In your experience, what sets team LEADERS apart from team MEMBERS?
This story made me laugh:
Hiring Manager: We’re looking for someone who is really responsible.
Job Candidate: Well, I’m your guy. In my last job, every time something went wrong, they said I was responsible.
The 1 thing Team Leaders do differently
You might think it would be experience, intelligence, seniority, or expertise. But in reality, other team members may have more of those traits than the team leader has, with no negative impact on team performance. In fact, teams are often better when they have diverse skills and perform them better than the leader does.
If you dig a little deeper, you might say that leadership ability would make the difference: traits like persuasion, motivation, delegation, or facilitating synergy.
If that was your answer, you’re definitely close. It’s hard for a team to function if the leader doesn’t know how to lead. But in really good teams, everyone may get a chance to lead at one point or another, so everyone needs to have those skills.
There is one trait that sets Team Leaders apart from Team Members: willingness to take responsibility.
Leadership responsibility shows up in 4 critical stages of teamwork: assignments, decisions, crunch time, and completion.
1) Take Responsibility for Assignments
How many times have you seen a team flounder when it comes time to divvy up assignments. If people are already overloaded, they may hang back instead of stepping forward to accept an task. Team leaders take responsibility to divide tasks fairly and in keeping with each person’s strengths.
When the team leader co-owns this process with each member, the groundwork is already set for the leader to circle back and hold people accountable by checking on their progress and asking about obstacles.
2) Take Responsibility for Decisions
Diverse teams are good at coming up with multiple perspectives on a decision and multiple priorities that must be held in balance. A good team leader takes responsibility for the decision making process, but not by making the decisions alone.
Owning the decision making process means holding space for healthy discussion and then prompting the team to actually make a decision in a timely way. Leaders don’t let their teams bog down.
3) Take Responsibility for Crunch Time
When it’s crunch time, team leaders don’t stand by and watch, even if their particular assignments have been completed. The leader owns the project all the way to the end, no matter who was “supposed” to do it.
Crunch time leadership often means reaching out personally to each team member to check their status, keep them focused, and prompt completion of their piece.
4) Take Responsibility for Completion
Team leaders take ownership of the outcomes—not just the inputs. The job is not done just because everyone did his or her part. The final outcome is what counts. If the individual pieces still don’t add up, the team leader keeps working and driving to the goal line.
Owning the outcomes means that the leader sometimes has to send a task back for re-work. No one likes to re-do their work, and no one likes to ask someone else to re-do work, but sometimes it’s the only way to get a project across the finish line.
If you’re leading a team right now, ask yourself how you’re doing at being responsible a these 4 stages.
If you’re on a team and want to lead, ask yourself if you are willing to do what it takes to be the team leader.
Comment below to share what makes a truly great Team Leader.
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