At certain points in your career or when you're running a newly formed company, you might be able to escape managing teams. Your job position might have you acting in more of a consultative role rather than managing individuals.
If you're then asked to lead a team again, you can feel a bit rusty and uncomfortable with your leadership skills. Feeling unprepared in a leadership role can lead to unnecessary gaffes like mismanaging a feedback session, misleading a peer or demotivating a team member.
But no fear-- here are two ways to help you reset and regain your team leadership skills after some time away from management. Leveraging these approaches will help you to gain the necessary traction so that you can continue to manage a healthy leadership brand and a high functioning team.
Review Your Past Leadership Experiences
Even though it's been a while, it's good to revisit your old reviews, 360's and other data that might help you dissect and reconfirm some of your blind spots. Even if you believe that you don't have blind spots, there's always room to grow and become a better leader.
An entrepreneur that I worked with looked back at how he led and realized that he was expecting for members of his team to do something wrong. His mindset was problematic because he was wasting time looking only for issues when he could've been focusing on new initiatives. As a result of his analysis, he decided to try to make a mindset shift. While a mindset shift can be difficult to conquer, the most important first step is to create a plan of attack.
For example, his strategy was that in every meeting that he had with a team member, he would start the conversation with the intention that the person was focused only on doing the best job that the person could. Until he had the data to prove otherwise, he didn't look for someone trying to game the system or take advantage of him. As a result, he found that this mindset shift opened up his time to find creative ways to drive results versus spending time looking for what was going wrong.
Create a Roadmap to Manage the Team
Now that you've done a retrospective of your successes and blind spots as a leader, you need to determine how you'll manage the team. Simply, there are two functional areas you must consider--values and norms. These are the management drivers that you need to focus on first so that there is transparency as to how you want to lead the team and govern group dynamics.
Values are the measures and drivers by which you will evaluate how the team is progressing. Examples of team values might be creativity, fun or community. The key to selecting your team values is thinking about your team profile and the needs of the business. Once you have defined the levers, it's just as important to think about how you will measure success.
To measure success, reverse engineer, for example, what creativity doesn't look like so that you can push measures in place for evaluation. Many leaders push back on this part of the process because it seems too squishy or nonsensical. However, values are the foundation for managing a high functioning team.
After you've finished setting up the team values, then focus on norms. Norms are the guidelines that help to shape your team's interactions and behaviors. Examples of norms might be:
- No idea is a bad one
- Be transparent
- Alert the team to issues immediately, or
- Everyone must be on time for meetings-- not five minutes late
By setting up norms, there isn't wiggle room as to how the team might act or deliver work. One client that I worked with settled on a couple of values and norms he felt would drive success for the team. For example, his team norms were:
- It's important to share more ideas than to ho
- Come to any meeting with at least two solutions
Once he was set on the roadmap, he convened a team meeting to debate and agree upon his new, proposed guiding principles. Because the team understood the values and norms-- especially the concept that "no idea" is a bad one-- they didn't feel like they were being punished or "dinged" in idea generation meetings. That resulted in dramatically increased team creativity and happiness.
At many different points in your career, there will be times where you need to make a substantial shift in how you manage the team. Setting forth the time to take a look back and reset how you will lead will provide you with the roadmap for success.