LEADING the team

Neil Pattemore looks at the particular challenges of leadership in the workshop. It’s not all point and shout you know…

By Neil Pattermore | Published:  16 April, 2018

Unless you are a one-man business, you will probably have staff to manage. The art of managing your team is one of the most challenging, but ultimately, one of the most rewarding

If you look at a description of what a business needs, it would be something like ‘the team leader is required to put people first and that they need a high degree of emotional intelligence, patience and a working knowledge of human resources, in order to keep both the employee and the company satisfied’. If you subsequently wrote the job description it would highlight at least the following – ‘Manages and leads a team of employees. Communicates company goals, safety practices, and deadlines to the team. Motivates team members and assesses performance. Provides help to senior management, including hiring and training, and keeps senior management updated on team performance. Communicates concerns and policies among management and team members.’ Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Keep in mind that you won’t always get these skills right away and some may always remain difficult. You’ll make mistakes, but that’s OK as long as you keep working at it and resolve that no matter what, you will become a better leader. So, what are the top five skills to focus on to become a good ‘team leader’?

Communication is about much more than the basics of sharing ideas, or conveying information. For leaders, communication is the most fundamental skill they can possess when it comes to leading an individual, or a team. Communicating well is more than the sum of its parts and is also ‘not what you say, but how you say it.’

It’s one thing to say or write something, and another to have people know exactly what you mean. A good communicator will be able to express themselves clearly, without engendering confusion or ambiguity. However, and most importantly, a good communicator also understands that communication goes both ways: being a good listener is as important (or possibly more important) than doing the talking. Equally not all communication is verbal, some is in the ‘non-verbal’ category and being a good communicator means transcending written and verbal communication. Conveying a sense of openness and being non-judgmental, even when you are not directly saying anything is important, as body language and general demeanor can sometimes convey even more than words. Leaders should be intrinsically calm, open, optimistic, and positive. Who wants to work for an eternal pessimist? Managing people means supporting your team. This means not only supporting them to do their jobs well, but also to encourage them to move forward in their careers. Sometimes this means helping them improve their skillsets to enable them to become better at the nitty gritty of their work. At other times, it can mean assisting them in developing their own communication styles or guiding them in their daily work or motivating them to ‘think outside the box’ to develop their competency and skill levels. Whatever their work is, adopting a coaching mindset is an integral part of being a good leader. A coach encourages and supports and should know how best to do a job, even if they are not the best at actually doing it. A coach is part cheerleader and part trainer in the same way that a football manager has different team members playing in different positions, but he knows how to get the best out of each of them, especially in their specific roles.

Leaders must show leadership, so must be able to clearly and effectively formulate directions for others, and then articulate them in such a way as to convey them effectively. Show by example and then support the team member in developing how they can fulfil the task. Don’t ask someone to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself, but remember that delegating responsibility can make team members feel responsible and valued. However, ensure that this delegation is clearly communicated and that the team member is both motivated and capable to take on what’s expected of them. Direction often involves more than a simple, “do X by Y date.” Direction can involve guidance, instruction, mentorship, planning, motivation and keeping a positive attitude even if someone is struggling. A good leader will value and actively encourage relationships, working to build one-on-one associations as well as fostering healthy relationships amongst the other team members. Relationship building could be as simple as remembering certain personal details about people and subsequently inquiring about those things every now and again. It can equally be a simple question about how today is going and listening to the answer before offering support – verbally or through actions.

Most of all, building relationships is about authenticity and genuinely connecting with people in a way that creates a familiar feeling and a sense of understanding and appreciation within the team. Don’t just assume that an ‘out of hours’ team activity will suffice – it could even be seen as encroaching on an individual’s private time and be counter-productive.

People want to be heard, really heard, and not patronised. Often, instead of listening to someone in a conversation, people are really just waiting for an opportunity to speak. One trick is to say “OK, I understand you’re saying…”. By repeating what you understand the other person to have said, it helps you to really listen to what they are saying. Equally, it reinforces to the other person that you are truly listening to them and respect what they have to say. Eventually, there will always be the time when you need to criticise or praise, but the surest way to demotivate people is to constantly criticise them or complain about them. Always be firm but fair and explain what the problem is, or equally, why you feel they have done well. If they make a mistake, put it in perspective with the things they constantly do well. Accentuate the positive and utilise mistakes as opportunities for continued improvement. Praising someone is easier, but it still needs to be done correctly. Give honest and sincere praise and appreciation and focus on using positive reinforcement. This is probably one of the greatest motivational methods you can ever employ.

Finally, one of the most important elements of being a successful team leader is being respectful of other people’s ideas and opinions.

Encourage the team to improve themselves and be more open by asking ‘open’ questions –why, when, how and what in relation to the different aspects of their work. Sometimes, even as a team leader, you will make mistakes, but rather than deny and repeat those mistakes, show some humility and admit your failures – but ensure that you learn from the experience. If you’re honest and humble enough to own up to your mistake, apologise to those affected, and work to avoid repeating your mistake, you will gain the respect of those you work with. Set a high bar for your team, believe in them, communicate that to them and you will be amazed at what they can achieve. Good luck!


xenconsultancy.com

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