Becoming a leader comes with a great sense of pride and also responsibility. It’s an opportunity to shape your company and develop the skills of those around you.
But it's not unusual for leaders to occasionally feel a little lost. Your working style might differ from those in your team and suddenly you need to consider other approaches and learn how to manage people with different views. But to do this, first you need to work out what it is that keeps each of your team members happy, motivated and engaged.
Why team engagement is important for a leader
Teams are central to innovation. Yet there’s a distinction to make between colleagues and teammates: what too many people fail to recognise, is that two or more people working together doesn't automatically constitute a 'team’. Genuine teamwork requires a shared goal and true recognition that success is dependent on each other. This is where a leadership handbook becomes useful. It gives both leaders and team members the opportunity to understand each other and what it takes to work together as a successful team.
The leadership handbook
You probably have an employee handbook for new starters that explains how to do things like access IT systems and submit expenses. But there likely isn’t a handbook for ‘getting to know your team’s working styles'. Getting to know your team is just as, if not even more, important than knowing how to use your company's tools and technology. We’re not alone at Saberr in thinking this – Josh Bersin, founder of Bersin by Deloitte said if he could give his younger self one piece of advice for becoming a good leader it would be to value and develop your working relationships.
The better you know your colleagues, the easier it is to delegate and motivate. While managers might organise occasional one to one meetings with team members to get to know them better, asking the open question ‘how do you like to work?’ is a like staring at a blank sheet of paper. Where do you start? Creating a one page personal user manual where everyone’s inputted can help start these conversations and take the guesswork away.
A common language
Global CEO coach Sabina Nawaz has said that when you visit another country it’s useful to learn a little about the culture and how best to communicate, joining or leading a new team should be no different.
What does a leadership handbook look like?
You will want to tailor the profiles that make up your handbook to suit your team’s function, but the below is a useful starting point.
1. Your values and motivations: Think about your motivations and values and where these came from. Even if the team don’t share motivations, a deeper understanding of where they come from can increase tolerance.
2. What “comes easily” in your role: with knowledge of each other’s superpowers you can ensure that wherever possible the team are working on things they enjoy.
3. What challenges you in your role: very rarely do team members enjoy every single aspect of what they do day to day. Providing the team with a safe place to highlight things they find challenging of what they dislike is an opportunity to make things better for the team. For example, if you find one team member’s favourite task is something another dreads, you can help redefine roles and responsibilities and increase overall team productivity.
4. Your red buttons: this is key for uncovering any niggling frustrations with existing processes that your team members may have never aired. For example someone in the team might feel frustrated when a meeting runs over, or is scheduled over lunch and another when they’re copied on too many emails. Once the team’s red buttons are aired they’re more easily avoided, and you get rid of any irritations simmering below the surface.
5. Working preferences: this includes things like how the team members prefer to communicate, when they are most productive, at what time they prefer to meet.
6. Something to open the conversation: For example, if you were not doing this job what would be your alternative career? This might seem like an odd question, but asking your it could help you get to know team mates a little better and find common ground you might not have discussed before. Research shows that there are benefits in workplace socialising, so don’t be afraid to start the conversation.
When you know how the rest of your team works, it’s easier to be an effective leader. If you know team members’ strengths and weaknesses, delegation becomes much more straightforward. If you know what motivates individuals and you take away the fear many employees have of showing weakness, you can have a real impact on improving team satisfaction, and in turn will be able to coach your team to success.