Team Leadership is part 2 of the Leadership skills 101 series for the technical person.
You will learn my top tips in the 5 main areas of team leadership:
Trust; Building a Team; Inspiring on a common goal; Developing talent; and Accountability.
If your leadership is impersonal, focussed more on financial or technical success than empowering your team - you're leaving a lot of money on the table - this episode is for you.
You CAN develop the skills of a high-acheiving leader that will propel you up the ladder for the rest of your leadership career.
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Hi everyone. My name is Dex Randall and this is the Burnout to Leadership Podcast where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work. Hello my friends. This is Dex back with you again for this week's episode of the Burnout to Leadership Podcast where we're really gonna talk about foundation team leadership skills. And this is the second episode in a series of three on Leadership 101, basically, the soft skills of leadership. So if you haven't already listened to episode number 65 on executive skills for the technical person, then you might wanna go back and do that. But today, so I'm really gonna focus on the leadership skills that many of us lack when we first become leaders, if we come from this hands on kind of senior expert role. So we might have been wildly successful in our own right often as kind of high achieving soloists dragging a team of fairly compliant support staff in our way. And then we get promoted into leadership based on that without any really strong guidance about how to change our MO from being a doer with a team behind us to being a leader whose job is to develop out that team. And the real truth is and you'll know that, you'll know that this has happened to you is that most of us aren't very good at that. Brilliant we may be but we're used to creating success from our personal expertise. We might already be running a team but we are used to having everything done our way at an extremely high standard. And really we don't want to abandon that tried and tested formula for success particularly to a bunch of more junior staff who clearly aren't at our level. You get me? I'm laughing 'cause that was me back in my role. I used to work in software development and I managed a big team of people, many teams of people. Anyhow. If we have this mindset of having things done our way it really leads to frustration, mistrust, resentment, often very mixed results, lack of loyalty, disputes and confusion. And it also leads to de motivation, disengagement and staff turnover. People don't wanna work for us. I scarcely need to suggest to you that wishing everybody would do things like you is neither the path to glory as a leader nor the path to happiness. Because really being elevated to true leadership really means transitioning from personal power to empowering your team to create these off the chart results and success. Ensure it stops being about you. Sorry about that. And I'm guessing that although people frustrate you with their stupid errors and their "laziness", in inverted commas, you probably secretly love mentoring them anyway. You love developing them and you love to do that, but as long as they don't damage your brand on the way, as long as they don't make too many mistakes. And empowering your leadership it was... It's really gonna leverage the goodness of you and them. It's gonna bring greater success than you've ever imagined as well as creating this kind of well oiled machine that really satisfies you to run. So I think you can gauge for yourself whether it's worth investing your time in this transition and thinking about the transition. But if you've ascended the ladder in this way from being a professional expert into a leadership position and you're finding that tough to deal with, you're not alone. It's really quite typical for people like this in this kind of transition. But one of the ways we can look at it is, okay, ask yourself in the first place, "What actually is my job as a leader? What am I trying to achieve? What does success look like?" And your initial answer might be all about costs, budgets, deadlines, revenue targets, new projects, troubleshooting, quality control and often about resourcing and hiring as well. But fundamentally I think it comes down to this, inviting and inspiring your team to resolve all of those issues not trying to fix it yourself. So there's five aspects of teamwork that I think it's profitable to focus on to create the kind of leadership that others will respect, admire, value and ultimately seek out that are gonna bring you consistent success regardless of the discipline that you're working in. And those five foundational areas are trust, building a team, inspiring them to a common goal, talent development and giving credit and taking responsibility. So we're gonna look at each of those in turns. So let's start with trust. And by trust I mean you trusting your team. We'll come to the other way round in a minute. So this is all about relinquishing your experience in hands on work. Whatever you do for a living you've been doing it in a hands on work and producing results like that. Now you're gonna have to relinquish that. You're gonna have to stop overworking and over efforting to produce results. You're gonna have to mentor, maintain and train your team members and you're gonna have to find a way to trust in their abilities. And I think the biggest thing to overcome on the way there is overcoming your own perfectionism. If like me, you operated at a super high level, then your perfectionism is what you've trusted until now to produce the results for you. Always keeping yourself in that top couple of percent so there's a place in this if you're gonna develop a team where you have to overcome your own perfectionistic tendencies when that style of thinking comes up and just release it into kind of the greater good into this future that you can see of having a high performing team. And it's also about recognizing the great potential in your people and being willing to mentor them at their pace to their next level of that, not force feeding them to get them there all at once. Because really you're better off not trying to clone you. It's much better for you and for them to develop their unique gifts. And if you want to do a bit of study on this there's a book called Big Potential by Shawn Achor and it's all about how a team will always outperform an individual regardless of how stellar the individual is. And I think it's a lot of stuff that I haven't got time to say in this podcast episode and it's well worth a read if you are running a team or about to start running a team. And I think also part of trusting your people is letting go of the urgency to solve every problem yourself because that urgency has probably been a big part of your MO until now. Any slight sign of something not going right you've felt impelled to pounce on it and fix it right away and that's not gonna work very well with a team. Your team are gonna experience that as pressure. They're gonna have to find a way of letting off a bit of steam on that urgency and just sitting back and thinking, okay, I'm going to empower the team to resolve this problem. It may not be an instant fix because teams are empowered in an evolutionary way. It's not, okay, today I'm in charge of a team and tomorrow they're all gonna be brilliant or else. That isn't... I think you already know that it can't possibly function that way. So when you experience this desire to solve every problem yourself you are also going to want to take over whenever a team member gets into trouble or can't solve something or make some mistakes. So the other urge you're gonna have to confront in yourself is this urge to take over because taking over automatically disempowers and disengages the person that you are working with. They'll be and they'll be disappointed. They'll feel probably embarrassed or humiliated or belittled because you didn't empower them, mentor them to solve the problem for themselves. So those are some of the issues you might experience about trusting your team. And just think about those, like replay that, think about where this applies to you. Examine your mind and examine the triggers that you have that cause you to want to overpower your team and solve problems yourself because you can train yourself out of those tendencies and it will support you and your team in the long run. So number two is building a team in the first place. Really understanding how team member skills contribute to results, who and how to hire and when to move people on if they're not a good fit for you. And I think the thing that holds us back in that aspect of leadership of actually constructing the right team is again it's we want everybody to think and behave like us. We have difficulty in believing in team skills, in their solutions, in their ideas. Anytime they differ from what we think, we think that automatically they're wrong and that needs to be overcome because inspect everybody in the world is not going to be like you but these people will create success in ways you don't anticipate. They'll create success in ways that you yourself wouldn't. They just will never do it the same way as you. They can't. They're an individual with their own talents, their own experiences, their own assets. So whilst you can teach and mentor them they'll still never be you. The next problem with building a team is if you are hiring, there may be a tendency in you, the perfectionist tendency raising again to find all of the job applicants unworthy. You can find something wrong with each of them and naturally you can because you're not hiring somebody to be at your level, you're hiring somebody at a lower level so naturally they won't be as good as you. You will be able to find fault with them if that's what you're looking for. But really it's not about that. It's developing out people with the right asset. Hiring people with the right attributes, the right attitude and choosing to develop their skills until they raise up in their standard of work. But having a basic trust again in them to be able to do that and having a basic trust in yourself to be able to know how to develop talent. The other block you might come across is being unwilling to rectify genuinely poor behavior or substandard behavior. So if you do hire somebody and they make a mistake or they don't solve a problem or they've neglected to take care of something or they haven't anticipated something that they might have, a lot of us who are perfectionists, type A perfectionists coming to leadership, are also people pleasers ourselves. And it becomes sometimes difficult for us to confront somebody with their errors. So we owe it with respect to our team members to bring things to their attention that need to be resolved. And if we're not willing to do that, if we're not willing to have that direct and honest discussion with them and give them an opportunity to step up, then the problem lies with us. So if you can see that in yourself it's also a note to self, "Okay, what do I need to do to become willing to constructively work on this deficiency or this error directly with this team member and give them an opportunity to correct?" And then the last thing is when you're building a team and you're looking for people to hire or to bring into the team is not seeing which complimentary skills would benefit your team. So if you're thinking about creating a team that's a clone of you, you probably won't notice that there are skills missing in you or in your team makeup that it would be great to hire for or recruit for. So really think about diversity. It's been proven, I know we're all about DEI these days but there's a reason for that. Well, there's many reasons for that but one of them is diversity always strengthens a team because it gives you a much broader scope of problems that you can solve. It gives you a much broader base of perspectives, attitudes, upbringing beliefs, approaches that will strengthen your team's ability to creatively solve problems. So it's very much in your favor to hire for diversity. Again, I would direct you back to Shawn Achor's book, Big Potential, which talks about this in detail but you're gonna outperform if you don't get a kind of homogenised set of people working on your team. So that's number two. A few of the fundamentals and mistakes you might make in building your team and how to counteract those. So number three let's say you've got a team, you've inherited one or you've built one or you're building one, how to inspire them to a common goal? Because often when we inherit a team they're absolutely the opposite of that. They're distrustful and resentful. They're not working well together, they're not playing well together. So our ability to unify and inspire a team to all lean in towards a common goal is very very important to our success and their success. So again if we haven't understood the benefits of diversity to success, refer to my previous point, it will be very well for us to do that. And it will be very well for for us to learn how to respect and highlight the benefits of that diversity within the team context, so within the team meeting is to note, publicly notice what skills each person is bringing to the team and highlight that within the team. The next block to inspiring a team to work together is thinking that success is largely technical skills not soft skills. But really most of human success is predicated on good communication. And that's not to downplay technical skills and experience, it's just that your job is to bond that skills... Those technical skills together via connection, communication, sharing a goal. So rather than just championing the people who have the best technical skills really it will be about also bringing in the connectors and helping them sort of creatively bond with you and with other team members. Another block is we don't really understand team bonding and unity and we don't really understand shared motivation. We haven't needed it so much in our kind of solo technical careers because we've been top of the heap telling people what to do quite often. So some of it will be about appreciating the value of human connection, of human relationships. Every person in your team is a human with their own aspirations. And I think understanding the basis of that, again back to Shawn Achor's book on Big Potential will help you with this, understanding how to keep your team happy and how to prioritize keeping your team happy is gonna become important to you. We can't be domineering leaders but we can for a little bit, but it doesn't work as well as team bonding. Here's another one. If we're trying to inspire a team to work with us, not against us, regarding a team member asking questions as weak or deficient or stupid is really not gonna help us. And I think on the same kind of vein talking over people when they have ideas in meetings or rejecting their kind of left field creative ideas, talking them down, not wanting to listen, not wanting to value their contribution, shutting them down, is the same as not respecting them for asking questions. It's basically saying, "I'm right and you're wrong," and that's not going to empower you. So anytime you feel that urge coming up in you, you'll be able to with time train yourself to notice it. Oh, I feel like talking over this person or I feel like shutting this person down or I feel like judging this person. You'll start to notice that in yourself and you can self correct. And I think another strand of that is failure intolerance. When we're in a group setting and we think that somebody's let the side down or made a mistake, are we willing to hold that and stay focused on the solution rather than kind of demonizing the problem or the person who we think caused the problem? And I think coming back to trust. We have quite often difficulty trusting the team to solve their own problems. And really if we take it on ourselves to solve problems, how are we team building? What are our responsibilities here? Is it to solve every problem ourselves? Is it to become so overburdened and overworked that we can't have time for leadership? Or is it to develop the maximum power in our team which really multiplies the good effect of our knowledge within the team? So when we've addressed all of those issues that I've talked about, what we do is we really pull the team together. It starts to become clear to the team that we do trust them, that we do want solutions to come from them, that we do empower them to have those creative ideas. It starts pulling them in and it starts pulling them in in alignment with their own aspirations to work towards a common goal they feel more a part of. So really that's when we can unify people around a goal, it really helps to create a culture where the team trusts us. So important. Number four, then, talent development. We need to create a system for retaining and developing talent. And sometimes the reason we don't... We're not very skilled at that is we don't understand what truly motivates our people. And it really is never dollars, it's never... It's almost never financial. When you look at the motivation of most people in their work what they want most to improve, some of them might say money but what they... Most people are more motivated by being a valued contributor, by experiencing reward in their role and growth in their role, by respect and trust, and equal participation, having a voice, and some autonomy in their role. So if we haven't discovered what really motivates our team then it's gonna be very difficult to inspire their trust and loyalty, their sense of engagement with the team, and it will be very well for us to begin to ask what motivates them. Another block is we haven't connected personally with our team members. We've been very business like because that's how we've been trained to be. We've been trained to focus on problem solving and creating results rather on personal attributes. We might think about that as a waste of time but really if you haven't connected personally with your team members then you haven't engaged with what's important to them in their lives. So getting to know your team members as humans outside of work, who's their partner, who's their family, what's happening at home for them. When you start to get to know them on that level it's really going to help them engage with you on anything that's your agenda because now suddenly you've recognized that they have other things of importance happening in their lives. You started to value them as a human. The other thing that might hold you back is you're not creating psychological safety within the team. And we talked about that a little bit in the last point which is about inspiring and inviting your team to have a sense of belonging, to have a sense of common goal, to trust one another, to have a voice and be allowed to speak and be creative and ask the silly questions. If you haven't created that kind of psychological safety within the team then it's gonna be really quite difficult to develop out the talent of that team. And also maybe what's happening there in the team is you have a private vision for their future, but maybe you haven't shared that vision with them and maybe it's not based on their aspirations, so that's gonna be different for each person. What matters to them, where they see themselves going with their work now and into the future, what they want from their careers. If you don't understand those things, then it's going to be difficult for you to share a vision that connects with them on their own aspirations. And of course where there isn't psychological safety, where there isn't trust within the team, you're gonna make it very difficult for them to come to you with their problems and ideas. And really you need to know what the problems are and you need to know what the scope of their ideas is because this is gonna be the source material that you support them to create success with. You must know about problems. If you have a team that hides problems then you're really in trouble. If you don't ask them what the problems are or if you ask them and they won't say or if they don't volunteer their problems to you, it's an indication that they don't really trust, that it's safe for them to do that. So that's an area where you can promote them to have an open voice without blame or judgment. So think about how you're really gonna do that. How do I create the safety for them to come to me with their problems without me displaying any kind of adverse reaction towards them for doing it? And the same about my leadership. If I'm not open to hearing negative feedback about my leadership then again I'm not empowering the team. I'm not empowering myself either. So any negative feedback is useful to know. Right? It really helps us grow, it really helps us create better success. So we have to create an environment where it's okay for anybody to share negative feedback with us about our leadership, and that's how really you empower the most success inducing team development. And lastly number five, accountability. It's so important for us as leaders to take responsibility for team failures whilst giving the team credit for their own successes. And for some of us that's probably gonna go against the grain. It might be a little bit hard for you to give credit to others. I mean, this is really a little bit similar to being unwilling to delegate. We regard ourselves as the source of power of success and we regard our way as the only way, so it can be a little bit difficult to hand over the credit to other people but this is what inspires better and better engagement and performance from them. How are they gonna trust us if we steal the credit for their ideas? And the converse of that is when somebody in your team makes a mistake you might feel like blaming them and that's really saying, "Oh, well you made a mistake. It's your fault," rather than, "You made a mistake. I wonder how my leadership let you down. I wonder how I didn't support you in this. Or I wonder how I can support you better in the future." It's my job as a leader to do that, to develop out each team member's talent. So if somebody fails, how did I fail them and how can I not fail them in the future? What do they need from me to not make this mistake again? You might also worry if you have a team member failure or a mistake in your team, you might be worrying what the executive team are gonna think about you if you take responsibility for the failure or even if you don't. But really people in the executive team will also trust you more if you man up and take responsibility for your mistakes because they can see you are genuine authentic in integrity and willing to go into bat for your team which is an incredible asset. And as I've just said, I mean, it's not necessarily the common one that we all have as leaders when we first get there. So taking responsibility for team failures and giving your team members credit for their own successes are extremely powerful tools in stimulating success in your team and loyalty within your team as well. The churn rate in your team will be because they don't get on with you as a leader. It probably won't be because they don't like the job because good leadership will always transcend difficulties in the operational side of work. So that's my five areas where I think as technical people rising to leadership, if we haven't had the training to take in these aspects of leadership, it will help us very much to devote time to those. This is all of the material that I cover with my students in the second half of their Burnout To Leadership coaching program. Once they're out of burnout, feeling quite chipper, having a good time at work themselves personally, then we go on to develop out leadership skills which is their opportunity to magnify their talents for the remainder of their career and keep rising smoothly up the ladder. Because a lot of my clients do get promoted during the course of the program and quite often to a high leadership position where they need these skills so this is what I teach. Because also it's enormously rewarding and fulfilling to have a sweetly running team. I think of it, in my own case, was even more rewarding than personal success. It probably didn't feel like that to me when I began in leadership but as I acquired the skills, the people skills it certainly includes an element of connection and belonging and sort of shared endeavor towards the goal that I personally have found incredibly exciting and I've loved it ever since. So if you're listening today and you are in burnout or if you are struggling to create leadership success because of some of the things that I've talked about here, listen for the link at the end. You must come and talk to me about how to recover quickly and sustainably and get back to your best performance, leadership and most of all enjoyment inside your burnout. Thank you for listening today. If you are in burnout and ready to recover, come and join my Burnout To Leadership program. You can book in to talk with me at burnout.dexrandall.com. Just tell me what's bugging you and let's make a plan to fix it.