senior team members. It is important that everyone’s voice is heard and is represented. Therefore allowing people to write their own mission statement by themselves gives them a voice and empowers them. Once everyone has their own mission statement, these are then pinned to a wall without names (get everyone to word process their statements so they are not identifiable) and key words are themed by the team to develop a team mission statement based on the individual statements. Trust me this works, as most peoples mission statements are similar therefore themes are possible. It is important that this mission statement session is facilitated by someone external to ensure all members of the team contribute and feel comfortable. Now you have a mission statement that everyone has an investment in. For a team to be effective it is vital that they have a purpose they can all buy into and that they all have a voice.
Have clear lines of communication
Now everyone has a voice, it is important that everyone uses it. Briefings and debriefings are vital everyday. These are information sharing and issue discussion sessions where all team members have a space to inform the team of their workload, request support and discussion any issues they have. These sessions should be chaired by the leader. Accountability for any actions that follow is held by the team member, and they are accountable to the team. The leader is there to make sure this accountability is maintained and to ensure everyone has the opportunity to air their issues. It is so important that everyone’s knowledge, expertise and competence is acknowledged within the team. Then when there is a crisis the team member best suited to make a decision is able to do this.
Have a culture of support and kindness
Assume everyone in the team is doing their best. If you think people in your team are lazy good for nothings, they will never work hard in the team. They will know you have a low opinion of them and they no doubt will have a low opinion of you and the team and will become disengaged. If however you believe they are doing their best, but for some reason, from time to time their best will not be up to the standard it is needed, then you can support them to improve. The ‘is every thing okay’ question followed ‘what can I or we do to support you’, will evoke a completely different response than ‘this is not good enough’ or ‘what have you been doing’. People do not deliberately do a bad job without reason. Rather than condemn them, find out what is causing them problems, and support them to solve it. We all respond well to kindness, and having a supportive caring atmosphere at work makes us all feel safe and work more efficiently. It is also encourages everyone in the team to be open and honest when mistakes happen, or when they need support with something. Kindness or compassion if you like, is not weak and fluffy, it is essential for performance and a safe working environment.
These 3 elements of purpose, communication and support provide the basis of trusting team, that is able look at continual improvement, alongside managing the risks they encounter. A team that knows it’s strengths and weaknesses and who is best suited to deal with eventualities. The leader becomes a member of the team with a specific role and not the figurehead, or dictator. The leader brings all the elements of the team to deliver the desired performance. An effective leadership model should mean that the leader can be replaced at anytime without any detrimental effect on the team.
Please message me if you want to discuss how you can get the most out of your leadership.