Will the real team leader please stand up?

Take a moment to think about your team at work. If you can summarize your team, what would it be? Not about how good or bad, but how does the team function? Same with individuals, how do you think they fit into the team dynamics? Who do you look to when it comes for help or direction? Do you even trust that person…?

It all depends on the leader

The “leader” usually means the manager. At times, this could also be the most senior on the team, and not the manager. This can happen when a leader is afraid of conflict: they may be new, their personality is to avoid conflict(where the most senior employee doesn’t), or a combination of the two. I have never been a manager, but I have been a “leader” many times.

And when I say “depends” on the leader, it really is all about how the leader runs the ship. As with any ship, a crew has their own way of doing things, say a “culture”. It is up the the leader to decide what will and will not be tolerated.

And the leader is the one who actually leads, and not dictates. Even if you are the manager and people do what you say, you may not be the leader. The leader is the one that everyone goes to for help

Employees are sort of like children

Yes, we are all adults. We are all capable and believe we know what is best. The reality is that this is not always(maybe never???) the case, at least not for everyone. Sometimes, the employees to need to be treated as children, and I am no exception to this rule.

Employees will always go in a natural direction if left unchecked. Sometimes they will avoid situations, such as trying not to be blamed. Sometimes they will head in a direction blindly, such as playing with a new shiny toy. Regardless, these directions may not be what the team actually needs. And just like children, if your employees are too quiet…they may be getting into trouble.

When it comes to managing and leading, think of it more as raising children, and not being a prison guard. If you are too strict, the most competent ones will leave first. Too lenient, the competent ones will leave first because they are pulling all the weight. You need a good balance of authority and freedom.

You are the driver in car…

Think of it like this, you are driving down a long straight highway. No one around, just the road straight ahead. You take your hands of the wheel. If your car is perfectly aligned and balance, it will continue on straight. Who needs Tesla’s full self driving with conditions like this???

Now imagine your car is NOT perfectly aligned. It really is a matter of time to where you need to put your hands on the wheel to correct the direction. If you are the type to laugh in the face of any mechanic talking about maintenance, chances are you are not letting go of the steering wheel.

…steer only when needed.

This is how the leader should run the team. Lead a team as if how much “steering” you would comfortably need. If you feel the need to keep your hand on the wheel, chances are you either don’t trust your team or you tend to micro manage. You are more of a hands off type of person, you risk running off the road…and usually when this happens it is too late.

In the end…

…managing a team is more of an art than science. There is no one size fits all. Managing a team takes effort that you will need to balance who you are naturally, some are more natural than others. What is worse than being a bad manager, is being the type of manager that you are not comfortable being.

Honesty is crucial however, no matter what type of manager you are. There needs to be honesty. One of the quickest ways to achieve this is to express honest frustration in something that your employees are dealing with, and “vent” on how you are going to fix it. Showing that you are more than a robot and have mind of your own will earn respect.

This next suggestion is from personal experience: Treat all complaints as serious until proven otherwise. Countless times I have escalated an issue to a manager, only to be told on what I can do next time. Assuming the fault or responsibility is to the employee raising the issue is a recipe for disaster. Trust me.

Finally, if are not enjoying managing…at least make sure your employees are enjoying their job more than yours. Until you can find a way out.

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