Leading your team from the front

Almost every aspect of work is delivered by a team, whether it be small or large.  And we all need to be asking how our teams are structured, performing and changing every day.  And if you are the leader of the team, everyone relies on you to immediately know the answers to these key questions and behave in ways the team needs.  It’s made even more difficult because teams change all of the time.  You can have a wonderful cooperative team on Monday, and when you come into work on Tuesday, the whole world has changed.  This is because teams are living things, they constantly change as people come together in different ways, or they leave, or they join as new members.  Any change to a team’s membership will cause the team to change in very small or significantly large ways.

When I am delivering leadership and management training, I ask you about your experience, your strategies, and training in the leadership of teams.  Nine times out of 10, you tell me that being a team leader is not something you ever imagined you would do, and you’ve not been on any formal training.  So, if that’s you, you certainly are not alone!

So what are the tell-tale signs for a good team?  First you should know who is in the team and what their roles are.  If someone does not know what their role is, how can they interact with others on any level?  Good teams have definable memberships, everyone should be clear about who is in the team or not.  And in doing so, this creates a real sense of group identity.  There should be a feeling of interdependence and interaction that builds into the team’s ability to act together as one. Do you experience your team members discussing their objectives, assessing ideas, making decisions, and working together towards targets – if they are, you’re in a good place!  If not, ask more questions.  Think about your team, how well does it communicate?  Does everyone know each other’s roles?  Is everyone striving for excellence under common goals and vision?  Does everyone follow the leader?  Do you know your strengths and weaknesses?  Is there a culture where everyone appreciates individual input and team effort?  Do your answers match those of the team as a whole, or those of each individual member?  Do you need a second or third opinion?  As the leader, are you being told the truth, or are you seeing the reality? What does the team need from you as its leader?

What is clear, is good quality leadership and management of teams links directly to the quality of a product or service.  Knowing your teams and being able to adjust your leadership behaviours is the secret to this success.

What to know more?  Two of my favourite team management models I would recommend are: Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership and Bruce Tuckman’s Group Development developed in the 1960s and 1970s.  The first shows us when as leaders we should use different leadership styles: telling, selling, participating and delegating.  The latter shows us how teams change through forming, storming, norming, performing, and an often forgotten about later addition of adjourning.

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