Is your team a team by name only, or in practice? Here, Sue Coyne provides some useful advice to contractors in leadership roles seeking to provide inspiration to their teams.
I am often invited to work with a team called something like the ‘Leadership Team’ or the ‘Management Team’ but in practice, they are a group of individuals who meet to share information about what they are doing.
This is also often the case on IT projects, where groups of individual contractors are brought together – often working side-by-side with employees. However, in order to really be a team, they must be working together to deliver on shared objectives, and with this objective-focused approach, it is often most effective and efficient to make teams as small as possible.
Once your team is in place you can take the following step to inspire them to perform:
Neuroscience has shown that we all have mirror neurons. This means that our emotions are contagious. So the first step if you want to inspire your team is to be inspiring. Take the time to understand what energises you and what drains your energy so you can manage your emotional state and radiate positive rather than negative emotions.
When people talk about leaders who really inspired them, they often describe them as being authentic. When people believe you are genuine they will trust you to make decisions in the best interests of the business rather than your own self-interest. Many successful leaders create their own personal leadership brand so they are clear who they are as a leader and what they stand for. This enables you to be aware of your strengths and limitations and is an important step in creating an environment where teams can be open and honest with each other in the same way.
Create an Inspiring Team Vision and Purpose
Does your team have a shared vision and purpose? Each individual should be able to identify how they fit in with this vision, in order to create a common culture around which the team can coalesce.
Foster Growth and Learning
Creating a high performing climate requires a balance between challenge and support. As the leader it is your job to stretch the team beyond its comfort zone, but not so far that it is out of its depth.
It is important to be a role model yourself for growth and learning in order to encourage team members to support each other to learn and grow. Help team members to come up with their own solutions to problems; encourage them to give each other real time feedback about behaviour a well as performance; make sure praise and appreciation outweigh negative feedback and that the team takes the time to celebrate successes.
Value and Utilise Difference
The great thing about bringing teams together is that they are made up of individuals with different ways of thinking and behaving and with different opinions. Of course, this can create challenges, but your role as leader is to create a space where it is safe for everyone to express their views even if they are different from those of others. If the culture is collaborative rather than adversarial, a team will always come up with a better decision than any one individual would have. Once people feel heard, regardless of whether the decision is what they wanted, they will be willing to get behind it and speak with one voice.
Create Mutual Accountability
Teams should be rewarded and recognised for delivering on shared goals and team members should be held mutually accountable for doing so. Without creating a culture of fear, make sure everyone understands the consequences of not delivering because deadlines often slip when no one is held accountable. High performers want to be held accountable, and you should include yourself in that because often your team can’t deliver without you delivering.
Use Storytelling to Win Hearts and Minds
There is often an emphasis on left-brain rational thinking and communication in business, and particularly in technology, but inspiration is about influencing and engaging people at an emotional level. Storytelling does this whilst also satisfying the left-brain. Try co-creating a narrative with the team that all members feel a part of – it is a great way of winning the hearts and minds of both the team and other stakeholders.
Stop Doing, Start Leading – How to Shift From Doing The Work Yourself To Becoming A Great Leader, by Sue Coyne is available from 1st September from Amazon, priced £15.99.