Pursue What Matters
Episode 194: Drive Better Decisions Through Team Leadership
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Do you lead a team? How’s it going? Are you as effective as you can be? team leadership can be challenging, but it shouldn’t be a mystery.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:13
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So last week, I shared four takeaways for better teams, I sure hope you listened in because these takeaways can make a big difference. And with last week’s podcast, I really focused on team composition. And the fact that when you take some time, to be thoughtful about how your teams are composed, and organized, you save yourself a lot of grief down the road. So what happens, you set your teams up for success. So certainly consider going back and listening to that podcast if you missed it. And now is really the next step from that. Today, I want to talk to you about the unique role of the team leader in cultivating effective teams. So this can be at any level level, right? So maybe this is a CEO, managing a leadership team, maybe this is middle management, where you are managing a project team, or a department team. And so there are lots of applications. And so we you know, every week with podcasts, I try to teach principles, right, that you can then apply to your setting. And so, you know, with each of the things that I teach, the goal really is for those to be applicable in many different settings so that you can listen to the podcast and see how it might fit for you. And so I don’t want you when you hear podcasts like this to say, Oh, well, I’m not a CEO. So this doesn’t apply to me wrong. That’s not true. We all lead teams at various levels within an organization. What I would also say is, this is really helpful for you, if you are part of a team outside of work, so maybe it’s a volunteer organization, maybe it’s a church organization. And these principles absolutely apply. I can’t tell you some of my most frustrating moments have been in meetings where I’m part of a team in a church organization where it’s like, Oh, my goodness, this is so ineffective, and trying to bite my tongue because recognizing that I might lose my fe, if I express some of the frustration that I’m feeling in those moments. And so everything that we’re talking about, is applicable in different areas of your life. So I hope you will think with that in mind.
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:52
And so of course, every week with the podcast, my goal is to help you pursue what matters by strengthening your confidence to lead in one of three areas. So leading with curiosity, or sorry, leading with clarity, where are you going? And why does it matter? Second, leading with curiosity. So we’re cultivating self awareness, and self leadership, it’s really like building in space to think about some of these issues. And what I often hear from teams is, hey, we didn’t take the time to think about it, right? Like we recognize our teams might not be that effective. But we’re so pulled into the work that we don’t take the time to actually be more thoughtful and considerate about how we can make our teams more effective. That is such a trap, I see it all the time. And third is leading and building a community. And so primarily today, we’re really looking at both curiosity. So how can you be a more effective leader if you lead a team, but also, this is all about strengthening our communities, strengthening our teams. And so let’s jump right in with our first point, which is don’t be afraid to lead the team. If you are in an identified leadership role of a team, you’ve got to lead, you have your You have your orders, you need to do that. And those orders are not for me, right? That comes from your organization. So you have some responsibilities. As a team leader, you need to organize the purpose of the team.
Dr. Melissa Smith 4:17
So I want you to look at four items here. So why, what, who and how. So that you can really think through the team leadership. So first, why why does the team exist? What is the purpose of the team? You always start with? Why right, so Simon Sinek taught us that, and it’s really good advice. Second is what so what is the team’s agenda? What problems are we trying to solve? I think that’s such a good question. Because a lot of times people it’s just another meeting and they don’t really know they haven’t really considered what the purpose is, or they’re trying to solve a different problem that you’re trying to solve. Then the next question is what solutions are we trying to develop? Right? Is this a goal directed team? What goals are we trying to achieve? What does the team do? Exactly? Right. So is this at? Is this a team meeting where we’re really looking at support and collaboration? Or is this a very goal focused team meeting where we’re reviewing and assessing metrics, we’re executing on work, right, I think about some of the teams, team meetings that we have in our organization. And one of those is absolutely a work meeting, right? Like we’re executing in the meeting, we’re going point by point, examining, assessing, redirecting. And then we have another team. That is very different, right? It is more of a consultation, supervision, collaboration, purpose. And the first one is definitely collaborative. They’re highly collaborative. But the second one, it’s more about support in the work, right? So we’re not spending too much time on metrics, all those those might come up. But we’re really working on strengthening the skills of those team members. So you want to ask question, what does the team do? Who? Exactly so do you review and assess metrics? Do you execute on specific deliverables? You decide who will do what, and you ensure progress on strategic focus? And then you might also guide special initiatives. Right? So those are all good questions to ask as we consider what the next question is, who, so who is on the team and why, and you better have a good case, don’t just add people on? I talked a lot about that in last week’s podcast.
Dr. Melissa Smith 6:50
So if you need a primer on that, go back and listen to that again. So further, as we consider who we want to make sure that diverse skills are represented, we don’t want a ton of redundancy in skill representation, that’s not useful, that’s inefficient. It’s a waste of time and energy. We also want diverse perspectives represented. And so if you have a team that’s meant to make decisions for the whole organization, and yet you have major departments of your organization that are not represented, that’s a problem. That’s a big problem. You, you know, again, like I mentioned, you want to avoid too much redundancy and skill sets, some overlap can certainly be helpful. But you’re asking the question, who is not on the team? And why are there reasons we’re not including this person? Because it kind of seems like they would have a lot to lend to this. And sometimes, right, what I can see in working with teams, sometimes we don’t have someone on the team, because we’re playing politics, or because we’ve had a strained relationship, and it just feels like if they’re on the team, I’m not going to get any rest, or there’s going to just be more conflict, and I don’t feel up to it. That’s not a good enough reason, not a good enough reason. Now, if there is high conflict among two individuals, you need to sit down and have a conversation about can we be successful on this purpose? Can we make sure that your personal grievances don’t get in the way? So Right? Like, we tackle that directly by having a conversation, but not just by eliminating someone from the team? And sometimes as a result of those conversations, it’s like, no, like, it would be a problem for this person to be on the team for whatever reason. And so then it’s like, okay, that’s fine. But we’ve at least gone through our paces, and really looked at rationale had the conversations. And so there’s clarity about that moving forward. So we need to have a clear rationale for both in group membership and out group membership, right. So that’s just, that’s just not on your whim, you need to have a clear rationale, we also need to consider for the team members that are on the team, do they have authority and accountability to be successful? Right. So if we’re inviting someone on the team, but they absolutely have
Dr. Melissa Smith 9:11
no authority to make decisions for their part of the team, then they’re not a very effective team member. And that’s, that’s not their fault, right? Like that’s on you to really make sure that we have someone in the room that has authority, and so maybe, you know, there, there becomes a shift in authority so that they can make those decisions. But we need to pay attention to that. So again, decision making authority is really important. And I’ll have a little bit more to say about the WHO as we continue, but for now, let’s head to the last question, which is how, okay, so we’re looking at why, what, who and how.
Dr. Melissa Smith 9:48
So how does the team execute its purpose. So how do you work together? Is there synchronous and asynchronous collaboration? I sure hope so. Right? If the only work you’re doing is when you’re in a meeting, boy, that’s going to be ineffective. So we want to be creative and think about asynchronous collaboration as well. We want to leverage the power of meeting in real time, there are some conversations that are just better to have in real time. Maybe it’s reviewing something together once people have actually looked at something individually. So there’s a lot of power to those group meetings at but we want to be focused and make sure that we’re using that time effectively. So don’t overlook the effectiveness of asynchronous collaboration as well, the most effective teams have a mix of both. So both in team meeting and out team meeting, or in meeting, work and out meeting work.
Dr. Melissa Smith 10:46
So an example of this would be having an individual brainstorm, followed by Team synthesis. And so a leader can be really helpful for giving the direction of hey, this is what I would like each of you to brainstorm on like these three points, bring your best ideas, consider it, and then we will synthesize that in our next team meeting. You also so we’ve been thinking about the how you need to identify an effective agenda for team meetings that are focused on that team purpose, you have to be vigilant about maintaining structure, during your meetings, you also want to drive accountability via the agenda, when you don’t have an effective agenda, you make your job as a team leader, much more difficult, because it’s like herding cats. But if you have a good tight agenda, and you’re vigilant about maintaining that structure, your agenda will help drive accountability. And then of course, you invite collaboration through structuring those team meetings. So right, you can say, hey, we’re going to hear from Sue now who’s going to give us the ins and outs of this component of the project, right, make sure you invite that ahead of time, so people are prepared and know how they need to contribute. So a really important point here on how I’m not asking the team leader to do it all. In fact, that would be really unproductive if that happened. But the team leader needs to help create some organization to it, so that those meetings can be effective. So we think about a good agenda, we think about keeping things on track, we think about inviting different contributors to collaborate to take the lead on a certain part of the meeting. And then also on the how we need to redirect on focus discussions, because that never happens, right? I mean, maybe you have perfectly run meetings, but boy, meetings can go off the row, teams can go off the rails pretty easily.
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:46
So we need to pull teams out of the weeds. So we got to keep in mind, like what’s our agenda for today, because that goes a long way to help us in that, we need to identify tangents, and dead horses, right to say, Hey, I think we’re on a tangent here. And we’re really getting off track. And there might be another good time to discuss that. But let’s bookmark that. Let’s find a time where we can actually dedicate some good time to it and stay on track for this meeting. We also want to identify dead horses. So when do you know someone has beat a dead horse, they are just talking on and on about something and it’s not productive, right? It just continues to go in circles. And so don’t be afraid to identify those so that the team can move forward. We also want to challenge Pollyanna views, right? Like, okay, we’re all really excited about this. But what are we missing? What are we not paying attention to? So be willing to push back be willing to challenge and oftentimes I will say, I feel like I feel like it’s important to challenge that. I don’t necessarily disagree with you. But let’s just kind of go through the rigors of it. You can also invite a devil’s advocate. So this is someone specifically for that portion of the conversation or the meeting, who is going to challenge the thinking in the room to propose another perspective to say this is how other teams are doing it. This is how, you know other agencies are successful with this. And it’s a very different approach, right? That can be very helpful. And then we also must identify biases and personal agendas, right and address those as appropriate.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:21
So sometimes that’s best done one on one to say, Hey, listen, every time we get going on this conversation, you bring up this old axe to grind. We’ve talked about it, we’ve made the decision. I know, you don’t you’re not thrilled with the decision, but I need you on board and I need you to not continue disrupting the team by bringing this up again and again. So be willing to have some of those tough conversations. Okay, so that’s our first point. Don’t be afraid to lead the team. And now our second point, which is we need to bring discipline to decision making. Now everything I talked about with not being afraid to lead the team helps to drive this discipline. But for this point, we’re really focusing specifically on decision making, because that’s an important role of a team is to drive better decisions. So again, I’m going to say a little bit more about roles and responsibilities. So this is really looking at the who. So from Eric Larsen, who has done some great research on this topic, and is writing for Forbes, I’ll link to the article. He says that if team members don’t know their roles, or if any roles are unfilled, then friction and frustration can really grind team decision making to a halt. So one of the most effective frameworks for making sure you have the right people on the team is called rapid, okay, and that’s an acronym. So Larson says, to think of it as a checklist for making sure you have all of your bases covered. So who is recommending alternatives, that’s our who has to agree to the decision, that’s a who is going to perform the actions required, that’s p, who will give input through critical facts and data, that’s AI, who will make the final decision. That’s the I really liked that approach. There are other good decision making approaches, I’ve talked about some of them, we think about the five C’s from Dr. Brene Brown’s dare to lead research. But this is this is a good one. So you don’t have to use all of them. In fact, that would probably be a problem. That rapid is looking at recommending agree perform input and decision.
Dr. Melissa Smith 16:32
So it’s really looking at, do we have the right people composed in this team. So it’s looking at roles and responsibilities as it relates to decision making. And it’s important to note that people can play multiple roles to keep that team size down. But if any roles are left unfulfilled, or unfilled decision quality will suffer, right? Because you’ve got gaps in that process. So that is our second point, is to bring discipline to decision making. And then the third point that I want to share is we need to get buy in. So as a team leader, that’s also a very important responsibility as you need to get buy in. And so from Eric Larsen, he recommends that we get input separately, but then share perspectives collectively. And when I came across this, and you know, some of the research related to this, I just thought this is so wise, and it makes our decisions not only more effective, but way more efficient. So we’re not all trying to make a decision and assess the information in one room at one time. And so, decision making teams have immense power to widen the perspective. And so from Eric Larsen, he said that our research shows that in typical business settings, decision making teams triple the number of choices considered. And so right, like you’re making a lot of decisions. And instead of getting the team together to hash out every decision, which I think happens a lot, what he is recommending is that you break that down into two steps.
Dr. Melissa Smith 18:11
So the first one is you gather input separately. So gather individual input from team members first by asking two questions. So one, what are the important goals for the decision? And two, what are the best realistic choices to meet these goals? So you want to ask these questions and get it in writing to level the playing field for people with different communication styles. I really like this because it does respect different processing styles, different communication styles, it gives people space to really take the questions seriously, and it helps us to overcome the bandwagon effect and the halo effect. So bandwagon effect is if we just talk about it in a room, and everyone’s agreeing with one point and you disagree, you might be less likely to bring up that alternative view because, you know, maybe you’re missing something. And that’s a problem for teams, it lowers our effectiveness. And then it also helps us to overcome the halo effect, which is when we’re talking about something in a team and the person with the most power weighs in on their opinion, and then it shuts everyone else down, or they all agree because the person with the most power has that halo effect that halo over their head, they must have the best thoughts on this, which we know is not true. And so we gather that input separately. So you would do that beforehand, you give people plenty of time, you would ask them to submit those in writing to you before the meeting, and then you bring them to the meeting. And that brings us to the second step of that, which is then you share these perspectives with the entire team. So whoever that team leader is, you’re helping them to integrate and send Besides the information, and so as you share that input, right, you share the perspectives with the entire team, you then ask two questions. And these are really good questions for a team discussion. One, what stands out to what is missing. And I think that it’s such a great approach.
Dr. Melissa Smith 20:19
So getting buy in is really important. But we want to break that down and get input separately, and then share perspectives collectively. And those four questions are super, super helpful. And so check, check out my Instagram @dr.melissasmith I will have those questions and that process there for you. And then the last point here under getting buy in, is we want to communicate, which is a no brainer. But what I’m saying is communicate about everything right. And so from Larson, what he says is that we need to communicate what and why and how team members help. So again, this is part of getting buy in, when people don’t know what’s going on, or they’re not part of all the meetings, they’re left to make up stories, those stories are usually never positive. And so that is a key responsibility of a leader is to communicate about the process. And so there are two, two factors that are equally important first to make a good decision. And second to get buy in to execute a decision. And so by and requires one that we share details of the decision. And the reasons for making it to we share what was decided was the actual decision. Third, we share why the specific decision was made. And four, we share how the team helped the decision making process that helps to make a huge difference with buy it. So don’t miss buy, don’t dismiss buy in. It’s not a small thing.
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:49
So sometimes we dismiss buy in due to the excitement of deciding sometimes we dismissed by in due to poor decision making quality. We don’t want people looking too closely at the rationale of our decision. And so we just gloss over it. So how do you provide a rationale for your gut, right? Like I just have a gut feeling. It’s like, well, that’s not good enough, your gut might be pointing to something, but let’s build some lakes underneath that. Sometimes we might end up loving instead of having a clear rationale. And so this will absolutely undermine the trust of the team in the decision making process. So we want that decision making process transparent. That doesn’t mean that everyone is involved in every step of the way. Because we also need it to be effective and efficient. So we know that team decisions are typically higher quality decisions, there’s less to hide less to rationalize, you can thank individuals for their specific input, it creates a sense of fairness, right? Like I’m part of this process. And it boosts buy in, even when you disagree, disagree with the ultimate decision. And so I’ve talked a little bit about this concept on other podcasts, which is this idea of aiming for conflict transformation, rather than conflict resolution. So we’re not aiming for consensus when it comes to decision making, because that’s just not realistic. But we’re aiming for by and we’re aiming for understanding, we’re aiming for input. And that is a really great way that we can get buy in even when individual team members may disagree with the ultimate decision. Because they know they were part of the process. They know there’s a clear rationale, there’s transparency about that process, they were able to share their concerns. And so that’s really, really important.
Dr. Melissa Smith 23:41
And so today, I shared with you three key points that are really important for anyone who leads a team at any place in an organization. So point one, don’t be afraid to lead the team. And we talked about the four questions to help you assess your leadership. Second point is bring discipline to decision making have a process. Third point is get buy in and a really effective way to do that is getting input separately and then sharing perspectives collectively. So I hope this podcast is helpful for you head on over to my website to check out the show notes with the resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/194-teamleadership. So one more time, that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/194-teamleadership so you can find the resources there. So I’ll have links to some of the research that I mentioned. And in the meantime, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work in love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai