Teams play follow the leader
by Stan Bradshaw, 1st vice chairman of the Chamber's economic division and president and CEO of US Freedom Capital LLC
Teamwork is critical for businesses in just about every industry, so it is likely that you will work as part of a team at some point in your career. Depending on your position within your organization, you may be called upon as a team leader as well. Here's what you need to know to keep your team members focused and ensure they follow your lead for exceptional results.
Be organized & take command
When you first form your team, establish yourself as the leader from the start. Be well-prepared for your first meeting so you can drive discussions and answer your team's questions. Let your team know that you are available to help whenever they have need. At the end of every team meeting, review each assigned task and the team member held accountable. Circulate that list among the team afterward. Remember, you are the guiding light for your team throughout the project, so stay on top of your tasks so your team will follow you.
Listen more than you talk
Of course, you'll do plenty of talking as the team leader, but it is just as important that you listen to your team. Because they will be doing most of the work as you manage, they can provide unique insight about how the project is progressing and any trouble areas that might arise. Ask each team member for input. Ask smart open-ended questions to extract the best input from each team member. Take your team's feedback to heart, but always keep your mind on the bigger picture as well. Show gratitude and thank each team member for their contributions. Your team members are each dealing with individual aspects of the project, and it is up to you to keep everyone on track toward your common goal.
Focus on the business
While you may be able to choose the members of your team, this is not always the case. Sometimes you may have team members that you don’t necessarily get along with as friends. Although this can be challenging, do your best to set your personal feelings aside. Keep your focus on the task at hand. Even if you don't like a team member on a personal level, that doesn't mean that you can't still work successfully together.
Be willing to take the blame
Just as the captain goes down with a sinking ship, you are the responsible party as the team leader. While it may be easier to place blame on your team members for any mishaps, at the end of the day, you are responsible for the successful completion of the project. Your team looks to you for direction, so if something goes wrong, you need to take responsibility.
Practice what you preach
No matter what type of project you are working on, show your team you are in it with them. No one likes to see their team leader sitting back while they do the work, so work just as hard as your team members. At each meeting, review their progress, but also show them your progress. This way, they'll see that you are working as hard as they are, encouraging them to work harder for you.
Give the team all the credit
Leading a team is about organizing the group and motivating them to do their best work. When the job is done, make sure the team gets the credit for the results. Your job is to coordinate, direct and guide. They did the work and they deserve the credit. Managing a team is not easy, but with careful planning and preparation, as well as a good dose of respect for your team members, you can give yourself your best chance of delivering your project successfully. When you praise the work of your team publicly, you will be appreciated as a good leader and will likely earn the opportunity to lead again.