Guest Post by Mark Miller
There was a lot in the news this week about a ship adrift at sea – its passengers stranded. The ship drifted 90 miles in one night, pushed by the currents. Have you ever been on a team that felt like it was moving but not purposefully? Perhaps you had a sense it was the winds of corporate politics moving you rather than focused, strategic intent. Or, maybe the currents of uncertainty set your “direction.” In her Harvard Business Review article, Jesse Lyn Stoner calls this “Team Drift.”
I’ve been working with teams for over 20 years, and unfortunately, I’ve seen many teams drift, but I’ve never seen one drift to greatness. There are numerous case studies of great teams – in sports, in non-profit organizations, even in businesses. I’ve read of their heroic accomplishments and their journeys. However, I’ve never have seen a report that indicated the team woke up one morning and realized they were great.
So, if it’s not an accident or a case of spontaneous team combustion, how does it happen? Although the journeys are all unique, they all begin the same way – it starts with leadership. Leaders build high performance teams by ensuring their teams are strong in each of these six areas.
Establish Vision – Leadership always begins with clarity on where you want to go. Leaders make sure their team understands what they want to achieve, how they’re going to accomplish it and what they want to become.
Create Core Values – Values are the beliefs that drive behavior. They establish the norms of behavior for the team, how to approach the work, how to think about customers, what behaviors will be rewarded and which ones will not be tolerated.
Provide Resources – Once when I was promoted to lead an already strong team, a senior member of the team privately told me, “What we need you to do for us is get the resources. We’ll do the rest.” It was a great reminder of one of the most important roles of a team leader.
Establish Boundaries – What’s “in bounds” and what is not? Team members need clarity on which decisions the leader wants or needs to be involved in and which decisions should be handled independently by the team. This should not be a mystery!
Provide Education – Leaders know skills turn aspiration into accomplishment. Leaders need to help the team assess what skill gaps exist and ensure the team gets the training and education needed to close those gaps.
Provide Encouragement – Because of the position we occupy, our words carry more weight than those who aren’t in positions of leadership. Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, is known for asking the question: “How can you tell if someone needs encouragement?” His answer, “If they’re breathing!”
If you’ve decided to build a team, congratulations! You can be the rudder your team needs to navigate the currents attempting to pull them out to sea.
Enjoy the journey!
Mark Miller, Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness for Chick-fil-A, best-selling author, and communicator, is excited about sharing The Secret of Teams: What Great Teams Know and Do. You can find it on Amazon and in bookstores everywhere. Mark writes the popular blog Great Leaders Serve. Follow Mark on Twitter @LeadersServe and find him on Facebook: Great Leaders Serve