How to Lead a Team
Effective team leadership is one of the most critical areas for a business to focus on when it comes to team management.
Management quality is considered the second most important factor in retaining employees.
Even if you feel you don’t have issues with your current leadership skills, they should be continually upgraded to keep pace with the ever-changing landscape of business.
You can develop the required competencies and skills to make you an inspirational leader sooner than you think.
We selected 15 essential tips on team leadership to help know how to produce more consistent results that foster continuous organizational success.
Learn To Delegate
There are only three things you need to know when delegating a task or project:
When to delegate.
Who to delegate to.
How to delegate it.
We will first look into when task delegation needs to take place.
Delegating work is not always necessary. The best leaders have to decide when and if assigning a task to someone else will yield positive results.
To help you decide whether or not a specific task should be delegated, ask yourself the following big picture questions:
- Does the current task need to be completed by me or require my constant attention and approval? Is there someone else on the team who has the expertise to complete it without constant supervision?
- Can someone on the team develop their skills by performing this task?
- Is this a repetitive task or a one-time project?
- Is there enough time to provide the information needed for someone else to perform this task within the time allotted for its completion?
Assigning a task to the right person at the right time will yield the right results.
To find the right person for the job, consider the following:
The experience, skills, and knowledge each specific team member has.
Does the team member already have the skills and attitude to complete the task, or do they require further training to get it done?
The work style of each team member.
Does the potential team member prefer to work independently, or do they like to work in groups? Also, does the proposed task align with their professional goals and interests?
The current workload of each team member.
Does the team member have enough time to complete the task? Will they have to reshuffle or postpone current duties and responsibilities to finish it on time?
Adhering to the following principles will ensure that both team leaders and team members clearly understand what is required to complete the task successfully and on time.
- Convey the expected result of the task clearly to the person or group that will work on it. This includes communicating how the project should be completed and when the deadline is.
- Explain the boundaries of the task. Define the responsibilities, authority, and accountability associated with the delegated task or project.
- Try to delegate only to those who are closest to the proposed task—the ones who deal with specific aspects of such tasks daily.
- Offer ongoing support and resources so that your team members know they are not alone and can come to you with any questions about the task you delegated.
- Focus on results rather than workflow. If the individual is producing positive results, do not force them to do the job your way.
- Motivate your workers to perform new tasks and take on more responsibility by discussing potential financial rewards, possible promotions, and further recognition.
As a team leader, you should always maintain control of the tasks and projects you delegate to others. The best way to do this is to be very clear about deadlines and progress updates and reports.
Also, don’t forget to maintain a relevant degree of flexibility and make adjustments whenever necessary.
Focus On Performance Of The Whole Team
Business success is a team effort. As a leader, you need to focus on team outcomes rather than on individual results.
Your skills and experience got you into the leadership role. Still, your organization’s long-term success doesn’t depend on your expertise and skill set, but on the performance of those you lead.
Even if you are new to the leadership role, you can learn the core of management skills by focusing on the following nine areas:
- Clarity – goals, priorities, expectations, and feedback.
- Relationships – teamwork & trust.
- Solutions – shift from problem focus to potential possibilities.
- Progress – become aware of obstacles impeding progress and help your team remove them.
- Purpose – teams that know the why behind the task or project have more focus, discipline, and adapt to changes quickly.
- Strengths – pairing team members with different but complementary strengths maximizes each team member’s strengths and the entire team’s collective strengths.
- Employee Growth – show your employees that you care about their professional performance and personal growth
- Workplace Climate – your actions and words create your team’s working environment, so try to be a collaborative leader, not an authoritative one.
Managing your own personal and professional activities will go a long way toward influencing your team. However, your focus on the areas listed above will give them a progressive, growth-oriented working style that will benefit their performance and personal satisfaction.
Recognize And Reward Great Work
Every team member who has contributed to a project and the company’s overall success should be recognized.
Because employee recognition delivers a host of benefits, such as less employee turnover and higher employee satisfaction.Companies with an employee recognition program exhibit a 31 percent lower turnover rate than companies who do not have one set in place. Eighty-six percent of managers say that employee recognition increases employee happiness.
Roughly 66 percent of HR managers say an employee recognition program helps them build a stronger and more attractive employment brand.
Recognizing and rewarding your team does not have to come directly from you, nor does it have to be constant. Consistent praise from you, other managers, or other team members from time to time is sufficient enough to make employees feel that their work is appreciated.
Here are some best practices for praise and reward in the workplace:
- Praise your team at least once a week.
- Encourage team members to recognize each other’s accomplishments.
- Be specific about what you are praising or rewarding your team for.
- Tie your recognition with company values and goals.
- Encourage recognition participation amongst your team, but don’t make it mandatory.
- Use social media and other technologies like Slack and Workstars to make recognition public.
- Use reward programs like gift cards, special luncheons, and extra time off to show appreciation.
Ultimately, effective recognition boils down to timeliness, frequency, specificity, visibility, and alignment with your organization’s goals and values.
Schedule Regular One-On-One Meetings
As a team leader, scheduling one-on-meetings can be one of the most insightful steps you can take to understand both your team and your role.
One-on-one meetings inform you of your team’s current project status and uncover any obstacles they may be facing. Likewise, they show you how you can help your team achieve greater success and have a more significant impact on your organization.
To get the most out of one-on-one meetings, schedule them at least once a week.
If you want to motivate your team members to achieve their goals quickly, use the following 3-step checklist for one-on-one meetings as a foundation:
Don’t be afraid to rectify performance problems, don’t neglect your employees’ individual well-being, and never forget to praise employees who are doing well.Define Excellence
Paint a picture of what excellence would look like for each team member in their given role and then discuss any measures that need to be taken to get them from where they are now to that ideal.Have an Agenda
Be aware of current issues or relevant topics regarding your team to use time effectively during the meeting.
In this regard, you can ask your team members the following questions before the meeting takes place:
What challenges are you currently facing?
What topics or issues would you like to discuss or touch upon during our next one-on-one meeting?
One-on-one meetings are a simple and effective tool you can use as part of your team leadership strategy.
Be A Transparent Leader
Being transparent is all about gathering and sharing the information needed to get the job done.
Transparency will help your team understand why they are doing what they are doing, why they are doing it for you, and how it should be done.
The qualities of a transparent leader are as follows:
- Transparent leaders are approachable.
- Transparent leaders listen.
- Transparent leaders show empathy.
- Transparent leaders admit their mistakes.
- Transparent leaders encourage and validate employee feelings.
If you, as a team leader, show such qualities then you can expect the following results;
Employees tend to grow closer together under a transparent leader and so can collaborate more often and solve problems faster.Easier Team-Building
A transparent leader can openly discuss the team’s strengths and weaknesses and allows everyone to share their perspectives. That makes each team member feel that their voice matters.Authentic Relationships
Transparency decreases the chances of misunderstandings and brings people closer by allowing them to encounter and solve problems together.Trust in Leadership
If you remain transparent even during the most challenging times, you will garner the respect of your team, which will result in a stronger and more trusting relationship between you and them.Higher Performance Levels
All of the above points lead to higher team performance levels.
Quick problem solving + easy team building + authentic relationships + trust in leadership = higher performance.
Maintaining transparency works both ways: the more transparent you are with your team, the more open they will be with you.
Know Your Team
Awareness of your team’s skills, competencies, work style, and limitations is one of the most valuable assets you will ever have as a leader.
The more you know about your team’s strengths, weaknesses, and mechanics of operation, the easier it will be for you to implement strategies to improve upon their current performance.
Four major areas can make or break a team are as follows:
Can your team get things done correctly and on time? Are they consistent in their efforts? Are they willing to take responsibility for assigned tasks?Influence
Can your team persuade each other and other people to support ideas, projects, tasks, and organizational endeavors?Teamwork
Can your team work together towards a common goal or objective?Strategic Thinking
Can your team analyze information and draw logical conclusions from that information. Can they think both inside and outside of the box to come up with practical and innovative solutions?
To help you in gathering this information, you can perform a SWOT analysis of your team.
SWOT stands for:
To perform a proper SWOT analysis, gather your entire team, and complete the SWOT analysis together.
First, make a list of your team’s internal strengths—only write down those assets, qualities, and attributes that contribute to your team’s performance.
Then list your team’s weaknesses—write down anything that compromises their performance.
Next, make a list of your team’s opportunities. Opportunities can be small or big. Either way, they should be listed so every team member becomes aware of them and can contribute or offer support.
And lastly, list out your team’s threats. Identify any possible risks that can impact future performance. Those can be anything from budget allocation to lack of training.
Using the information from the SWOT analysis, create strategies that can improve team performance. These strategies should build upon your strengths and resolve your team’s weaknesses.
Continuously monitor the strategies you have implemented to see if your team is making progress. Adjust those strategies as needed.
Establish Core Values and Nurture Your Company Culture
As a team leader, you are in a prime position to affect your company culture positively. Your efforts to establish a positive organizational culture might spread beyond your team, to the other departments within your organization.
Organizational culture comprises a set of values, behaviors, and actions that helps guide an organization’s mission, goals, and objectives.
Leaders play an essential role in nurturing company culture as they are in charge of communicating the company’s mission, goals, and values to employees.
Team leaders are responsible for defining, communicating, measuring, and rewarding the culture that aligns with the organization’s best interests.
The following are ways leaders positively affect an organization’s culture:
- By defining and communicating core values.
- By encouraging a desire to learn amongst employees and team members.
- By promoting a culture of recognition, praise, and reward.
- By fostering a shared vision of what the company is about and where it is going.
- By guiding team members through new stages of company culture growth and any changes it may undergo.
- By helping improve employee satisfaction through the alignment of company core values with employee core values.
- By keeping employees accountable to the company’s core values and outlining expectations and measures of success that employees and team members can easily recognize and adhere to.
Since an organization’s culture is based heavily upon values, you need to understand which values empower your team to produce results that keep the business going in the right direction.
Besides communicating these values to your team, make them part of your daily actions and behaviors. Leading by example will help connect the team members with the company culture more quickly and efficiently.
Use Only Constructive Feedback
Constructive feedback offers relevant and rationale opinions and suggestions as to other people’s work.
As a team leader, you want to offer feedback to your team members that inspire them to improve upon their weaknesses. Improvement will never happen if they feel upset about your recommendations or the way you recommended them.
Constructive feedback is helpful, sincere, and specific.
If you provide honest and helpful feedback to your team, you can expect the following benefits:
- Employee motivation
- Improvement of difficult situations (e.g., personality conflicts)
- Solutions to professional/personal issues
- Employee development
- Open lines of communication
- Increase in employee engagement
How you communicate is as important as what you communicate. To help make your feedback more constructive, utilize the following six tips:
Focus on Change
Focusing on how to change means letting your team know what needs to occur to reach the desired results. It should include how the person or group making the change will benefit from it.Focus on Behavior
Provide the person you are offering feedback to specific behaviors that they have exhibited in the past that are not in alignment with the company’s core values.
For example, provide all the dates where they showed up late or did not show up at all.
This is a lot more direct and to the point than telling them that they are irresponsible or lazy.Focus on Opportunities, Not Mistakes
Instead of pointing out their faults, try showing your team members opportunities they can utilize for growth. Focusing on opportunities is a very constructive way of pointing out their weaknesses without offending them.
Always choose a private location and listen to your employees’ needs and wants before pointing them towards opportunities you have uncovered for them to improve.Focus on Actionable Issues
Only offer feedback on those things that are within your team members’ control. Doing so will help them discover practical and actionable steps that lead to improvement.
Attitude, level of skill, and work application are controllable and can be further improved.
Offering feedback on external factors that your employees’ can do nothing about will only leave them feeling helpless, alone, and lost.Focus on Clarity
Your feedback should be as clear as possible. Clarity will remove the ambiguity and define the exact path that employee needs to take to resolve the problem, situation, or behavior.
You should also be clear about the consequences of the current issue or problem so that your employee will understand its importance and try to rectify it as quickly as possible.
Aside from the tips listed above, don’t forget to praise good work when warranted and don’t be afraid to be direct or even stern when necessary during feedback sessions.
Track Your Team’s Productive Time
Time-tracking is about keeping your team accountable, staying within the project budget, and having an accurate payroll.
To help you monitor the efficiency and progress of your team’s efforts, consider using automated time tracking software.
Such tools will help you gauge who is on point and who needs encouragement to increase their productivity levels.
To leverage your time-tracking software solution, consider applying the following time-tracking best practices as well:
Choosing Categories & Activities to Track
First, determine the projects and tasks you want to track. Then, include a list of supporting tasks that are crucial to the selected projects. Lastly, add any other activities that should also be tracked, like business trips, meetings, or conferences.Explain Why Time-Tracking
Explain the many benefits that come from applying this practice to make your team members more comfortable with the time-tracking experience.
If your team is not on-board with your time-tracking solution, then it will most likely fail.
You can use turnaround time stats and cost-benefit analysis to showcase the value of time-tracking.Create Standardized Rules
For time-tracking to work efficiently, the rules must be the same for everyone.
Standardized time-tracking is a must if you want to avoid the same activities being punched in different ways.
Without a set of rules, logging activities will be left up to employee imagination—filing advertising samples will be logged as “administrative” by one worker and “marketing” by another.
Explain to your team how you want activities to be tracked and logged and answer any questions they may have regarding your standardized time-tracking procedures.Keep It Simple
Although it is good to have a set of standardized rules when it comes to time-tracking, don’t overcomplicate the issue.
Reducing the number of categories will help avoid confusion and time spent on overthinking.
Some other ways to simplify your time-tracking procedure include:
- Using time-tracking software.
- Leveraging tags and job codes for categorization.
- Granting access to administrators only for setting up new categories when needed.
- Preparing documentation for common questions, anomalies, and tracking errors (e.g., Time-Tracking FAQ)
Following the above procedures will reduce employee confusion and make it easier for your team to log in their activities correctly.
Offer Flexible Work Hours
In 2019, 3.4 percent of the U.S. workforce worked from home at least half of the time.
The above percentage has increased since then and will most likely continue to do so in the future.
The reasons for this are many:
- Different employees prefer to work at different times and different places.
- Employees are happier when they are in control of their working hours.
- Employees feel more supported and valued when they are allowed to work where they want and when they want.
- Working from home during chosen hours creates a better work-life balance.
- Flexible schedules allow for more personal and professional development in the form of classes and training.
- Employees who participate in flexible work schedules experience less stress.
Employees are not the only ones who derive benefits from flexible work hours either.
Leaders also obtain many advantages by offering their employees flex-schedules, some of which are listed below:
- Employees work harder and are more productive and engaged because they get to work when they are motivated.
- Companies that offer flexible work programs are in a better position to recruit talent, especially millennials who value flexible working schedules and a better work-life balance.
- Employers experience better employee retention rates when they offer flexible work schedules.
- Flexible work programs reduce tardiness and absenteeism as employees can plan their work around their personal lives instead of the other way around.
Offering flexible work hours is a great way to recruit new talent and keep the employees fresh, positive, and engaged. For a variety of flexible work hours, check outthis article.
Invest In A Pleasant Work Environment
Workers of all ages prefer a pleasant work environment over an unpleasant one.
As a leader, your job is to figure out what your team deems as pleasant.
A pleasant work environment for most workers is spacious, modern, comfortable, and customizable.
While it might seem a waste of time and even money to try to suit each team member’s taste, it is worth the effort.
A pleasant and well-designed workspace can increase team performance by 20 percent. Here are three more reasons why a pleasant work environment benefits employees:
- Comfortable workspaces help employees’ meet their physical needs.
- Aesthetic work environments make team members feel good, which translates into a higher quality of work.
- Comfortable workplaces help employees concentrate better and feel more positive about their job.
The following list will give you some ideas on how you can make your workplace more appealing to your team.
Individually-designed and arranged workplaces, standing desks, and ergonomic chairs are just some ways to modernize your work area.Office Music
Rhythmic and soothing background music will take the boredom out of mundane tasks and help your team feel more relaxed, energized, and enthusiastic.Reading Materials
Offering an in-office library is a great way to make your employees more productive. Thirty minutes of pleasure-reading per day has shown to improve focus and memory and mitigate the effects of anxiety and depression.Break Rooms / Entertainment Rooms
Allowing your employees to relax and have fun during their breaks and downtimes brings several benefits: improved commitment, a clear mind, and productivity.Live Plants
Decorating the office with living flora can improve air quality, create a sense of “freshness,” and improve worker productivity by 15 percent.Art Pieces
Art in the workplace can help motivate employees to be more innovative, boost their productivity, and lower their stress levels.
As can be seen from the above list, creating a pleasant work environment does not always have to be labor-intensive or expensive.
As long as it is aesthetically-pleasing, comfortable, and customizable, the workplace fosters a community atmosphere that should be enough to make your team happy.
Motivate Your Team To Learn
If you are a leader of a rapidly-growing company, then employee learning is not just a luxury; it is a necessity.
As a company grows, so must its staff. And the best way to make that happen is to encourage a culture of learning.
As a leader, you can empower your team’s self-development by providing educational courses, on-site training, and invite lecturers to motivate your team to learn and grow.
Here are some other ways you can motivate your team to continuously learn and grow along with the business:
Incentives and Recognition
When one of your employees continuously displays exceptional work or reaches a specific milestone, you should recognize their efforts and results and reward them for it.
Incentives and recognitions help to motivate employees to continue to learn and grow.
Therefore, it is a good idea to design an incentive program within your organization that recognizes and rewards employees who go above and beyond regular work performance.Schedule Regular Learning Sessions
Your team should know that learning, while not mandatory, is encouraged within your organization. The best way to convey this message is to schedule regular learning sessions.
These sessions can take the form of classes, training sessions, meetings, or group discussions.Connect Employee Growth With Business Results
Showing your team how a particular set of skills led to a business outcome is an excellent way to encourage more learning and more growth amongst each team member.
If you link employee growth in a specific skill to an organizational high point, this is enough to motivate that employee and the rest of your staff to continue learning to improve on past results.
For instance, you could connect new skills an employee has acquired to the current rise in sales or higher client retention rate.Learning Should Be Fun, Easy, and Light
If you are going to offer training as part of your team-learning strategy, make sure it does not complicate your employees’ lives.
Workplace training should not feel like a second job.
To keep things light and comfortable, use microlearning principles. Break concepts and content down into small and easy to grasp lessons.
Also, don’t forget to provide resources that will help reinforce what was learned during the training and encourage graduates to teach what they have learned to the rest of the team.
Show Interest in Your Employees’ Careers
If you want your team members to take a keen interest in learning, then show an interest in their career paths.
Once you know your team members’ aspirations for career growth, you can form your training programs in alignment with them.
Employees will automatically want to learn if that knowledge will take them one step further towards their career goals.
Set Goals and Track Progress
Goal setting defines what the organization needs to achieve and what you and your team need to do to achieve it.
When you and your team sit down and design specific professional, personal, and challenging goals together, you push each other to reach higher performance levels.
Team goal-setting can be divided into two parts:
- Organization: company and team goals that define what needs to be done to bring value and growth to the organization.
- Professional: individual goals that define what each employee should do to bring value and growth to the team.
The following are five tips you can use to help you set clear goals for your team.
Aligning Professional Goals With Organizational Goals
As a leader, you should encourage your team to link their professional and personal goals to the organization’s objectives.
Linking individual goals with company goals allows employees to become aware of their contributions to the team and company as a whole.
This will require constant and continuous communication between you and your team of where the company is headed and how each team member can contribute to getting it there.
Create an Action Plan
Action plans define what resources are needed to achieve a set of goals. They are also used to set a timeline for tasks to be completed to reach set goals as quickly as possible.
Your action plan should include any tools, training, or software required by your team to complete their tasks.
Critical deadlines and milestones should also be identified and articulated within your action plan to avoid confusion and ambiguity as to how or when your employees should complete their work.Divide Action Steps
Good leaders allocate the different steps of their action plan amongst their team to reach goals faster.
Find out the capacity and capabilities of each of your team members before assigning the various tasks of your action plan among them.
It is not always possible to match talents with action steps, so you may have to ask your workers which tasks they prefer to work on.
If employees enjoy the work they are doing, they will be more engaged, focused, and positive towards their job.
Also, remember to divide the work evenly between team members to avoid disputes. Remember, some tasks may be harder and take longer to complete, so you may want to pair team members together to handle more challenging projects.Set Accountability
Employees need to understand that they are responsible for completing their assigned tasks in an efficient and timely manner.
Team accountability goes hand in hand with goal success and goal failure.
To encourage accountability amongst your team, be sure to recognize those who are performing their duties well, and remind poor performers about their responsibility towards achieving team goals.Measure Results
Both individual and team goals should be set and tracked so you can provide feedback, motivation, and if needed, an admonishment to those who are not on track.
Whether goals are completed or not, always end on a positive note to help encourage future employee engagement.
Make Communication Effective
Any “how-to” article about effective leadership would be incomplete without touching upon effective communication.
Communication is not just about expressing your ideas to another individual but also about aligning your thoughts, speech, and actions with one another.
There is no better way to lead than by example, so things you say should match your thoughts and actions. If not, a lack of trust and respect towards organizational leadership will build up in your employee’s minds.
Effective communication will always include the following priorities:
- Goals (long-term & short-term)
If these aspects are not communicated, then you can expect the following results:
Lack of Efficiency
Poor and vague communication causes confusion, which leads to a lack of confidence in leadership and inefficiencies in work.
Lack of Innovation
When employees don’t know what to do, how to do it, or when to get it done due to ineffective communication, creativity is replaced with the ‘bare minimum.’
Lack of Morale
Unclear and abusive communication fosters negativity in the minds’ and hearts’ of employees.
Effective communication is not static—sometimes, you have to change your approach to become a more effective communicator.
To improve your communication game, first, understand there are different communication styles within team members. Secondly, write down what you want to say first before saying it.
Plan your team meetings to know what you need to say and how you need to say it so that your team understands and accepts your words more readily.
Communication is a reflection of what is going on inside your mind. If your communication is unclear, then your employees will think your mind is unclear. Likewise, if it is negative, then they will respond with negativity.
Your employees’ reactions and results are a direct reflection of how good or poor your communication skills are.
Don’t Neglect Your Own Professional Development
Just because you are responsible for inspiring, guiding, and training your team, does not mean that you should neglect your development and training.
Leadership development programs help you reach your managerial potential. They can train you on personal and professional success, and give you the essential leadership skills that will inspire your team to achieve higher performance levels.
Some of the other benefits to continued leadership training and development can be seen below:
- Builds upon current strengths.
- Improves motivation and self-worth.
- Deprograms bad leadership qualities and habits.
- Helps in goal setting and action plans.
- Improves productivity levels.
- Gives the skills to coach, motivate, and encourage others.
- It helps to uncover future leadership opportunities.
Some things you can do to continue your professional development and sharpen your leadership skills include the following:
- Join local or national business and leadership groups (e.g., Entrepreneur’s Organization, Dale Carnegie Training).
- Attend conferences where successful leaders share their strategies and ideas (e.g., GrowCo, OPTIMA, The Cult Gathering).
- Find a successful leader and request coaching from them.
The best thing about your professional development is that it will automatically spill over to your team. Your thoughts, words, and actions will inspire them to continue developing themselves.
Whether you are a veteran manager or are taking a leadership role for the first time, you can always use a little more leadership training.
As a leader, you want to stay in the good graces of your employees while maintaining a team efficiency that propels them towards organizational, professional, and personal growth.
To reach this outcome, you can’t just become a leader but an effective leader—a transformational leader. Effective leaders are role models, mentors, innovators, and motivators.
Great leaders remain positive under all conditions, inspire and motivate those on their team, value their employees, and always encourage them to develop themselves continuously.
To learn how to motivate, inspire, and train your team to be all they can be, use the proven 15 tips for leadership outlined above.