No one said leadership was going to be a walk in the park. You might not be performing work on the front lines anymore. However, your decisions and interactions with your team directly impact the work that gets done on those front lines.
Leaders are responsible for their performance and that of each person on their team. It’s a challenge that requires a willingness to take risks, admit mistakes, inspire, provide direction, and summon inner strength. Whether you’re in charge of a group for the first time or a seasoned manager, growth opportunities always exist.
Becoming a good leader is even more demanding with remote and hybrid work. Now you have to find ways to bring and keep the team together from afar. Despite the increase in what you have to juggle, here are four ways you can improve your effectiveness as a team leader.
1. Open the Lines of Communication
To lead effectively, all managers need to establish trust within their teams. Communication is often perceived as the road to trust, since individuals usually aren’t confident about others they’re unfamiliar with.
While team-building is important for group synergy, a weekly one-on-one meeting with each employee is just as critical. These meetings give you and your team members a chance to get to know each other. As their manager, you’ll gain a sense of what obstacles and opportunities employees are facing. You can work together to outline their goals, set performance expectations, and identify training, mentoring, or resource needs.
Ideally, these touch-base sessions give each of your direct reports a comfortable and safe place to express their perspectives. Individual meetings also set the groundwork for developing working relationships, discovering similarities, and building trust. Research shows that direct supervisors influence 70% of the variability in employee engagement levels. Regular, personal interaction sends a message that you’re invested in each team member’s development and success.
2. Know Your Strengths
Conventional wisdom implies that improvement comes from overcoming your weaknesses. However, you’re more likely to become a more effective leader by playing to your strengths. You may already know what some of your strong suits are, but there may be others you haven’t discovered yet.
To help pinpoint what your leadership strengths are, start with what motivates you as a manager. In other words, why did you decide to pursue a role that involves guiding others? Maybe it was to help people achieve new heights or influence an organization’s overall direction. Or perhaps you noticed your co-workers’ low morale and wanted to help remove performance obstacles and energize the team.
Knowing your why helps reveal your management style and how you approach different areas of leadership. Assessment tools like CliftonStrengths, High5, and others can help identify areas of strength and reveal how you can master each leadership domain. Part of managing others includes how you make sure tasks get done and the way you influence others. The other half encompasses how you analyze information and the way you build relationships.
Instead of focusing on one area that you excel in, you can pinpoint what you’re good at in every domain. You could be great at time management and follow-up and equally good at motivating individual performance. Perhaps you do better with qualitative data versus numbers and have exceptional listening skills. By leveraging your existing talents, you’ll become an even better leader. You won’t waste time trying to master things that don’t come naturally.
3. Develop a Mentoring Mindset
One of the conventions in creative writing is to show rather than tell. Instead of spelling everything out, the goal is to immerse readers in the characters’ experiences. The same approach applies to effective leadership. Sure, you can tell employees exactly what they should do and micromanage each step they take. But that approach accomplishes little, as your team members learn to not think for themselves or display their creative chops.
Micromanagement burdens leaders because they have to do their jobs and their employees’ work. You don’t have the time to do both effectively, and you risk losing team members’ commitment and engagement. Instead, approach task assignments and performance feedback like a coach or teacher. You’re there to help guide team members toward the solution but not hand it to them.
Mentoring employees rather than giving them orders establishes task ownership. It instills confidence in staff members who may be unsure of their abilities. A mentoring approach also teaches direct reports how to handle problems and come up with solutions independently. As a leader, you’ll be in a better position to learn from employees and discover individual fortes.
4. Solicit Feedback
Some leaders are better at self-assessment than others, but all can benefit from outside perspectives. That’s because most people have blind spots about their performance. You thought the last team meeting went great, and you clearly outlined the group’s objectives for the next quarter. For some reason, the expressions of confusion and worry on the faces of a few attendees didn’t register.
Weeks later, you’re wondering why the group seems to be scattered and unproductive. Some of them are asking questions about things you thought you previously explained. Pausing during the meeting and asking the team for feedback might have ensured everything stayed on track.
Your employees can be a good source of information about whether your management approaches are working. So can input from your peers, bosses, and instructors who specialize in leadership coaching. You’ll get a broader view of which behaviors and techniques are helping your team make strides and which ones are putting up obstacles.
Effective leadership is something the best managers develop over time. The process of getting there might contain a mix of triumphs and mistakes. However, transparent, personalized communication and a willingness to learn about yourself and your team will speed you on your way.