Pursue What Matters
Episode 196: Be a Better Team Leader
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Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
We need better teams and we need better meetings. But do you want to know the factor that makes the biggest difference in whether your team will succeed or fail? Well join me for today’s podcast.
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 do you know the factor that matters most when it comes to team effectiveness. So it’s not the size of the team, although that’s really important. It’s not how effectively meetings are run, although that’s vital, is not even the strength at the strategic direction, although that matters an awful lot. The most important factor besides psychological safety, which is the the the ground for for good groups to happen, is the strength of the team leader. So if you’re on a team, or if you lead a team, listen up. That’s what we’re going to be talking about today. So 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 first, leading with clarity, where are you going? And why does it matter? It’s all about purpose, leading with curiosity, which is all about self awareness and self reflection, and then leading and building community, right. So we want to be effective in our leadership roles. And so today, primarily, we’re really focusing on leading and building a community. So being a better leader will make for a more effective team. And so, today, that’s what we’re gonna focus on. So let’s jump right in with our first point, which is the factor that matters the most. So the quality of the team leader is more important than the size or composition of the team. And so from Gallup, right, they they do big polls every year. And what they found is that two thirds of us managers are either not engaged, or even worse, they’re actively disengaged. And we write and think about managers get squeezed on both ends, right.
So whether that is from the top, the executive level, and then down below, and so I think it can be a really challenging spot to be in. So in this Gallup poll, 79% of managers report burnout, that is a really high number with that something we really want to pay attention to. And so what they have found with this research is that if your team leader, right, any team is this a product management team, a leadership team, you know, a cross functional team, that if the team leader is checked out, you there’s a high likelihood that your team members will be as well, because it’s a it’s a issue of buy in, right. If the leaders not bought in, then it’s very difficult to have team members bought in. So what happens is that it’s too hard to roll a stone uphill, if you have a disengaged leader, you know, like why as a team member, do you put in all this effort, because that team leader has a lot of power to you know, undermine that process. And it’s very difficult to overcome a disengaged team leader, despite the intentions of team members, right? Like you might have a lot of team members that have good intent. But if you have a disengaged team leader that’s really, really challenging to overcome. So of course, we don’t want that to happen to you. Which brings us to our second point, why team leader engagement is so important. And it just it critically, it’s so critically is important. So the team leader has a cascade effect for good or bad, right that the team leader has an outsized impact on the team. And so you got to watch that that can be really great, that can also be really undermining, and what we know from the research on team size, and I did a good podcast on that a few weeks ago. So definitely go and check that out if you haven’t yet. But as the team size increases, manager engagement tends to decrease. Okay, so there’s an inverse relationship there. So we really need to keep an eye on the size of our teams, because it becomes more difficult to manage a big team, right? Like lots of biases, lots of opinions, lots of input. There are too many perspectives. There can be too many personal agendas. There can be too many personal biases. And over time, this just becomes chaotic. And so a team leader in that situation, right? It’s just it’s easy to check out or to become overwhelmed by it all. But what’s true is that some team leaders can maintain high engagement you Even with increasing team size, but that really is swimming upstream, that’s not the norm. But if you have a team that’s getting bigger, you know, if you can maintain high engagement, that will make a big difference. So as a team leader, you must be very intentional, you must be very purpose driven, you need to be able to get buy in and maintain it over time. And you also must be willing to call out problematic behaviors, and to hold team members accountable. And so as your team size gets bigger, as a team leader, you need to get a little more directive, right? Like you need to at least have more structure, and be really vigilant about maintaining that structure. When it’s four or five people, you don’t have to be as vigilant about it, although I would, I would argue that it’s still in the best interest of the team to be vigilant. But especially as team size increases, that process that structure, that accountability makes a huge difference. And so now let’s move to our third point. And I want to share with you five traits of engaged team leaders.
So I will share a link to some of this research. And so some of this is coming to us from Gallup, I talked about that. But then we also have some good research out from Susan Schneider and her team. So she, she talks about her research, and then the research of others. And so let’s take a look at these five traits of engaged, engaged team leaders. So the first trait is motivation. So these leaders inspire teams to get exceptional work done. And when we think about motivation, I really want you to think about purpose. Do you have clarity, of purpose? Do you know where you’re going? And why it matters? Can you build a case for the purpose of the team so that team members are excited, they’re motivated, they want to go where you’re heading. The second trait is workstyle. So engage team leaders set goals and arrange resources for the team to Excel. So I want you to think about this in terms of are you setting your team up for success? So where are they headed? Right? So do you have goals? Do you have markers, think about a map and having some markers along the way. And then making sure that they have the resources that they need to be successful. So if you set this big goal or say this is how we’re going to approach it, but then they the team is absent any resources, it’s really hard for them to be successful. So you want to set them up for success. And now let’s move to the third trait, which is initiation. And so in this, with this trait, we really influence others to act, we help them to push through adversity and resistance. And so when I think about this, I really think about problem solving. Right? You’ve got to have a bias for action, we know that the most effective leaders have a bias for action. And so when your team gets stuck, because of course they will right there, we’re dealing with big challenges. Do you get stuck as well?
Right? Do you throw up your hands? Do you give up? Or can you influence others to act? Can you help them push through adversity? Can you clear roadblocks for them, you know, whatever might be in your power, can you support them in clearing their own roadblocks. So really helping them to push through resistance is a very important trait of the most engaged team leaders. And now let’s head to trait four, which is collaboration. And so this is where we think about the connection. So we build committed teams with deep bonds. And so important here is the factor of psychological safety, right? Where we have cared for one another, we’re aware of ourselves, we’re aware of others, we have respect. Dare I say love, right? That’s, that can be a very valuable thing at work. Not necessary, but definitely valuable. So we build commitment to one another, right? So this attitude of collaboration and working together, we’re all in it together. And that’s obviously an important trait for an effective team leader. And then the fifth trait is thought process. So when I first came across this trait, I’m like, What are they talking about? But what what they mean by this is critical thinking. And when I think about it that way, it makes a lot of sense. And so this is that ability to take an analytical approach to strategy and decision making. So one of the podcasts I’ve talked I’ve shared recently, not too long ago, was having a good, rational process for decision making, right so that we can actually increase the quality of our decisions. We also increase trust and buy in by our team members. And so this is really what they’re talking about with this fifth trait. Is this ability to take an analytical approach to strategy and decision making. Do you have a process for decision making? Or are you doing things different every time you approach a problem? Now, there’s a case to be made for flexibility. But we need to be consistent as team leaders, right? That it doesn’t mean that we solve problems all the exact same way. But we have a clear process and clear rationale, we can bring in objectivity. And we can balance that with subjectivity. And so that’s the fifth trait. And so from Susan Schneider, who some of this research comes from, she says, a core characteristic in high performing teams is trust, which goes far beyond professional respect. Trust emerges when you really care about the other person, their goals, and their constraints, even. And I said, and I would say, especially when but she says, even when you’re diametrically opposed to their views on the issue at hand, right. And I really liked that because, you know, there’s an assumption that you’re going to be opposed, you’re going to disagree, and that is for the good of the team, right? We must bring different perspectives to the work. But this core characteristic of high performing treat teams is trust, that you have one another’s back, and that you will, you will point out a concern of another team member who might be absent, even when you don’t share that concern to say, hey, if Jill were here, right now, I think that she would have a concern about this. So that’s an act of trust, and it might not be in your best interest to bring that up. But part of the care and trust that we have in high performing teams is that we have one another’s back. And that’s not a blind loyalty, but it is fidelity to one another. And so as a review, I just want to go over these five traits of engaged team leader. So if you lead a team, right, these are traits that you could really work on strengthening one motivation where we inspire teams to get exceptional work done. Trait two is workstyle. Do we have goals and resources to help them trait three initiation so we influence others to act to problem solve to push through resistance, fourth collaboration. So building committed teams with deep bonds, trust, commitment, psychological safety, and trait five thought process, so the ability to take an analytical approach to strategy and decision making. And so I hope that these traits are helpful for you, and that you will consider how you can strengthen yourself as a team leader. And again, remembering that engagement is the name of the game when it comes to team effectiveness.
So head on over to my website to check out the show notes with the resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/196-betterteamleader one more time that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/196-betterteamleader of course, I will have links to the research that I shared with you today. And of course, you can follow me on Instagram at Dr. Dot Melissa Smith, where I always have more resources for each podcast. I’d love to connect with you there. And in the meantime, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
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