‘Follow the leader’ played all too often

Did you ever play the game Follow the Leader as a kid? The game didn’t make much sense and I don’t think there were any rules. One person would be the leader and take the rest of the group up and over and through an obstacle course.

Did you ever play the game Follow the Leader as a kid?

The game didn’t make much sense and I don’t think there were any rules. One person would be the leader and take the rest of the group up and over and through an obstacle course.

Every kid wanted a chance to be the leader. Usually the group would get bored with the repetition and the game would end, often in an argument.

I regularly see a similar game “played” in businesses.

Decisions are often made in isolation, based on the leader’s understanding of the issues.

Orders or instructions are given to the team and they head off in that direction. Targets aren’t clear and can even be a bit unrealistic. Team members aren’t asked for input and struggle along.

Team members are soon at odds and tension mounts. Eventually there’s resistance and the project and work environment deteriorates.

If there are no opportunities to field questions and share information, tempers flare and the team falls apart.

TEAM stands for: Together Everyone Achieves More. It’s proven that the collective efforts of a team achieve greater results than the individual alone. Yet traditional managers are not convinced.

Everyone has a belief system about themselves and their environment which in turn motivates their behaviour.

People are empowered through a need to participate and to be recognized for their efforts.

Dream teams are not built through recruitment and training alone. Any number of people will apply for a job and have the right credentials or experience. And most will probably be able to perform tasks during training.

However, knowing the job and carrying out the duties don’t necessarily guarantee that they’ll perform at this level on a day-to-day basis. How do you ensure you have the right people on the bus?

Most leaders don’t know what elements are necessary to influence individuals to perform consistently and work as a team. Years of accumulated experience and expertise are a huge resource to any organization.

The underlying strength behind every team is the diversity each member brings to it.

This blending of talent and experience comes together to support a common and shared sense of purpose.

A leader is the most influential team member.

This person must set the example and “walk the talk.”

Their role is to inspire the team to do what is necessary to achieve goals by demonstrating optimism about the team’s ability to get the job done. A good leader asks for input from each team member and regularly reviews each person’s role in the business.

Trust is the single most important ingredient for the team and leader relationship. This critical factor supports effective communication and collaboration across departments.

It also indicates confidence in, and respect for, the individual and the team. There is a willingness to seek fair treatment and just resolutions to difficult situations.

A good leader must have the courage to be human, admit mistakes, apologize if necessary, but get right back on track. By example, they foster trust among the team by being worthy of that trust through their own actions.

A leader knows that the team’s reputation has a higher priority than enhancing or protecting their own.

Does your business have clear and open vision, mission and culture statements? Encourage everyone to contribute their ideas, talents and resources to these living documents.

It’s imperative that a leader include all team members when setting and achieving team goals.

Communicate openly and frequently to ensure everyone knows their role, the plans, the ground rules, the issues, the progress and the expected results. People will perform at their best when they know specifics — there is no need to assume or make things up. Individuals are more accountable for their results when they’ve had input to the plan.

The team’s success is influenced by the work environment. Does your business environment support risk-taking as a positive behavior?

Adequate training and the right equipment is essential. But do you ensure all team members feel they can contribute their opinions and ideas? Are they encouraged to try new things and give feedback on existing strategies?

You may think this is the case, but how do you find this out? You simply have to ask.

Many organizations realize the importance of employee satisfaction on the bottom line. It costs significantly less to retain a team member than to hire a new one.

So listen to their ideas about how to improve the work environment to help them be more efficient, productive and happy. Empower your team to be leaders and look forward to success.

ActionCoach is published on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month in the Business section of the Advocate. It is written by John MacKenzie, whose Red Deer business ActionCoach helps small- to medium-sized organizations in areas like succession planning, systems development, sales and marketing, and building/retaining quality teams. MacKenzie can be contacted by email at johnmackenzie@actioncoach.com or by phone at 403-340-0880.

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