How To Lead Teams

How To Lead Teams

By Sean Stevenson – Latest Revision January 3rd, 2021

Whether you’re a first-time manager or a seasoned veteran, leading teams can be challenging.  Tapping into the potential of your team takes skill.  A great team can only be as great as the leader who guides it. 

By setting high standards you can help your team see a larger picture.  You must also take care, however, to give them enough freedom to use their abilities.  Engaged autonomy leads to the best results. 

Along the way there will be mistakes.  Learning to use these mistakes as exemplary lessons is key to growth.  By guiding your team members to work towards a shared vision, you can coach them on their path to success.

Undoubtedly, the idea of leading a team can be scary for most people.  Below are highly actionable solutions to this problem of leadership. 

In this guide, I will help you master the art of managing your teams.  Below is a highly actionable list for gaining impactful results:

1. Clear Communication Is Everything

Ensuring that everyone is appraised of priorities is integral to managing any team.  Always take the time to stress important deadlines, or outstanding projects. 

Never take clear communication lightly, as it can be the difference between succeeding or failing spectacularly.

Much of the time, we are eager to relay important ideas, thoughts, and messages.  What we often fail to do, is to ensure that what we are communicating was understood. 

Using non-verbal queues, infographics, or simple pictures, can often make a huge difference.  These can be simply placed in the background as props, so that they aren’t intrusive. 

Often times, people will look at these “props” and ask questions.  This is of great importance.  It shows that while the conversation may be heard, the details themselves are still proving elusive to your audience. 

Leading teams takes patience.  Try to explore whatever isn’t being understood as thoroughly as you can.

Another exercise that can help in with communication, is writing out your ideas point by point.  You can do this by sending out an “after-meeting” email that details what was discussed at length.  This allows them to be broken down into easily digested pieces.

People tend to be audio learners, or visual learners.  Sometimes, they may even be a mix of the two.

Always try making your meetings a two-way conversation.  In this sense, you are promoting the messages being transmitted through open discussion.  You may even approach your team members one by one afterwards.  Privately discussing with them what was said, and what must be accomplished, can be a great way to ensure a successful meeting.

Always remember, you are responsible for effective communication.  During a meeting, always try ask for feedback.  There is no shame in asking if something makes sense to everyone.  Further, be sure to ask yourself if you’ve taken all the necessary steps to make your words clear and easy to understand. 

The art of communication should not be a daunting task.  By offering everyone different sources of media to learn from, you can ensure that your message is being fully heard and understood.

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2. Set A Great Example

Always be professional when hosting a meeting or managing your teams.  By demanding the same expectations from yourself that would from others, you will be setting yourself up for success.

Equally important is to always be kind and patient.  Guiding others to an understanding can take time.  That is the nature of leading teams effectively.  Try to think of yourself as an educator.  The topic at hand is what you are attempting to teach your students.

Never become outwardly frustrated or abrasive.  This will ruin the message you are trying to convey.  People will end up focusing on the negative, rather the importance of your purpose.

Realize that words always travel faster than you can know.  If you present yourself as a professional, and patiently guide others to their purpose, you will earn a reputation.  People will see you as an effective leader and someone that they can turn to.

3. Accept That You Are Always Learning

Learning is an endless process.  No sooner do we arrive at one realization, before another question takes its place.

No matter how great your expertise, you may find that you are self-deprecating or lack confidence.  By being prepared to learn both from yourself and others, you can grow much faster.

Try to never allow any hang-ups or failures to shock you.  These are a natural part of personal endeavour.  Personal growth is choosing to persist in the face of a challenge.  Whether we overcome that challenge or not, there is always a new lesson to be learned.

Despite all the obstacles in your way, recognize that there is always an answer.  You can overcome any difficulty with enough effort.

4. Be Decisive

Nobody ever got anywhere by hesitating.  While there is merit to careful analysis, lingering too long on a subject can be entirely counterproductive. 

The skillful leader makes a decision based on the facts at hand.  During a meeting, there may be many different considerations to make.  Moreover, the information might take time to gather.  However, once a measured decision has been made, there is no turning back.

By sticking to your decisions, you will be showing yourself to be a confident leader. 

Fickle or flippant leaders are correlated with lower levels of trust.  They do not inspire confidence or belief from those who serve under -or with- them.

If you need to take time to make your decision, go right ahead.  Be sure to take this moment to promote teamwork with those who share in your vision.

There is no shame in being cautious, only in missed opportunity.

Devise your solutions as quickly and effectively as possible, using all your resources.  Once you’ve made up your mind, press forward, and lead your teams with everything you have.

5. Encourage Feedback At Every Opportunity

One of the most overlooked resources for many leaders are their employees.  Those who serve under or with you are your prime source of information.

A stakeholder who operates an important aspect of your business is someone you need to keep close.  They can tell you if there is a recurring issue in your pipeline.  Moreover, they can offer ideas for improvement.

Often, employees might be uncomfortable sharing their information with you openly.  You may have to prompt them to do so.  Remember that they view you as an authoritative figure.  Approaching them softly and openly asking for their opinion is a great way to start a relationship.  You are likely to learn important information using this method.

Search for opinions on a wide range of topics and record what you find.  Find out how effective training programs are, and who the high-achiever in each department is.  In this way, you’ll gain important insights about your organization.  The only way to find out about the landscape is to do some scouting.

Finally, always be sure to promote an open-door policy.  Make sure everyone is aware of this, too.  You will be surprised how often you might profit from simply listening and helping others.  After all, whatever serves your organization well, is ultimately serving you in turn.

6. Offer Praise and Recognition

Publicly extolling praise is a great way to reinforce ideas and people.  Not only does this build trust and confidence, it also broadcasts that you are a positive force within your organization.  Future efforts will recall how excited you were for past successes.  Moreover, they will feel more comfortable asking you for help with new projects.

Offering recognition for effort too, is something that can help boost employee productivity.  When workers feel that they are being appreciated for their labour, they are generally more inclined to redouble their efforts during clinch periods.

It is advisable to praise and recognize others as often as possible.  Going overboard can have a negative impact, so plan ahead.

During your meetings, relay to your team how important their efforts have been.  Justify those hard hours with the successes you have enjoyed as a group. 

It may also be advisable to relay a history of your team’s achievements, so that they can better visualize how far you have come together.

7. Always Promote The Bigger Picture To Your Team

It goes without saying that the bigger picture is often hidden from view.   

While leading teams, we may often forget that many do not operate with the same information we do.

People are driven by the knowledge that they are making a difference.  By making clear illustrations of how your team’s efforts have impacted your company’s goals, you can demonstrate a sincerity of purpose. 

If possible, try to tie in the meaning of your work efforts as they relate to key objectives.  For example, try stating a problem that needs to be resolved, followed by what your team is doing to fix it.

In this way, you can set definitive tasks with clearer objectives.  Everyone will understand their role in the larger picture, and why it is essential.

8. Be A Professional Mentor

A good manager is there for the team.  A great manager is a mentor; someone who is always finding methods to help team members reach their fullest potential.

While organizational goals must always come first, there are often opportunities to allow others to shine.  By giving someone the chance to excel, you will be providing them a chance to grow.  This can have a formative impact on an employee’s future.

Whenever mistakes are made, be the first to offer ways to improve. 

Always be sure to console those who are struggling.  While you cannot do everything for them, you can help them realize a better way forward. 

Personal and team development always comes through learning from mistakes and evaluating successes.  It is a continual process.  Rewards are found by becoming more resilient and capable.

By offering mentorship, you will be enriching the experience of others as they develop these skills.  Moreover, you can guide them to becoming ideal employees that may one day seek promotions of their own.

9. Create A Department of Dynamic Development

Creating an environment where individuals can reach their goals is a beneficial asset to any organization.  Developing internal talent and specialization remains a priority for many modern companies.

By encouraging those who wish to excel, you can guide them to higher levels of professionalism.  This serves to benefit both the individual and the organization.

Reward innovation.  Encourage new ideas.  These should serve as the thought processes behind developing talent.

Wherever possible, ask what the goals of your employees are.  Moreover, ask them what they need to achieve them.  By fostering understanding with your team, you will inevitably build trust.

Help your team reach their goals.  Give them a safe place to do it and reinforce those ideas with your own practical experiences. 

In time, you’ll reap huge rewards as a manager.  Your team will be more effective than ever, and so too will your organization.

10. Guide Your Team Towards a Compelling Vision

Leading teams toward a common vision is a sure-fire way to develop synergy.  This type of “common-purpose” mentality is integral to success.

By helping your team to work together, and giving them a vision of the future, you can develop important meanings that tie in with your work.  This gives everyone a unique sense of purpose. 

Oftentimes, a team may start its existence by pulling in different directions.  Everyone is flustered, accusatory, and uncertain about the future.  A compelling vision remedies this by making the future a shared goal.

It’s incredible what can be achieved once everyone begins to “flow” in the same direction.  Encourage everyone in the excitement of your shared vision of the future.

11. Practice Patience With Yourself

Nobody is born a leader or a manager.  These are skills that take years to fully develop.

Leading teams is often fraught with difficulties that are impossible to predetermine.

Especially if you are new to managing, take some time to relax yourself.  Stressing over small things will only serve to distract you from achieving your goals.

Wherever possible, consult with your more experienced peers.  If you have a mentor of your own, engage with them constantly.  Ask questions and try to understand the larger processes as best you can. 

Over time, you will come to better understand your functional role as a manager.  Inputs and outputs will become patterns that you can easily influence.  It just takes practice.

In doing all of this, you will greatly improve your leadership capabilities.  Stay on the path, and you will one day become a sterling manager in your own right.

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