Building a great team is one of those leadership skills that can make or break you. It’s one thing to get all the “right people on the bus” (to steal a Jim Collins phrase from his indispensable book “Good to Great”), but it’s quite another to get the team to create an unstoppable collective force that can achieve greatness.
Unfortunately, sometimes it’s just a bus going to nowhere. Because you couldn’t find the right “keys” to unlock the team’s potential.
There are 7 “keys” that a leader can use to speed the team’s development, each summarized in a single word:
Think, See, Act, Interact, Talk, Fail, Lead
They all involve a process of “letting” the team do something, or be informed of something, that you initially might not feel that comfortable with. Because it means giving up something – control.
Let’s dive a little deeper….
Let them Think – You don’t put teammates around you to follow your every instruction, or meekly accept every decision you make. You need to let them express opinions, as honestly and as openly as possible (even during team meetings). And, you need to challenge them to come up with their own ideas , without your involvement. You WANT to know what’s on their minds, always.
Let them See – All too often a team can be left in the dark on higher level strategic matters that concern their boss, or not be privy to certain reports or financial information. The theory here is “they have enough to worry about with their particular responsibilities“. This just shouldn’t happen – there should be as much transparency as possible between what you know and they know. If there is, a team will get a great sense of “having a seat at the table”, which is a very enabling feeling.
Let them Act – This is really where giving up control comes in. A good leader must allow the team to take actions on their own, individually and collectively. With their responsibility should also come authority. They don’t need to come running to you every time they want to get something done, or changed, or modified. Your job is to simply hold them accountable based on the success or failure of those actions.
Let them Interact – Leaders HAVE to encourage their team to talk to one another, even more than they talk to you. There needs to be an open “flow” of dialogue below you, that can address and solve problems before they get to you. And, you need to demand that it’s without rancor, and not about turf protection or empire building. It’s about tearing down the silos before they can be built, and fostering a tight-knit group that works well even without you in the room.
Let them Talk – Team meetings are always critical, and the less YOU say at them, the better. Every member of your team should have a chance to speak, report, ask questions, pose problems, and offer solutions. As their manager, your door should always be open to them, and you should be like a “plumber” by giving them a chance to vent when needed (I wrote a post about this ).
Let them Fail – Mistakes are great teachers, so teach them by letting them make their own mistakes. This can be very hard to do, and there will certainly be times when you will have to step in before any damage is done, but they need to fail, and learn. And they can’t be afraid to fail, so as a leader you must take that fear away by your words and actions, both before and after bad things happen.
Let them Lead – This can be the hardest one of all for the leader – letting others do the leading for them. This is like giving up the keys to your car and letting someone else drive. The fact is, your objective in building a team ought to be getting to the point where they really don’t need you anymore – yes, leading your way out of a job. But that frees you up in a lot of great ways, ways that will allow you to think more strategically, and with greater foresight and vision. The day-to-day stuff will just get handled. Let them lead.
Unlock your team with these keys, and lead them to greatness.