Creating the Team
Methodically and carefully performing the steps necessary to assemble, mold, nurture, and empower a great team, is arguably the most important foundational responsibility of a leader. With each step, one seeks to position the members in roles where their talents and growth potential can offer maximum value in achieving the goals of the company. This task requires constant attention and focus of the leader, due to the changing personal circumstances of each team member. The wise leader is on the pulse of this evolving and dynamic situation at all times. They are also aware that the success of the team and that of the leader are inexorably linked.
When the time comes for the team to be sub-divided into smaller working groups, the most artfully crafted team deeply committed to their operating norms and core values can begin to come apart before the very eyes of the leader. In any new configuration, even with the most dedicated team members, the leader must be aware that a new dynamic is in place.
Creating sub-groups of the team requires the same intentionality that went into the initial creation of the larger team. When it comes time to divide and assign members into a smaller unit, the first pressure of which the leader must be aware, are the inferences that will be drawn.
“In an absence of information, people will undoubtedly fill in with the worst-case scenario or poorly imagined intentions.” – Gilbert Y. Inaba
The leader must not only anticipate the situation which will ensue when the team is subdivided; it is essential that steps are taken to preempt the interpersonal friction that will very likely occur.
Belonging and Being Valued Matters
“Holding the meeting before the meeting” is a phrase that is often used by successful leaders to describe the work of heading off potentially negative situations with advance communication. This is most often done in one on one or small groups situations. It can involve a collective problem about which the leader requires input. It can also be framed as a time where the leader reinforces the norms and values of the team and carefully guides the members toward the need for smaller groups to work on pieces of a project or initiative.
Taking the time to share dialogue, consult and inform the members of the team as a whole in preparation for smaller group work can actually be used as a strategy for enhancement of the relationships within the group. Such communication carries with it the message that team members are valued and appreciated. Making the effort, as a leader, to operate from a place of transparency and trust with team members, rather than utilizing positional authority to complete the task of forming sub-groups, reinforces the value that team members perceive they have, in the eyes of the leader.
Approaching the Task with the Outcome in Mind
Having a clear set of objectives for the team, prior to substantial interactions taking place can be of great value. Whether these are determined in a larger setting or with the help of the leader in the small group dynamic, a clear direction can alleviate the first hurdle most teams face. Allowing the team time to clarify norms, divisions of responsibilities, and milestones for progress, prior to beginning the tasks, is a very supportive strategy. Another strong leadership move is creating a situation where the first accountability measure is more easily met. This will help the team to start on a positive note. It is the leader’s job, not to simply assign people to sub-groups, but to make sure they are equipped, prepared, and empowered to be successful in such a configuration.
The Power of Being on a Good Team
People have a deep desire to be part of a successful team. Most people can remember with dread, the moment they were assigned to a group project in school with persons that they perceived to be slackers. While the abilities of the team members may differ, it is nearly certain that the initial interactions of the team will be improved if there is a good measure of communication and pre-planning. When irrational fears are assuaged, the work of coming together with a focus on the project to be completed is allowed to come into focus.
It goes without saying, that sub-groups are simply smaller teams. The same need for planning, communication, norms, shared values, established timelines, and clear objectives that are present in larger teams must be observed. Celebration of milestones and accomplishments may be even more important in a smaller setting as the work carries a potentially greater measure of personal responsibility.
It is the role of the leader to make certain that steps are in place to make the interactions and the work of the smaller team successful. This is a clear case that there are very few situations that are not enhanced by the investment of time and effort, on the part of the leader, to create an environment where success is more likely to occur.
To read more about mindful leadership, check out what our CEO Chris Ihrig has to say on the topic here!
Tim, with his extensive background in education and management, is a great part of our Fired Up! team dedicated to inspiring teams and leaders. At Fired Up!, our work is dedicated to harnessing the power of culture to equip leaders, build amazing teams, and align operation practices to engage organizations and drive breakthrough results.