If they are already better, we need to worry about making them awesome.
Very often, in the last 5 years, I have gone to sleep worrying about what I am doing wrong leading my team. How do I get the most out of my team? First of all, I don’t think Leadership qualities can be picked up from a book. And especially, not from a book that was written more than 10 years ago. Everything is different now. People are different, teams are different, businesses are different, attitudes are different. Obviously, the way you lead a team has to be different. I find it more useful to read books written by young leaders of recent large companies than read about leadership in IBM or Apple or GE.
So, what has changed?
- Information is easy. Everyone knows a lot. A simple search on a topic can get anyone access to wikipedia, blogs and articles which can teach much more than what you know.
- This access to information and overall exposure have given everyone a strong sense of confidence. This confidence is very useful if channeled in the right direction.
- Independent thinking. Everyone has a view and an opinion now, which is obvious because if you have ‘x’ and ‘y’, you should have an f(x,y).
- People don’t react positively to strictness. If you behave like Denzel Washington from Remember the titans today, you wont have half your team by end of the week.
- Opportunities are plenty. People are not looking for opportunities anymore. They are looking for a wonderful experience being part of a great team.
A few things a good leader should be doing today:
- Empower the team by listening to them. Give them a problem instead of explaining a solution. It’s safe to assume that they know more than you in their line of work. They can come up with better solutions that you can.
- Don’t hide anything from your team. More information they know about the business, the better they feel working for the company. Even if it’s bad news.
- With each person in the team having a strong confident personality, it gets very difficult to get all of them to think alike and work towards one focal point. Confidence is good. In fact, your job as a leader is to make them more confident. There will be arguments and disagreements and there is no point fighting it. On the contrary, this needs to be encouraged and made into a positive thing. Turn these arguments into discussions by leading every meeting with one goal – to finalize on the best possible solution to a given problem. When a solution concluded by the team is added to your roadmap, it helps increase the entire team’s confidence.
- If discipline needs to be encouraged, you cannot do it by saying it. You can only do it by setting an example for them top down and bottom up. You need to behave like the team you need and have a few people in the team behave the same way. The rest of the team will follow suit.
- Responsibility is the main incentive. This might not have changed in a while but there is no better way to show appreciation than giving more responsibility.
- Encourage the team to appreciate each other. Today, appreciation from the leader is the easiest part. But, it has become equally important to get appreciated by your colleagues. Setting this culture is important.
Knowing this now, I don’t go to sleep worrying about leading my team. I worry about other things 🙂