Your Team Doesn’t Need A Parent

The new workplace is more fluid and job titles are becoming less important. Many of today’s employees seek interesting projects with meaningful problems to solve. They want meaningful work and not just titles.

One major change in organizations is that in these new types of project-oriented spaces, teams do more and more without first seeking approval from those who are above them. People in non-management positions are acting and thinking more like traditional leaders.
And in many organizations, this is exactly the kind of team member that is wanted. Those who are problem solvers that can work with varied peer groups, keep themselves organized and on task and move forward on their own with confidence. Essentially being their own boss.

So, if organizations are looking for this kind of team member and the traditional “nanny” type manager is no longer needed, what is the role of the leader in this new world?
Simply put, you should be there to share your experience. You are the extra cog, the extra ball bearing. A floater. Someone with confidence and experience who can transition from one part of a project to another to help where help is needed. Leaders are now the support staff—not to say you should be making copies and bringing some one coffee (though maybe sometimes that is the most useful thing you could be doing for your team), but you are there as the multi-tool.

Imagine being this kind of leader who trusts his team members to do their jobs and doesn’t “helicopter-parent” yet drops in on a parachute with a light touch and a wisdom based suggestion just when the team needs it.

Leaders and Trust

When it comes to leadership, it is hard to think of something more important than trust. One could be talented, with an impressive CV. One could say the quote unquote “right things” but if one doesn’t have his colleagues trust, they have nothing.

Trust is difficult because it isn’t something one can do. It isn’t a bullet point on a resume. It’s pathos—an emotional connection with your peers. And it has two roots. It requires a strong belief on the part of you peers that you have their best interests in mind. Second, it requires a strong belief that you have the ability and knowledge to act on that vested interest.

So how does one plant the seed that will grow roots and flower with trust? Asking people for their advice and listening to them. People need to be heard. One needs to take an interest in what is important to their peers. This makes people feel they have validation. One must always be genuine. There is no middle ground when it comes to “playing politics.” One either has agendas or they don’t.

This influence is key for any leader, but it can also help anyone who would like to exert positive influence over the peers even if they are not a leader.

Use Body Language to Signal Confidence

Appearing confident (even if one isn’t) is very much about body language and to exude confidence we must present a “total package.”

First, steady eye contact is a must. Looking around, looking to a digital device, to the side or to the ground is a no-no. Eye contact makes people feel important and engaged.

There are a lot of opinions about handshakes and while a lot of people dislike “firm” handshakes, that is because many people over do it. Don’t crush someone’s hand but do be firm. Also, don’t play the game of trying to be the last to let go, this is more likely to lead to awkwardness than make one look confident.

Another way to create a persona of confidence is to engage someone by very lightly touching their shoulder. President Obama is famous for doing this. It can signal leadership, confidence and put the other person at ease.

When speaking to a group keep your feet firmly planted on the ground. Shifting your weight or crossing and uncrossing your legs makes you look nervous and fidgety. Take up space with your hands. Don’t be afraid to fill the empty space physical with your presence. Gesturing while speaking and filling the space with your presence with controlled and calculated movements will make you seem more confident, however be careful not to do it too much or too quickly, this can look chaotic.