Stop wasting time with meaningless meetings, whatever kind of organizations you’ve been a part of, sure you’ve attended a meeting that could have been an email. Make sure only necessary team members attend—there is nothing worse then attending a meeting that doesn’t apply to you. Do your best to keep everyone engaged, don’t allow for distractions (instruct that cell phones are to be left outside).
While the cliché stands that two or more minds is better than one actually making a group decision is quite challenging even when the decision is of smaller consequence. To improve group decision making make sure you define the task. Choose the right team members to work with to come to a decision. Set criteria for the decision to be made. Brainstorm and set in stone several options before voting or discussing. Come up with a pre-agreed upon selection process. Develop plans to put the decision into action. Evaluate the effectiveness of the decision and the process that created it.
As you improve yourself you need to support your employees in their personal development. It is important as it makes everyone on the team better. Give team members time to fully engage with new learning and skill development. You might even develop some in-house opportunities for essential skill sets for new team members. Follow up with your team members and discuss what they’ve learned and how they are applying it. When everyone is always improving there will be fewer stoppages to instruct in areas where team members lack.
Take the lead with self-care and self-learning. Demonstrate by doing. You are effectiveness as leader is dependent on your own health and personal improvement.
Healthier people usually have more energy, think more clearly, have a longer attention span and don’t get sick as often. Good leaders should be eating a healthy diet—consult your physician on what this may mean for you. Strive to get enough, quality sleep. Do your best to partake in physical activity—you might even make group exercise a part of your team’s day on occasion. Try to mitigate stress.
Being a good leader means staying on top of your game. Don’t feel pressured to always have all the answers, but you should always be learning new skills, studying new subject matter and developing your leadership tools. While you are surely busy you’ll want to make the best use of your time. Commit. Set real deadlines and block out time for self-improvement on your calendar in pen. Immediately find ways to put new knowledge, skills and tools into practice. You don’t actually learn until you use new knowledge.
Finally, celebrate your successes. This will help subconsciously reinforce the value of a healthy lifestyle and ongoing learning.
However new your organization is it will have automatically have a “culture” to some degree—this will largely be created by the mix of team members you have already assembled. From here there are two things that need to happen—first look at your team and decide what the core values of the culture are.
What is it you want to promote in your culture? What do you want to dissuade? There is no one right answer and despite changing trends and unfamiliar even unusual types of workplaces there is always a small contingent of people who like doing things the old-fashioned way.
It is important to find out what is important to your current team members and come to consensus on what kind of dynamic you want to create in your shared space and in the work you do together. Once you do that you should begin to look for new people to add to this team.
It should be clear that skill and ability are not the only factors to consider. If you are interviewing a potential new team member who seems pretty straight laced and traditional and you run the kind of organization that likes to take random dance breaks or have ping pong tournaments during work hours you might want to ask about them about the kind of organizational culture they feel they thrive under.
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.
One can read a hundred articles about the best leadership traits or ten mistakes new leaders make—and this is written with the irony understood that this is yet another article on leadership—and if one took notes they would probably find that there is, out there in the ether, generally accepted knowledge about leadership.
Think of leadership in terms of the order in which on takes college course work and earns a degree. As an underclassman many of the classes one takes, the 101s, cover the history and best practices of the subject matter. Students memorize pertinent facts and theories and get to practice them on a small scale. As an upperclassman, students begin debating and testing theories, the projects include real-world application. Grades are based more on how you use what you know than what you know. You start build wisdom, not just knowledge.
As we know wisdom comes from experience. Talk to other leaders, share your experiences. Ask each other how you have put knowledge into practice and what were the outcomes? While anecdotal evidence doesn’t make for the most scientific data, discussion and sharing lets us share wisdom, which in the world of leadership is probably more valuable than another article which sites several studies that conclude praise is most appreciated on Tuesdays after lunch time.
Once you have become a student of the knowledge of leadership, the next step is to share wisdom (experience) among your peers and learn from each other.
There are some common mistakes that all leaders, new and veteran, should avoid.
First and most importantly, many leaders do not trust their team members and either micromanager the team or take on too much work themselves. Focus on outcomes, not how things happen. Don’t insist on being kept in the loop on the minutia—no one likes feel like they are being spied on.
Next is a symptom of the modern world and that is being overly connected. While often the characteristic of new leaders wanting to seem “in on” the digital revolution, many veterans may see over-connectivity as a way to make themselves seem still relevant and with the times.
Modern technology encourages not just leaders but employees to be tuned in all the time and never shut down from the work day. This can lead to what is being commonly called “hurry sickness”. This “disease” makes us feel that because of technology and being constantly connected we continually have to do more and do it faster.
For the leader, stretching oneself too thin over digital communication actually makes them less accessible, not more so. Likewise, do not expect this from team members, set clear boundaries for everyone and let the team know that the work day has a clear beginning and end.
The last mistake we will address is a “classic” in leadership discourse. That is, needing to be liked. Even in organizations that are almost 100% “just for fun” whoever is in charge is going to have to make decisions at times that are not popular among all team members. Even if this is your adult softball team or a Fortune 500 company.
Many new leaders misinterpret the respect and understanding they see team members giving other leaders as “being liked” or even friendship. While respect and understanding are not mutually exclusive from friendship or “being liked” they are far from the same thing.
More often than not in trying to please everyone, leaders will please no one. But if they make logical decisions that are best overall for the team and are based on the available facts of a situation that leader will earn respect and understanding even if a decision is not popular.