How to lead a team: the essential guide to effective leadership
“People do not leave jobs; they leave managers.” There’s a 99.9% chance you’ve come across this cliché inspirational post on LinkedIn.
10/10 times, disgruntled workers authored the post, trying to send a message to their manager. Although these posts are cheesy, their message is often valid, and that’s why you’re here.
Years of hard work have brought you to this moment: you’re a team leader. Now, you face an important question: how do you lead a team?
While most great leaders bravely found the right path through trial and error, you won’t have to. Today, you’ll learn 10 effective tips that will help you lead your team to success. All while focusing on what matters — people.
What is a team leader?
A team leader is someone who guides a group of people who are working together towards a common goal.
Think of the team leaders as captains of a ship. They ensure the crew is going in the right direction and draws up a rescue plan when the boat takes on water.
And, if you’re looking for tips to be a good team leader, you’re in the right place. Keep reading the article and find out how to lead a team.
How to lead a team: 10 powerful tips
When it comes to leading a team, it’s not about telling people what to do and when to do it. Yes, having a vision is important, but that doesn’t make a good leader.
To succeed, a leader must have two essential qualities: character and empathy. Later, we’ll discuss the importance of these characteristics to gain the respect of your team.
Let’s look at everything you need to do to lead your team to success in a sustainable manner.
1. Recruit the best assets
Depending on the structure of your company, you may be more or less involved in the recruitment process.
Let candidates know your leadership profile from the very first moment. Let them know that you’ll be someone that motivates them to grow and develop.
When selecting new team members, reflect on whether they fit into the company culture.
A study by Harvard University has found that soft skills determine 80% of career achievements while hard skills contribute to just a 20%. Thus, identify soft skills in your new team members and ensure you’re creating an empathetic and trustworthy team.
2. Get off on the right foot with onboarding
A good onboarding process requires more than a quick tour of the office and offering a pen with the company logo.
It allows the new team members to adapt to their new roles and co-workers, learn about the company and absorb work methodologies.
Bad leaders believe that onboarding is a waste of time at work — good leaders know that the investment will pay off.
Recent studies have shown that companies that focus on onboarding have 50% higher retention rates than those that don’t. Additionally, 69% of employees with a positive onboarding experience are more likely to stay with the company for three years.
3. Adapt to the new normal: offer flexibility
We’re currently experiencing perhaps the most significant global talent retention crisis ever. The Great Resignation describes the record of people who have left their jobs since the pandemic’s beginnings.
After months of working from home, people have discovered the importance of work/life balance. According to recent research, this trend doesn’t slow down: one in five workers globally is considering quitting their job in 2022.
Leaders should understand that balance is increasingly important in people’s lives.
Adapt to the new reality of the labor market and leave behind the backward vision of 9 am to 5 pm in-office work.
Give your team freedom, and trust, and you will reap the rewards!
4. Build a clear action plan
If your team doesn’t know where they’re going and how they will get there, how will they help?
So, as a leader, outline a plan and be transparent about goals and steps to take. Transparency promotes trust, and trust brings alignment.
Things won’t always go smoothly — every team encounters obstacles along the way. A good leader is honest, especially when things go wrong, and lets the team know how they’re working to solve those problems.
Transparent communication is critical for them to respect you.
5. Keep your team motivated
Nobody wants to be on the losing team. Once you have an action plan, you need to keep your team motivated. After all, their future and that of the organization depend on results.
Use positive reinforcement and praise them when they perform well. The power of recognition on a team member will surprise you. As for you, keep up the positive thinking and try to spread that mentality to the rest of the team!
6. Celebrate the victories, but above all, the mistakes
Mistakes are precious experiences.
The best professionals in any area have made many mistakes to get to the top. As such, create a culture where everyone has room to make mistakes as long as they learn from them.
Most importantly: don’t just preach it; believe it. You too will make mistakes, but how you deal with them is the real test of your leadership. Take responsibility and turn those moments into learning opportunities.
7. Don’t be afraid to delegate
Why hire the best human resources if you don’t let them share their knowledge and skills? To lead a team successfully, learn to trust others and delegate.
Delegating is about looking at each member of your team and their strengths and giving the right task to each one. One of the most vital parts of leading a team is allowing others to shine in their respective fields. Nobody gets anywhere alone — and good leaders know about it.
8. Create a feedback culture
How many times did we work on unclear tasks? Or handed in reports and never heard of them again?
Feedback is crucial for professional and personal development. As a leader, offer positive and negative feedback to your team members.
There’s only one rule: it has to be constructive. Praise your team members when they do an excellent job — this will help them to stay motivated. So, offer constructive criticism when you feel there’s room for improvement.
Constructive criticism is about giving reasonable opinions about the work of others, with notes on what could be improved and why.
If you need to offer negative feedback, ensure you do so in a friendly manner and that you are honest and specific. Sometimes a culture that’s meant to be one of openness can turn into a toxic situation.
So, here’s some advice on giving feedback in the healthiest way possible:
- Encourage your team members to seek feedback from you: whenever they have questions, you’re the one they should turn to.
- Give feedback in the same way you would like to receive it: no one should feel judged or inferior when receiving feedback.
- Give individual feedback in private: no need to antagonize your team members in public.
- Contextualize feedback: explain why you’re giving that feedback, and how they could improve.
- Provide next steps: make sure your team member knows what to do to improve and move forward.
Finally, make sure you have the right motivations and are not micromanaging. Research shows people have negative feelings towards unnecessary or unwanted help and opinions.
Leaders should help their employees in meaningful ways. For example; by offering feedback and support at the right time.
TIP: Do not forget to ask for feedback. Your team may have some inputs that can improve your lead, listen to them!
9. Contribute to the team’s development
“Before you’re a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.“
Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric and considered by many a great leader, said it and we couldn’t agree more.
To indeed lead a team, you must make sure that no one — not even you — becomes stagnant.
Promote opportunities for your team members to grow and learn. For example; enrolling them in a course, organizing a conference, or a webinar.
Empower and motivate them to develop their skills, and become leaders within your team.
10. Be a Human leader
We saved the most important tip for last. Part of being a leader involves being there for your team.
Be there to listen to them if they have questions or need advice. Sometimes a poor performance at work can mean personal problems, so make sure everyone on your team is doing well.
Be empathetic and understanding — a happy team is more productive (don’t just take our word for it)!
How to lead a team during uncertainty?
You must apply the same principles and tips mentioned above: be transparent and honest, always ask and give feedback and empower your team.
How to lead a big team?
Be transparent, create feedback sessions, and develop and empower your team. Also, create “sub-team leaders.” Those employees act as “micro team leaders” in your team – you’re delegating tasks and responsibilities.
How to lead a team meeting?
There are several tips to lead a meeting. Create an agenda, define timings, share meeting notes, etc. To know how to lead a successful discussion, read our free guide.
How to lead a team presentation?
When leading a team presentation, ensure that you follow these steps:
- Outline the narrative;
- Assign roles based on peoples’ strengths;
- Write a presentation script;
- Be prepared for questions;
- Practice, practice, practice;
- Present a united front.
How to lead a retrospective?
The seven steps to leading a productive retrospective are:
- Review the details of the project;
- Start by celebrating the wins;
- Encourage your team to share their opinions;
- Point out improving opportunities;
- Ask questions;
- Identify actionable insights;
- Share the key takeaways.
Leading a team is not easy. It’s a complex job and requires a lot of dedication from leaders.
In an age with excessive leadership bits of advice, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. We’ve built this comprehensive guide to help you lead your team to success and achieve your goals.
The rest is up to you; be the leader you wish you had.
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