According to the latest findings, roughly 75% of employers deem teamwork and collaborative environments as important. Moreover, as many as 37% of workers declare that having a solid team leader is the main reason why they stay at a certain job. Given that those figures continue to increase, it would not be misleading to say how the future relies on team-based operations.
Regardless of the shared responsibility, however, all team members need some type of a central authority figure. Without it, achieving the optimal level of cohesion would be incredibly difficult.
So, what exactly makes one an effective and efficient team leader? More specifically, how can you become a great representative and advocate for your employees while retaining the right amount of professional power over them?
Understand Your Employees
While you must guide your workers well, you cannot do so without taking the time to get to know them first. This means learning about their short- and long-term goals, current life situation, behavior patterns, and much more. Getting to know such details will make it much easier for you to understand how they will perceive certain tasks. For example, if an employee has a sick child that they need to take care of in the upcoming weeks, you should probably avoid suddenly increasing their workload. But if you do not know about their situation, you will be unable to make the right call and may find yourself blindsided when they express their displeasure with the job experience.
Working for many years as the President of a global prestigious skincare, makeup and fragrance company, Philippe Warnery, also advises leaders to learn their employees’ non-verbal cues. Having worked with thousands of individuals who come from a wide range of cultures, upbringings, and locations, Mr. Warnery stresses the importance of recognizing some basic body language. This includes small giveaways that show how the employee’s level of comfort, excitement, agitation, and similar.
Compromising Beats Ordering
After getting to know the people that you will lead, you have to start finding ways to compromise. Outside of a very few exceptions, you should practically never order something. Instead, finding a way to agree on the work is going to be incomparably more effective. Just consider the difference between the following requests:
“Please do this by the end of the day.”
“Would you be able to complete this within the next few hours? If not, could you send me some available times that you have today?”
While both of those are commonly used in most workplaces, the latter option is going to be a lot more successful as it gives the worker enough flexibility to find the right time. In other words, even if they complete the task today, they will never be under the impression that they are executing someone’s direct orders. Unless something absolutely needs to be done by a certain time and only that particular employee has a chance to get it done, orders should always allow for some flexibility.
Understand That Respect Should Be Mutual
There are generally two alternative ways that you could become a team leader. The first one happens when you rank higher than any team member, and this allows you to enter into the leadership position due to seniority. What is becoming more and more common, however, are employees who rise to these roles based on their performance. While they may not necessarily have the seniority or rank-based authority, their solid track record allows them to lead others.
Even though mutual respect applies to both of these alternatives, you should be particularly mindful of it when you are a performance-based leader. The reason why is that others may be hesitant to take orders from someone who does not oversee them. Once you start building a solid relationship characterized by fairness, consideration, and professionalism, on the other hand, you will soon see those rank-based concerns disappear.
Albeit a long-lasting process that will take a lot of effort, the underlying principle is quite simple, and Philippe Warnery summarizes it with the golden rule – treat everyone the same way that you would want to be treated. Doing so will lead to respect-based leading that is a lot better than people following your orders out of fear.
Prioritize Constructive Criticism
Once you become a team leader, you will see yourself grow in ways that you cannot even imagine. After all, if you are incapable of improving your shortcomings, it is going to be very hard for you to execute your authority in the long run.
At the same time, you have to think about your team members and lead them towards professional development as well. Just like you will most likely receive feedback from your superiors on your style of leadership, you need to extend that same courtesy to your team. In translation, you should structure periodic reviews of their performance where you offer constructive criticism and tangible points of improvement.
Maintain Authority and Hold Everyone Accountable
In the end, you have to realize that, while personal relationships are certainly not forbidden, you must create a boundary that will shield you from issues that hinder your authority. For instance, if you overly focus on getting to know your employees, you could risk replacing the professional association with friendships. Once that happens, it is going to be virtually impossible to maintain the same level of authority over them. It could also lead to fallouts that take place when you try to re-insert yourself as their authority figure. A good way to sidestep this concern is to be friendly with everyone without being everyone’s close friend.
As you go through the process of guiding your team, you should find a few of your strengths and try to capitalize on them. For example, if you are great at communication, your priority should be to host face-to-face meetings over e-mail-based correspondence with your workers. In other words, your route to success is going to depend solely on your traits. By following these few tips, you should be able to make the most out of your experience, though.