May 23, 2013
Throughout my career, my team leadership skills have evolved. Leading a team is something that I love to do. I’m passionate about people, interacting with each team member in the right way to get the desired results from them. I’ve learned a lot along the way and I thought it was time to share of my experience the ten best practices for leading a team.
- Find something to praise each team member for every day.
Be positive and encouraging. A negative environment can be incredibly draining on a team members energy or desire to perform. While you may not have thought about it, a lack of praise can often be felt as a negative work atmosphere. Take the time each day to find something that they’ve done well and calling it out will go a long way towards their desire to continue to perform well for you. Everyone likes their work to be acknowledged and to feel as though they matter. In fact, research shows that employees who are recognized for their work actually perform better!
- Say “thank you” often.
Sure they might be your employee and are supposed to do what you tell them to do, but it’s still good manners to say “thank you”. It’s a quick and simple way to acknowledge them for the work that they’ve done.
- Ask more questions and make fewer assumptions.
We all know what the word assume means. Let’s not go there. Instead, don’t assume that your team member is going to do something or thinks one way. Always ask questions as a way to get your own confirmation. That way everyone is on the same page and you reduce the chances for confusion.
- If help is needed, see how you can offer assistance.
In point number three you were going to start asking more questions. If you were able to surmise that your team member needs help, find a way to help them meet their goal. You may be able to take some responsibilities off their plate and give them to someone else (yourself included). A few more questions might even prove helpful. Perhaps they need an additional tool to accomplish their work or maybe you just need to add to the team if operations are expanding. That leads us right into our next topic.
- Ask yourself if your expectations are appropriate.
Why do you have the expectations that you do? Maybe it’s because they’ve performed a similar task efficiently in the past. The other reason could be that you know you could do it better and/or faster. Keep in mind that your team member is not you. Their capabilities are their own. While I’d love to have another little Kim running around to help me get things done the way that I’d do them, that’s just not going to happen. Everyone is different, works at different speeds and has different ways to complete a task. Be realistic for your team member and don’t get them confused with what you could do in their position. If you could do it all, you wouldn’t need a team.
- When negatives need to be addressed, follow-up and record progress.
It’s inevitable that something bad is going to happen. Your team member might be screwing something up on a consistent basis and occasionally pointing them in the right direction just hasn’t resolved it. First of all, when you see that something is becoming a pattern, address it early. Don’t wait until you’re so frustrated that by the time you do have a sit-down with this team member or employee you’re ready to explode. They may feel attacked or worthless. The key is to address, evaluate and re-position. Be specific what the problem is. Lay out your expectations. Discuss your expectations together and see if those need to be fine-tuned. Find out what’s holding them back and see if you can help. Use all the other pointers above. Be clear that you will be following up on the situation in the future and for them to let you know if they need assistance to achieve their goals.
- Tomorrow is another day. Take the night and reset.
While you don’t want to go about every single day as if nothing were wrong when something just might be, it’s still a good idea to approach each day as a brand new start. Tomorrow is another day, a chance to start fresh and approach each obstacle with new eyes and proper rest.
- Don’t hold a grudge that isn’t necessary or helpful.
Yes, there are grudges that you can hold that are important for your own protection and are helpful to your safety. Usually that’s not the case as a leader at work. Carrying a grumpy attitude or a feeling about someone from one day to the next can really drag down your team’s ability to perform. If someone is truly not beneficial to the team, then perhaps after performing step 6 above it might be time to cut ties. Also something to note is that a grudge is different from knowing your teams strengths. One person might be great a presentations while the other teammate is strong in the technical side of things. Don’t hold it over the techy’s head that they can’t present. Instead use your team members for their appropriate strengths and they’ll be sure to thrive.
- Be consistent.
Praise often, be kind, address things in a timely manner, set appropriate expectations. Consistency is the key to proper expectations not only for your employees but from you as well. Your employees should know that they can count on you for motivation when its needed but also that they will be held accountable. If you’re not consistent then they’re left constantly guessing as to who they’re going to be interacting with on a daily basis. Make it easy by creating your own list of how you want to run your office and make an effort to adhere to it daily.
- Be a coach.
You definitely don’t want to be the kind of leader that’s just like the baseball parent sitting outside the fence screaming instructions – the wannabe coach. Instead stand up and tell your team what you want from them, show them how to do it, offer suggestions when some fine tuning is needed and acknowledge when they’ve met their goal. We all want to hear cheering when someone on your team hits a home-run. And that’s just what a good coach does.
If my best practices didn’t spell it out for you well enough, here’s some great industry statistics about employee appreciation in the form of an infographic!