Leaders who want to improve the performance of their teams tend to ask themselves two questions… ‘What procedures can I change to help?’, and ‘How can I improve the skills of people on my team?’ Perhaps, in answer to those questions, they might decide there needs to be more meetings, or send some people on a course. But there’s another question that tends to go unasked – one that’s crucial to strong, intentional leadership, that’s often easier to answer…
‘How can I get out of my team’s way?’
We are all flawed human beings. Leaders are not exceptions to this rule. Our decisions, beliefs and behaviours, and the ways we communicate and lead, are, in the main, governed by our unconscious minds. We may experience Imposter Syndrome, fear of failure, fear of public speaking, or just not feel ‘good enough’… and we may struggle to admit those things.
So how does this affect a team’s performance?
If a team leader’s unconscious is running amok, creating poor behaviours, the repercussions of those behaviours will spill over and impact their team. Leaders with Imposter Syndrome can be either overly authoritative in a desperate attempt to prove they can lead, or so scared of making a poor decision that they’ll make none at all. They may take team members’ failings too personally and so struggle to delegate. If they feel ‘not good enough’ their communication skills may be undermined. A team can be left at the mercy of their leader’s knee jerk reactions and emotional baggage.
So, leaders need to not only offer structure and encouragement to their team: they also need to provide a place of emotional safety, so their team can feel safe to show their existing skills, and grow as they develop new ones. Emotionally unstable leadership tends to lead to an emotionally unstable, dysfunctional and directionless team.
So, how can leaders be sure they’re in the best headspace so their team can shine, rather than be undermined? Leaders need to see that getting themselves into the best mental state they can be in is part of their responsibility. Only then can they have a true ‘hands off’ growth mindset regarding their team.
Let’s use this analogy…
A gardener will water plants, provide food, and perhaps even offer some support. There may be a storm in the garden occasionally… so they might provide some protection. Or at least clear up the damage afterwards… but generally their role is to get out of the way and let the plants do the growing. All leaders want their team to do well, but unfortunately many are so busy ‘helping’ (micro-managing) or playing out their own insecurities, that they can ‘block out the sun’ altogether… and plants without sun…
So how can you get out of the way of your team? Mind architect Mari Williams pulls together 5 ways to enhance your teams permanence through an alternative leadership style.
Learn how to understand how we all think
Learn the basics of neuroscience: how we all ‘think’. When you understand the natural processes of the human brain, you’ll not only better understand yourself and where you may be blocked, but you’ll have a much greater capacity to understand how your team thinks too.
Look at your own ‘baggage’
Take an honest look at yourself and your problematic behaviours. Focus on clearing them so you can lead strongly and confidently, and model that to your team.
Find your self-worth: your natural leadership style will follow
True leadership should flow naturally. When you have good self-worth you’ll more likely ‘know’ how to respond and flex around your team, dipping in and out as needed, and making delegation easy.
Stop ‘managing’ your team
Many leaders learn how to ‘manage’ their teams. Do you want to be ‘managed?’ Probably not. Treat your team as a group of individuals, rather than a group you have to control. Listen, learn and reflect on what they bring to discussions. Where do you sit on the continuum of control?
Make clear, strong decisions
Leaders often need to make fast decisions under pressure. If you’re unable to, step back and ask yourself why. Do you lack trust in yourself? Use both your head and your gut to create a stronger platform to make solid decisions from, and remember: you are making the best decisions you can with the information you have. Make them, move on, and let them go.
Ask your team
Finally… have you asked your team what they need from you, so they can power up their performance? Most leaders make executive decisions about the way they lead; make it easy on yourself and ask your team for feedback. They may take you in a wholly different direction.