I’m often talking to senior leaders and HR professionals about the pain points they are experiencing and the challenges they are facing in their organisations. Many are lacking a solid leadership framework.
No leadership framework?
What often comes up in the discussion is the dysfunction and conflict that can occur in their internal teams. This can result in poor productivity, costly delays, wastage and high turnover.
When I probe further these issues are often within teams where the team leader or frontline manager is either inexperienced or has not been supported to develop the leadership framework and skills necessary to bring a productive team together.
I find, particularly in my primary market of IT and engineering consulting, that a team leader can be appointed to the role purely off the back of being a great technical professional. And while this happens in many industries, I find those with technical backgrounds are uniquely unprepared for the challenges ahead.
Unfortunately, the skills required to lead a team are often very different to those the team leader has developed during their career to date. What also causes an issue is that the team leader themselves is unaware that the measures of success in such a role are entirely different to how achievement was measured in their previous role.
The basics of leadership
When working to develop team leaders I use three core principles:
- Know self
- Know others
- Know the organisation
It takes focused effort to become a highly productive, emotionally intelligent leader who can align the objectives of the team with those of the organisation. Those who have chosen to study and work in technical roles haven’t always built their self-awareness to be able to regulate their emotions and understand the impact of their behaviour on others. This is essential to being able to build trust; the foundation of a great team.
Threat and reward
Understanding threat and reward, or what “pushes your buttons”, helps you to manage your responses and improve self-regulation.
Once you gain an understanding of how threat and reward works you can then apply it to your team and improve your leadership style. Building trust, improving collaboration, and creating a culture of feedback and innovation will help move the team towards greater productivity, and generally make work more enjoyable!
Your team’s purpose
The team also needs to understand its purpose in the organisation’s eco-system. Everyone needs to understand the “why” of the organisation and therefore the team. Some questions to ask include:
- How do the strategic objectives of the organisation align with the goals of the team?
- How can the efforts of the team impact the achievements of the wider organisation?
Creating this connection and line of sight is a key component of ensuring the team appears productive and cohesive from the outside.
Support is key to successful leadership
When performing a technical role, an employee’s success is generally measured by a set of criteria similar to their colleagues and aligned with their core capabilities.
As team leaders, they are being judged on their ability to create a productive and aligned team, meet financial targets, communicate for influence and manage up. Much less, and sometimes very little, of their daily time is spent performing the work they performed in their technical role. This can sometimes result in a loss of identify and a feeling of overwhelm. They can feel lost if not supported by the organisation.