The Heart of a Great Team by Moira Ashleigh

Posted on April 28, 2016 at 10:07 AM

Geese Traveling as a Team at Horn Pond, Woburn, MA

You are given a group of individuals, all with separate strengths and weaknesses to shape into a working group - a team. Some of them are used to being the team star, others feel feel more comfortable in a supporting role, and some have had bad experiences working in a team. The first thing is to let them know you see them all as valuable. True, in the long run, some may contribute more visibly than others, but if you do not believe they are all equally capable of bringing something important to the team, then how will they find a way to step up and give their best effort?

Not everyone is happy being a team leader. Some people, who excel at their jobs when working on a task, do not excel at managing others. Leading requires someone who can step outside their ego and not take things personally to become the heartbeat of the team. Someone, who can see the value in the process as well as the outcome. The type of person, who will be able to support and encourage their team; while offering ongoing challenges to keep them on course. And the team leader also should be able to turn problems or errors into growth opportunities, rather than assign blame. Leading a team in this manner will encourage the entire group to grow; as each individual gains more confidence and perceives himself or herself as integral to the whole.

The team leader’s role is to find the best tasks for each member of their team, to value the visible and invisible contributions, to keep the focus on a goal, and to encourage growth for both the team and the individuals of the team. Most people were molded into a set of expectations, by our families, and our schools; Joe is always the clown, Sarah is the smartest, Larry makes mistakes. Motivating individuals to move beyond the limitations created by those expectations is the sign of a great team leader. Remember a good team leader does not play favorites. No one wants to feel as if they are the unwanted member of a team, that they are not valued.

Often a team fully bonds when confronted by a stressor. The bonding stressor could be; a deadline that is tight, client expectations that are challenging, an upcoming public presentation, or direct support of something new that is being rolled out into the world. What the stressor should never be is a difficult team leader or boss. A difficult team leader is like having a weak heart, you might get along for a while, but in the long run you will need a transplant to be healthy. While this stressor can bond a team, it can also break a team. The team leader's work in assigning roles, building trust, and monitoring the process without micromanaging, is a major factor in the final outcome of a team.

A team leader needs:

  • Drive
  • Patience
  • Flexibility
  • Vision
  • Trust building
  • Evenhandedness
  • Ability to create manageable challenges
  • Compassion

A good team leader grows with their team. Yes, everyone has occasional days when they are not at their best, but by acknowledging that and being human with your team, you build trust. Trust is always a two-way transaction. If you appear human to your team, they are more likely to come to you earlier with issues, than if you appear perfect. You really do want to know about any issues as soon as possible, so that you can bring the combined skills of the team to solve them. When you have your team's trust, that you will not assign blame but will look for the best creative solution to solve the problem, you will less often be blind sided by a crisis. And if a crisis does come all hands will jump in to fix it, as a team. And that feels amazing when it happens.

Finally, do not slack off because things seem to be fine. Encourage yourself and your team to continue to grow, to stay current, and to be proactive.

There is nothing more motivating that working with a great team leader. Companies that value good teams are the best places to work.

Leadership Mantra: Team leading is the heartbeat, not the brains.

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