Want your team to be more successful? Try training them. Seriously. I know the economy is terrible and funds are tight but the WORST mistake you can make is skimping on your people and their development.
“Gee Mike, they’re not going to change jobs in this economy so why invest?” They’re not going to change NOW but as soon as the economy picks back up, they’re gone. They’ll head to organizations that want to develop them If you saw the last poll we ran here, growth opportunities was the #1 driver of job satisfaction and idiot bosses were the #1 reason for leaving a job. Coincidence? Um… no.
Training your people as a team is a critical Leadership Principle (#9 for that matter but not 9th in importance). Not only do you have to train them to be competent at what they do, you should be succession planning, building their skills and, most importantly, excessively emphasizing that you succeed or fail as a team. Why? How? Let’s discuss.
First, you have to be trained. Your people follow your example and you want them to see you’re committed to development. First you have to get over yourself and accept that you need training too. The perils of thinking you’re too smart are your team doesn’t believe you when you say you’re committed to their development and you become a worthless dinosaur over time.
Now that you’ve fixed you, the team aspect is a little easier. As a leader, it’s incumbent on you to set the direction (duh) but more importantly, explain to folks how they fit into that broader picture. Once that’s done, it’s a lot easier to articulate why you’re sending Jim to XYZ class but not sending Frank (i.e., “Jim needs to go build this skill because here’s where his work fits in the broader picture while you, Frank, fit here and have the skills required.”).
Once your team members understand where they fit, your role becomes one of tone setting. Individuals don’t fail. Teams fail and leaders fail. Teams fail because they didn’t support that individual who was struggling and as a whole, the team did not meet the objective (even if you can trace the root cause to one person’s actions). Have you ever been singled out as the person who screwed up the whole project? How likely were you to stay on that team? How hard were you going to try thereafter? How supportive were you of your teammates and they of you after that event? Poison. Pure poison.
If you as a leader see someone being singled out and you don’t step in and quash it (quash is a good word… like squash without the “s” – sorry – I’m writing this relatively uncaffeinated…). Fail to and you’ve set a tone that that behavior is acceptable. That’s a case where the team has failed because they see their identity as a collection of individuals rather than as a single unified entity.
Are you wondering how to make them unified? Shared hardships and successes are the fastest way to foster that team esprit de corps. Articulate deliverables in terms of team goals. Build team success into people’s performance reviews. Make things hard, make them a stretch. When they achieve it as a group, celebrate like mad and call out great performance in terms of how it drove toward team goals (vs. simply celebrating an individual achievement).
Training folks and articulating everything in terms of how it relates to team goals is a powerful leadership tool. Ignore it at your own risk.
Are your leaders investing in you right now? Do you know where you fit into the broader team picture? How would your team members answer these two questions about you? Let’s discuss… comments please…
– Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC