"Winning has a price. And leadership has a price. So I pulled people along when they didn't want to be pulled; I challenged people when they didn't want to be challenged. And I earned that right because my teammates who came after me didn't endure all the things that I endured. Once you joined the team, you lived at a certain standard that I played the game at, and I wasn't gonna take anything less.” -Michael Jordan
Relationships give our lives meaning. Even at work, we can’t escape relationships and the different types of personalities that come along with them. As a leader, you manage important and fragile relationships built on trust. In this piece we will look at what makes a great leader, how to set your team up for success, and tips and tricks on managing different relationships and personalities on your team.
There's a huge difference between being a good manager and a good leader. Leaders become successful by creating a shared vision and by gathering team buy-in on that vision. Managers typically just assign work to be done and check in on status.
Take a moment to think about the best boss you’ve ever had. Did they manage you and tell you what to do in order to cross things off your to-do list or did they coach you on decisions to help you grow?
Let’s take a look at three qualities of a good leader:
It’s important for your team to buy into what they are working towards on a big picture level. All great leaders have a consistent message or motto they stand behind for their teams or tribes. Think about your company's mission. How does your team contribute to that larger goal? Have you shared your company's mission or strategy with your team? Have you shared with them how they contribute to those company goals?
When I start with a new company or team, the first thing I do is take a look at any existing strategy (if there is one) and re-establish or establish the goals. Then, in the first week, I set a meeting for all team members to align on the mission and strategy and ask questions. This helps create a sense of shared vision, since we are building the mission and strategy together.
Once the team is aligned on the shared vision, it’s important to constantly communicate any changes to your plan or or the company's plans or goals. When changes occur, you must consider how your team strategy might be impacted.
Before diving into the nitty gritty work, I always start team meetings by giving company and strategy updates . This drives the communication point forward because it gives the team a chance to ask questions in real time about shifts or changes in strategy. Plus they’ll have no surprises if their work is impacted.
It’s incredibly important to remember to be a human when you are leading others to success. Ask your team how they are doing. Make sure they know you remember their birthdays or their work anniversaries.
If someone needs a deadline extension, work with them to understand why and figure out the best solution, even if that means jumping in and offering to help. Not only will these little things create a happier work environment, they will also build trust with your team members.
Don’t forget that our job as leaders is to coach and inspire to create positive results, not to demand work and tasks to be completed.
What makes humans so awesome? Not one person is the same! And with that, it’s incredibly important, as in other forms of relationships, to get to know your people on an individual basis.
Here are some tips and tricks for managing the different types of people and personalities on your team, all while remaining consistent in your management style:
Make some time for an out-of-office one-on-one meeting or Zoom call where the purpose is to “catch up.” Use this time to get to know your direct reports personally and without an actual agenda to do with work. What drives them? What are they working towards? What are their goals? I like to share my story with my team members to loosen the mood and get to know me on a human level. From there, they will begin to open up and it will make for a great, non-work centric conversation! You can begin to understand what makes your team member tick, how to manage them in a different way from your other team members, and begin to really build that trusting relationship by being vulnerable with one another. Vulnerability is another great leadership quality.
Scheduling weekly one-on-one meetings with team members holds both the Leader and team members accountable. I like to use a Google document which is shared with the employee to outline our conversation bullet points, so they can see what we will be discussing beforehand. Team members are encouraged to come prepared with anything they want to discuss and add it to the document before we meet (which helps me prepare as well!).
In these meetings, I always set the expectation that this is more the team member than for me, so if there is anything they would like to discuss or want feedback on, this weekly one-on-one is the time. It sets the expectation that:
1. I value their time, and do not want to waste time in more meetings throughout the week.
2. We will have this one checkpoint this week for anything pressing, in an effort not to micromanage them so they can focus on their job at hand.
3. They need to put time into these meetings, and prepare for them which will help them level up for the future when they are hopefully running their own team!
When things get wild at work, team member tasks and to-do’s pile up quickly. I like to inspire my team not only by positive reinforcement via Slack or and other communication channels, but also by promoting teamwork.
Can someone else on the team help support you with a project? Can I take something off of your plate? Is the project or task you are working on not exciting you?
It’s important to answer those questions in your weekly one on one’s so as a leader we can be sure we are allowing our team members to feel inspired throughout your workday, which will bring out the best results in each individual. In our team meetings ask three questions (it can be fewer questions if you have a larger team) and go round robin in the room:
1. What are you looking forward to this week (personal or work related)?
2. What is the top priority task or project you are working on this week?
3. How can the team help support you?
These three questions bring the team together in a fun, lighthearted way and also humbles each team member by getting a visual into other work their team members are doing. Give it a try!
We all need to know where improvements can be made but also, where we did a kick-ass job on something to feel empowered. Don’t wait for annual review time to give your feedback to your team members. Give feedback often and consistently. Some of my best leaders have given me feedback weekly in our one-on-one’s. I try to do the same thing with my team members. No surprises, and quick improvements—this is a great way to pave the way to success for your team members and a way to help them level up quickly!
If there is one major takeaway from reading this, it’s to remain consistent in your communication and team vision on both a high level and in your one-on-ones. If there are changes to the vision, we need to be effective communicators and be as transparent as possible with our team members. Having compassion and empathy are great ways to build trust on a one-on-one basis as well as on a team level. Never underestimate the question “How are you doing today?” and how far that will go to build relationships with your team, different personalities and all.
One last thing to remember: managers have employees work for them— leaders work for their teams.
Have fun getting to know your people. As a leader, it’s the best part of the job!