Leading people has been the part of my career with the steepest learning curve AND the part that has given me the brightest moments of my career. I have loved designing, building, and investing in strong teams. I have loved watching team members grow, find meaning in their work, take on new challenges, and inch closer toward fulfilling their purposes. This work gives my days meaning, yet it is no easy feat. As a people leader, we should be investing 30% or more of your time leading our teams. How much time do you spend leading your team? How might your team shift positively if you could raise this percentage?
Pulling from the wisdom of the many wonderful leaders in my life, here are my top 5 investments to make as a people leader.
#1 Establish trust.
This is a necessary precursor to everything else you do as a leader. If you do not have your team’s trust, consider that a non-starter. Invest the time early in your relationship with your team to establish trust. The best way you can do this is to be a human - be vulnerable, be real, be clear. Make space to get to know your team as people and for them to get to know you and each other. Show up as your best, authentic self. Freely admit mistakes, say “I don’t know”, and ask for your team’s input, then use that input. Every person wants to be cared about and invested in at work, and this is a key piece of engagement. Higher engagement equals higher productivity equals reduced turnover equals better days. So, all that to say, establishing trust is the foundation of a winning team. You wouldn’t build a home without a foundation, so don’t build a team without trust.
#2 Create (and reiterate) clarity.
Clarity is hard to come by on many teams, yet it is so important. Be more clear than you think you need to be about roles, expectations, team values, behaviors, who does what...I could go on. Better yet, engage the team in the process of identifying these key things and constantly refer back to them. Don’t assume people are clear on their own roles and expectations (or your role or other team members’ roles). Make the space to name these critical team elements explicitly and constantly refer back to them. It is your job as a manager to create an environment for your team members to do their jobs excellently, and a necessary step to that is that your team is clear on the what, why and how. Otherwise, you set yourself up for the good ole “if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.” Somewhere else is an incredibly frustrating place to be.
#3 Overcommunicate more than you think you need to.
If you think you’ve communicated enough, you probably haven’t. Overcommunication requires trust - your team must trust you and you must be able to trust your team. This requires that you hire people you can trust, establish trust on your team (see #1), then show your team your commitment by communicating, then overcommunicating clarity (see #2). Provide your team the valuable context and information they need to succeed. This becomes even more paramount during times of change.
#4 Get uncomfortable & practice radical candor.
If you haven’t seen this TED Talk, stop reading this now and go watch it! Radical candor is all about challenging directly and caring personally. I’d share more, but Kim Scott says it far better than I ever could.
#5 Lead people, don’t manage them.
People are incredible beings. When you have the right people in the right roles, they typically don’t need management or supervision. They need leadership. Leadership requires you to be a sounding board, a thought partner, and to provide the resources and space for them to do their jobs excellently without doing it for them. Leaders create cultures in which people thrive and want to follow the vision. Leaders create momentum and a space for learning, growth, and mistakes. Managers have people who do work for them. See the difference?