Anyone can lead, but what does it take to be an effective leader? In Switzer Associates Leadership Solution’s soon to be released online course entitled Developing High Performing Teams, one of the three sections is on Effective Team Leaders. This section covers key practices and tips to develop yourself as an effective team leader. This newsletter will highlight some of the content in that module.
Effective Team Leadership can be broken down into four key categories:
- Knowing Yourself
- Knowing Your Team
- Managing Virtual Teams
- Gearing Up.
1) Knowing Yourself
There’s no better place to start a discussion of leadership than with the leaders themselves. Taking the time to learn about yourself can help unlock your ability to lead. Invest the time in knowing who you are as a person and as a leader. Figure out your leadership philosophy, values, strengths, and challenges. There are popular systems, like DISC, that can help you identify these characteristics.
Check out this video if you are curious about what DiSC is:
Once you’ve identified your philosophy, values, strengths, and challenges it is important to get feedback from colleagues who interact with you at all levels – your boss, peers, and even your team members. Feedback enables you to look at yourself differently, it unlocks self-reflection and opens you up to growth. After you have self-awareness, it’s time to look at your professional development goals. Where do you want to be in 3-5 years? Effective leaders will periodically take stock of their personal strengths and goals and reassess as they grow and take on new teams and responsibilities.
2) Knowing Your Team Members
Leadership is also about building relationships with people. From a leadership perspective, the most critical part is knowing your team and how to work with them. Showing your team that you are interested in them as individuals are imperative. Knowing their interests outside of work, or about their family, will help them be more emotionally connected to you and their work. Studies have shown that people that are emotionally connected are more likely to be engaged and stay longer. In fact, this study found that emotional commitment is 4 times as powerful as rational commitment.
Dr. Switzer shares a story within the online course about a team member that was a passionate go-kart racer. In fact, he was ranked nationally in his class of racing. When Dr. Switzer would pass him in the hallway and ask about his go-kart racing, he would light up. This individual worked hard and passed on information about things important to Dr. Switzer. You can build that connection by having 1:1 meetings with your team members to get to know each one better, to ask what is going well, and what the pain points are within the organization. Having a boss who listens and is receptive to ideas can have a substantial impact on the employee’s level of engagement and commitment to the organization. In today’s marketplace, engagement and commitment are huge opportunities.
3) Managing Remote Team Members
In today’s global business environment, team members are often sitting across the world in different time zones amidst different cultures. Remote employees can often feel disconnected or isolated, which can lead to a drop in engagement and work quality. An effective leader will take extra steps to develop a connection with remote employees. Communication is key to managing virtual teams, but that can look different from remote employees as compared to those working in the office.
In a few published surveys, we have seen that body language is the most important part of communication (55%), with voice inflection (38%) being the second most important part, and words accounting for only 7% of the communicating process. Knowing those statistics, it is imperative to recognize that email and text, though common and necessary, are not always the most effective communication method. Make the effort to connect via phone or web conferencing with your virtual employees. Other ideas to engage virtual employees can be implementing a buddy system, hosting virtual or face to face celebrations, having brainstorming sessions, and team/staff meetings where everyone can be on the phone together and contribute. Engaged team members are happy and productive team members.
4) Gearing Up
The last category in this module is Gearing Up. This is essentially the key takeaways a leader should be implemented in order to lead a high performing team. A leader should believe in themselves and the team that has been put together. Recognizing that the sum of all team members is greater than any one person. A leader must have a desire to support team members and possess the courage and integrity to resolve issues head-on. A team leader needs to help the team set realistic goals and not dictate them. People support what they create. One of my favorite attributes of a successful team leader is someone who tracks and communicates what the team is accomplishing, but most importantly celebrates those wins. Team leaders set the tone for the team and break down barriers that get in the way of success for the team. Most importantly an effective team leader needs to be trustworthy and facilitate developing trust throughout the team. If you focus on successfully developing these attributes as a team leader then you and your team will be geared up and ready to go.
For a more in-depth discussion of these topics, make sure to sign up for the new online course on Developing High Performing Teams. The pilot participants enjoyed the course but also gave valuable feedback that we are implementing. We are currently running a Pre-Launch Special of Buy One, Get One Free. Call or email us for more information.
For the Faith-Based:
The Bible influences many aspects of our lives and is an especially effective tool for finding examples of effective team leadership. When Christ entered the world He said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will, oh God,” (Hebrews 10:7). Jesus knew how to lead like no one else in all of history, yet as a leader, He came to serve. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant.” (Matthew 20:26) We learn through Jesus that a good leader may lead the flock, but a great leader serves the flock.
In looking at many of the leaders in the Bible, we can observe that their focus is on service rather than power, responsibility rather than rights, and trust rather than skepticism. An effective team leader needs to seek advice and feedback to discern for themselves what is right. “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure.” (Proverbs 11:14). As Christian leaders, we must seek this feedback with humility and grace. Of all the characteristics of leadership that Jesus exemplified, humility may be the hardest to emulate. However, servant leadership requires humility and a dedication to serving a larger need and working to value others more than oneself.
 Lloyd Morgan, Driving Performance and Retention through Employee Engagement, https://courses.collegeforadultlearning.com.au/media/doc/Driving%20Performance%20and%20Retention%20Through%20Employee%20Engagement.pdf, (accessed 30 July 2019).
 Mulder, P. (2012). Communication Model by Albert Mehrabian. Retrieved 30 July 2019 from ToolsHero: https://www.toolshero.com/communication-skills/communication-model-mehrabian/. There are multiple references to Mehrabian’s work on communication on the internet.