To have an awesome team, be an awesome leader!

No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.” – Andrew Carnegie

My morning caramel nougat ice tea, reminds me that I was explaining recently that your team is a reflection of your leadership. You may have grown discontent with your team, you may not find yourself in their attitude, you may be complaining about them being lazy, about them gossiping, about them not being proactive, you may wish for them to change… well, what I always tell leaders and managers who complain about their teams is pretty straight-forward every time: it all comes down to you. You are always to be blamed. I can’t tell you immediately what it is that you’ve done and why you are to be blamed, but it is always something in your attitude that brought your team down to its current results. Both the good ones and the not so good ones. In sickness and in health… you know how they say “a fish always rots from the head down“. That’s why people joke that any man wants to change the world, but no one actually wants to change himself. Because it’s difficult.

Why does this happen? Some reasons I see that could cause this:

  • in most cases, people chose to follow you and you are a leader they value so your behavior, values, beliefs will probably get imitated;
  • people need role models – some of them may find that role model in you;
  • what gets rewarded gets done, what gets punished gets none;
  • if rules, objectives, strategy, company’s mission, vision and values are not clear, nothing will be;
  • if you’re too directive, people are used to wait for your approval;
  • if you’re too laissez faire, they are used to follow less rules and procedures;
  • if your team doesn’t trust you, they will act accordingly;
  • if you are the micromanager type, people are less likely to take up responsibilities and to consider themselves accountable for their actions and responsibilities;
  • if you rebel against the company you work for, most likely a lot of people will follow you.

I can go on like this for some bullets, but the point is that there has never been one case in my experience when the answer to the team’s or organization’s behavior was not actually in the leader’s own behavior, values or actions. So take a good look at your team or your company. Breathe. Assess the results, values, actions and behavior. And now take an even deeper breath and realize you are responsible for all of them. You are “to be blamed” for the good, the bad and the ugly in your team and organization. Feels lonely at the top, right? But the view is unimaginable. 

Do you want to change your team? Change the man in the mirror first!

Step 1: Responsibility, no quick wins and bonus points – Understand that there are no quick miracles, no gurus that will help you change all the people in your team. It is not about changing the people, it is about changing the job behaviors of people, about changing the way the team acts. It’s different. And possible. It all starts with the general on the horse. Unfortunately, just like in everything worth mentioning in your life so far, it is never about shortcuts and quick wins. You have to go the extra mile and change your leadership style, start with the person in the mirror, go and have an honest and extensive chat with yourself and try to understand why it is that your team is acting the way it is acting now, what in your behavior is causing the goods and the bads. What it is that you should change so that your team could change as well?

Step 2: It’s not about you – it’s your fault, it’s the team’s accomplishment – Forget about the laurels and extra hero levels. Your team will always get the credit if you are to be the leader of an awesome proactive company. However, you will have your perks, rest assured: the blame. The blame will always be on you. That’s what a leader does. Just like a parent, just like any sports team captain or general. The leader gets the blame and responsibility. But all laurels go to the team. And the leader will there at the top, lonely but happy. And of course recognition will come to his side of the road as well, in time.

Step 3: Don’t forget to check your hiring routine from time to time – Many managers and leader pick similar people when hiring. This helps the leader-team reflection phenomenon even more. Try when choosing between 2 candidates to consider how they fit your profile and whether they should in fact be similar to you or complement you as part of the same team.

Step 4: There is only one way to lead: by example – And by encouraging others at the same time. If you say one thing and do another, there will be some that will follow your say and not your lead. But how many will consider you a fraud? People will see right through sooner or later and will realize that you are carrying fire in one hand and water in the other. There will never be the same power in your message as if you were practicing what you preach.

Step 5: No micromanaging – I know I’ve said it a million time. I will say it again, no worries. In my opinion, this is leadership rule no. 1 in my opinion. Of course, there are people who preffer a more directive leadership style. But being directive to a point doesn’t equal micromanaging.

Step 6: Remember, anything you say can and will be misinterpreted more than you think. Make communication your goal and core responsibility – Yes, it will be wrongly interpreted, even by the people you feel you communicate well with

Step 7: Set clear standards – Be clear about what behaviours and attitudes you encourage and which you don’t. As I keep saying, what gets rewarded gets done, what gets punished gets none.

Step 8: Always be open to feedback and admit when you are wrong – That easy. That difficult.

Are there any other things you felt worked for you as a leader in order to change yourself, your leadership style or your team?

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