Your Own Worst Enemy
If you have a team of motivated people, consider yourself lucky. This is an asset that can make things happen for you. We have to remember that individuals are real people and it’s only when they work together for you that they are your team. Leadership means taking responsibility for keeping the team together and on your side. There’s more going on than the pay-cheque or the name on the office desk. Your behaviour will make or break the team, and there’s nothing worse than a broken team that only shows up so they get paid. There are some behaviours that clearly bring teams to life. It’s also a good idea to create an imaginary bad leader, a straw person, that we can compare ourselves to and work to be unlike.
The team is not psychic and they can’t feel your presence. Worse still, they might subconsciously believe they can and then allude to what they think you might want or be thinking. You are important and you need to attend. It’s important to be in the room and be available for communication. No ivory towers. A lot of work is done virtually with remote teams in the modern-day. So in these instances, you need to be an active participant in the communication process. Checking in, being on the roster of video participants, sending emails, and using the telephone, all count toward being present. Otherwise, the team will feel your absence and begin to lose cohesion with your agenda.
We all know about bonsai trees, we trim their roots and keep them in small pots. They grow into tiny versions of what they could have become. This is what some leaders do to their teams. They prevent growth and learning by undermining and preventing in equal amounts. It can be based on fear or intimidation, or simple selfishness, or it can be a learned behaviour they don’t even think about. We need to allow team members to feel capable of their whole potential. They need more than enough resources to get the job done and develop as professionals.
Not listening and assuming yourself to know better for any reason is where communication breaks down. There might be instances when you do know better, and other times you will not. Whatever the case, you are responsible for the team and it’s your job to listen with interest both personally and professionally. Listening with open ears doesn’t grade people according to their skills, usefulness, or wealth. A child, a rich woman, and a caretaker all have equally as important things to say. Once we have heard them, an unassuming and equal-footed response is all they need.
You’re in charge, that’s a fact. This is a human situation and not an animal one. It’s not the place of the leader to be overbearing on their team. Letting go and valuing each others’ independence and competence is how to provide a fertile environment. If we are always there, upsetting their work by pointing out everything, forcing them to stop and change their methods, and asking their reasons for each thing they do, they’ll stop feeling comfortable. There might be times when it’s necessary to look into a person’s processes yet unless there is a good reason, it’s otherwise very unhelpful. Always getting one over on your team by having the very last word every time and undermining their perfectly decent suggestions just so you don’t have to do it will show you up to be a weak leader, not a strong one.