At some point in your career, it’s likely you will be part of a great team that gets you excited about going to work every morning, motivates you to accomplish goals, and helps to inspire you to become better at your job. The feeling of belonging to a group that has your back no matter what the situation is, while also having fun on a daily basis is something we all dream of having as we move from one company to the next. On the flip side, can you recall a time when you worked on a team from hell? One that left you conflicting and arguing with fellow team members on a weekly basis, while also leaving with you with a feeling of total dread as the Sunday night fear kicks in ahead of a new week? Don’t worry; we’ve all faced this at some point in our careers.
A high-performing, well-integrated team is dependent on strong leadership. For a team to be successful, a clear vision of where the team is headed needs to be established at the outset, and it needs to be described in simple language so that everyone can easily understand and buy into it. It is this up-front work to identify a clear end state that makes the process work. This form of a foundation-laying aspect of leadership is a determining factor on why some teams work to the best of their abilities to achieve organizational goals, while others without a clear vision may struggle to gain any momentum. A great leader will continually focus on a positive end result so that when things become tough (as they do within all companies), they can remind the team of how any strenuous days and difficult decisions will be worth it in the end.
As a leader, here are seven things you should do to get your team to work better together to attain organizational goals.
1) Identify a clear vision for the team: As mentioned above, this is crucial for a number of reasons. If you want to avoid your team from feeling lost, you need to keep everyone informed on where they’re headed, what they need to do to get there, and why their input is important and valued by you. The vision for the team should be embedded into everything you do so that team spirit and motivation is kept high throughout the year even when unforeseen challenges appear to disrupt the mission.
2) Be genuine: Sometimes it’s okay to lower your guard by revealing your own vulnerabilities to those in your team. It’s not something you should do often as you want to be seen as strong, confident and in control, but highlighting and laughing at your own flaws can help gain the respect of those around you by making you feel more relatable.
3) Ask questions: For a team to perform well, you need to keep abreast of what is really going on by listening more and asking good questions. Leaders who seek advice from those in their team tend to make better, more informed decisions than those that don’t. For most managers though, they are not natural born listeners so it’s an acquired skill that needs to be built on over time. Great leaders tend to manage meetings by asking questions, gathering information and helping team members to refine their thinking to arrive at the best solution all by themselves.
4) Have the difficult conversations: A great leader doesn’t gloss over the truth. They find ways to have the difficult discussions even when they know it may hurt the morale in the team. Burying problems doesn’t help them to go away so being honest and open with those that report into you is a great way to build trust. If a leader doesn’t feel comfortable talking about things then no one will, which will slowly create a culture of secrecy and mistrust.
5) Stick to commitments: Leaders of high-performing teams know the importance of following through on commitments. Building trust and maintaining it with a team can take some time, so holding yourself and your team accountable to agreed goals is one way to ensure you keep everyone on the track to success. You should where possible avoid committing to something you know you won’t follow through on as it will ultimately hurt the professional trust your team has placed on you as a leader.
6) Identify non-performing players: A high-performing team is only as good as the people it contains. A great leader will quickly identify those not pulling their weight and who ultimately is hurting the team dynamic through poor performance. While it’s important to offer training opportunities and support to a team you manage, this may not be enough to improve the productivity of some team members if they’re unwilling or unable to get on board with the vision you set out for the team.
7) Be dependable and confident: No matter how difficult things get, great leaders project confidence and can always be depended on when things don’t quite go their way. They play hard, fight fair, and never give up when faced with an adversary by higher-ups in an organization. For a team to perform well, team members need to know that their leader won’t try to shift blame, back away from confrontations, and desert them.
High-performing teams don’t happen by chance. They are an outcome of good planning and ensuring the team engages in the correct behaviors while developing productive habits. To do this efficiently and effectively, teams need to agree their purposes, understand their individual and collective strengths, and the skills, risks, and objectives that are involved. Following this, they need to review and learn by setting time aside to review and learn from any challenges and setbacks that happen along the way, as well as celebrate the successes that happen.