How to lead a team

Good team leaders have a unique blend of vision, charisma, and personality traits that make them ideal for taking charge and motivating others. They choose to lead and are the person others choose to follow. Beyond that, they also provide inspiration, vision for the future, and opportunities for people to grow. They make others feel appreciated and important, set the pace by example, act with compassion, and create environments where people can improve.

Some leadership skills, such as integrity and compassion, come naturally to team leaders. Other skills, like organization and communication, are ones that leaders pick up through experience and training. If you feel you need to work on your leadership skills, consider the following steps you can take to more effectively lead a team.

Start with the right people

Building your team with the best people who want to work toward goals is important. When you have the ability to create your own team, make sure you look for the most talented people who are ready to work together for the success of the team. However, there are times when you don’t get to choose your team. In these cases, it’s crucial to create the right environment and offer the best resources so you can find and manage the strengths and weaknesses of each team member to let the team succeed.

Set your objectives

Once you have your team together, it’s time to set your goals and objectives. While this is often an overlooked step, it’s equally important as creating the right team. Without clearly defined goals and objectives, you have no way of measuring success for the team. When creating your team’s objectives, you want to make ones that are unique but still support the goals of the organization.

Once you have your goals, it’s not enough to state them once and assume everyone understands and is on board. Instead, continually refer back to your objectives throughout the project to make sure your tasks line up with your goals and that you’re meeting your benchmarks.

Create a safe working environment

Once you have your team and your objectives, it’s time to get to work. To effectively lead and motivate your team, you need to create a positive and safe working environment. There are several steps you can take to foster this type of environment. First, never criticize someone or complain about him or her to other team members. Mistakes are bound to happen. If someone does make a mistake, don’t immediately lash out. Instead, point out the positives and use the mistake as a way for everyone to grow and improve.

Also, incorporate positive reinforcement into your leadership style. B.F. Skinner is known for his research work in positive reinforcement. He argued that when it comes to shaping behavior, positive reinforcement is far superior to punishment. As a result, when you positively reinforce a behavior, people are more likely to repeat it. Since most people want to do the right things, you’ll see more success if you praise what you like seeing instead of using threats to stop what you don’t like.

Create open communication

Good communication is an important key to success. One of the best ways to create open communication within your team is to encourage other people to talk and make sure they know you’re listening. If you need to work on your active listening skills, consider saying, “What I understand you’re saying is…” before reiterating what you think someone is trying to tell you.

There are several benefits to using this simple sentence starter. First, it forces you to truly listen to what someone is saying because you’ll have to repeat it back. Second, it shows the speaker that you’re listening and that you respect what he or she has to say. Finally, it eliminates confusion or issues because of miscommunication, since you have the chance to make sure you both understand what the other is saying.

Another good way to create open communication is to encourage feedback. Many times team members are hesitant to speak up about certain issues unless prompted. Maintain an open-door policy in your office so your team knows you’re always available to listen and provide help. Also, openly ask for opinions on issues such as resources, training, or support so you know what your team needs.

Offer respect

Along with creating a workspace with open communication, you want to make sure you offer respect to those around you. Work to understand another person’s point of view. When you do so, you might learn something new. If nothing else, it will make it easier to understand the differences you have with others and respect them more.

Another way to offer respect is to let team members save face if they’re wrong about something. If you point out they were wrong about something in front of others, they’ll feel resentment toward you. However, if you point out the mistake in a way that lets them salvage their pride, especially if you can do it away from the group, they’ll have more respect for you and be more willing to work with you.

Manage through adaptive change

If there’s one constant in this world, it’s that all businesses experience change. Some leaders can look ahead and know when it’s time to change, while other changes get forced on the business. Regardless of how change occurs, it’s always a scary and stressful time for any team. However, there are a few steps you can take to manage through adaptive change.

First, you have to let your team know what the change is and why it’s necessary. Second, assure all your team members that you understand how this impacts them, and tell them what you need from them to make this change successful. Next, let the team know what leadership is doing to give support during this time. Finally, make sure you consistently report what’s happening and, if possible, get feedback to pass along to upper management.

Demonstrate your commitment to the team

Show your team members that you’re invested in their success, the success of the team, and the success of the company before any of your own self-serving objectives. You can’t show your commitment with words; you have to show it with actions. That doesn’t necessarily mean working long hours every day, but it does mean working side by side with your team and not asking them to take on tasks you wouldn’t do yourself. Show a good work ethic, and take on the same tasks that your team is facing.

Coach your team

Think about a coach of your favorite sport. What does he or she do? Coaches know when to push their players. They ask their players to do things they haven’t done before so the players can grow and accomplish more. They also know when to support. If they see players who aren’t succeeding, they find out why and offer ways to help them meet their goals. Finally, coaches celebrate success. They recognize, value, and reward small successes because they know this will lead to greater ones.

The key is finding the balance. You don’t want to be the leader who is never pleased, but you also don’t want to be the leader who constantly coddles.

Make the decision

You can value input from the team, you can offer respect, and you can get down in the trenches and work with your team. However, at the end of the day, you’re still the leader, and sometimes that means you have to make decisions and offer the team a clear direction to follow. Be decisive with your decisions, because people don’t feel comfortable following someone who always changes his or her mind. Don’t worry so much about making an unpopular decision that you make no decision at all.

Use these tips on how to lead a team to effectively manage a team of any size. Then you can grow as a leader and meet your own goals and objectives.

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