Almost anything of significance that you accomplish in life will probably be as a part of a team. The question for many leaders is, “How do I mold this team into a winning team?” If you are tasked with the responsibility of molding a “group” into a “team” it can sometimes feel like making misfits fit! Here are three keys for doing it successfully.
1. Don’t believe everything you hear about others—A friend of mine who was put in charge of building a “one stop” shop for customer service in his organization was given a corps of workers that management really wanted him to fire. They didn’t volunteer for the job; they were volunteered. Instead of a “one stop” shop it was dubbed the “last stop” shop. Not too promising, right? However, rather than treating each person according to his/her reputation, he treated each one professionally, with dignity, and with confidence. The result? Not one of them disappointed him, and several years later, not only has he built a successful team, he has done it without firing anyone.
2. Create a “Success is Imminent” Culture—Great leaders cause their followers to feel strong. This is the essence of what it means to empower others. For example, you can make them feel strong because you provide the proper training that they need. You can make them feel strong because you provide the resources and tools that they need to be successful. You can make them feel strong because you treat them with respect—as if you consider them valuable and competent contributors. You’ll be surprised at how often people rise to meet your expectations. Closely related to this is the importance of carrying yourself with “humble confidence.” I’ve had supervisors who acted like our team was destined for greatness, and I’ve had supervisors who acted like we were an epic tragedy just waiting for the other shoe to drop. It should be no surprise to know that both supervisors ended up being right in their projections.
3. Cultivate an Outward Focus and a Unifying Vision—Great leaders get individuals to function as a team by uniting the team around a common purpose. That purpose needs to have three components in order to be sustainable. First, it needs to be outward focused. While respect and camaraderie are important ingredients in team chemistry, if the focus is always on measuring those things, the team will be too self-consumed to be successful. Second, it needs to be a shared vision. The team members have to feel real ownership in the vision, which means that they must have a real role in helping to shape the vision. Third, the vision has to have a call to excellence about it. It must be something that will bring out the best in each person. It must challenge each person to grow, learn, excel, and to become something that he or she is not now—but has always wanted to be.
Being an effective leader isn’t easy, and building effective teams is not done overnight. However, leaders who diligently work at the right things not only build teams, they build people.