This is part two of a three-part leadership series that I will post over the coming weeks.
Culture of a team? you may ask yourself? Yes, culture. The culture of the team is how they operate, integrate and succeed together. It is a combination of the tasks the team performs, the personality of all team members, including the leader, and the larger environment of where the team works. This is what enables the members of the team to work together day in and day out.
The culture can be positive and encouraging or it can be adversarial and destructive; more than likely, it’ll be somewhere in between. One of the unique things about the culture of an organization is that it stands true and endures. Generally, as people join the team, their personal input may influence an established culture, but rarely does it change an established culture. If change is to occur it takes time and effort and sometimes, outside efforts from consultants and coaches.
Of course, leadership is a challenge, but isn’t anything that is worth doing, a challenge? What I mean here is that you need to challenge your team. Don’t let them settle for day to day ho-hum operations. Challenge them to do it better, faster and more direct with each iteration. Enable them to look for and take on new things and new ways of doing their jobs. Part of being a team is taking full advantage of all the team members talents and skills. Always remember that the sum of the parts is greater than the individual parts. You can only do this when you provide your team with the opportunity to excel at their jobs and have a culture that supports and requires innovation and efficiency in their day to day operations.
A lot of people skip over this simple piece of direction for their team. What do you want the team to do? That is what mission is for, getting everyone on the ‘same sheet of music’. The 5 W’s and how some will tell you. But you can’t put who, what, when, where, why, and how (5 Ws & How) into a mission statement and make it simple and clear for the team. Mission understanding is an essential piece of success for your team and you as the leader create the mission statement. When all else fails, your team should reflect on their mission and do that. If they don’t understand their mission, then they can’t operate on their own and the leader has to continually supervise and direct each member of the team. Everyone on the team must know the mission. There are many different schools of thought on how much detail or how simple your mission statement should be. The style of mission statement you choose is up to you as the leader. The bottom line is that your team must understand the mission. If you have a long, complicated mission statement and your team understands the mission and can operate within it, then there is nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, if you have a simple and short mission statement that provides the direction and guidance needed for your team to be successful, then that works also.
The most important part of the team is the people. If you don’t take care of your people, you will have no team. As a leader, you must always keep your team’s welfare in mind, think, “what about the people?” “How could this task, job, mission, re-organization, effect the people on my team?” A phrase I used when I was in the Green Berets,
“Mission First, People Always”
This really resonates to me as a leader. For the military, mission is of utmost importance but you cannot accomplish your mission without people. Another old adage that comes to mind is that if you take care of your people, they will take care of you. Create that relationship with your team. Know who they are, what makes them tick, what makes them quit. What are each members’ strengths and weaknesses? How can you capitalize on their strengths and build up their weaknesses? If you cannot recognize when your team member is struggling through something that is causing them to not be able to accomplish their tasks, how can you expect the team to operate as a unit.
You must trust in your judgement and trust in your team. If you cannot trust your team and you are always second guessing them, then how do you expect them to move forward and exceed the requirements and expectations. Here is another area that many people struggle with and can be very difficult for leaders. When you put someone on your team, you selected them for their skills and fit for the team. You also selected them because you have an inherent trust for the abilities. If you cannot trust your team to perform as you direct, as their leader, then you have created the wrong team or you are not being a good leader. The people on your team are there for a reason, skills, personality and culture fit. As the leader, you have the responsibility to the team to trust their actions and performance. If the leader, you, feels that you must supervise or be involved with everything the team does, then why do you have the team?
Of course, there is a time when a newly organized team must build their trust and their culture. This is part of a growth of a new organization. As the team grows and performs, the trust should build naturally, if allowed by the leader.
In part three I discuss how to handle failures and continue to improve yourself and your team.