There’s a huge misconception about what leadership is. Many view it as a growth in rank that puts you above everybody else, making you the authoritative figure on everything your team does – including their time.
But there needs to be a huge shift in this ancient mindset. To grow a team that produces good work and runs like a well-oiled machine, a leader needs to see themselves not as “the boss”, but “the talent nurturer”.
Leaders are supposed to help unleash and nurture the talents within their team, and create an environment that enables them to believe in their true potential, strive for it and ultimately – achieve it.
There is a saying that goes – a leader’s role is to create more leaders, not more followers.
In essence, this runs very true. Build a team that’s equipped with the knowledge they need to run their job. With this education, confidence levels of your team will rise, and stress levels will drop.
Most leaders think that getting to the top of the company is the biggest achievement of their career (some their lives) – this is a mistake. I believe that getting your team to achieve great things collaboratively as one unit – and not competitively amongst each other – is ultimately, the biggest achievement.
So here I share five things I have been incorporating into my leadership techniques to lead happy and productive teams, and I hope some of you may find these useful.
1. Nurture Talent
A talent nurturer knows the collective goal and has no discomfort in working with a team that is smarter than them. You are not on a solo mission, but a team mission… which will benefit the entire company in the long run.
Support the people on your team. Show them the ropes, help them grow and guide them towards achieving their goals. Always make time for them. Remember, that without them, there is no team. And as a leader, you need your team and vice versa.
Find out what your team members are good at. If one is forced into a role that doesn’t involve work one actually enjoy, one is going to be miserable and therefore will not put 100% into anything else you give them.
If you give them something they actually have passion for and are good at, then they’ll want grow and develop this skill.
So figure out what the true genius zone is for each team member and shift their roles around to unleash their true potential. See it as talent chess
However, don’t get me wrong. One cannot simply have a choice to choose and deny any task at their own pleasure. In some instances, it’s a matter of helping them shift their mindset and looking at a task from a different perspective.
2. Invest in Team Management Education
Before I joined Mindvalley I was a magazine editor, going through the motions and making the kind of mistakes I mentioned above (not nurturing talent, chasing deadlines, correcting people when they made mistakes).
There were no educational tools that were offered to me – and it didn’t occur to me to educate myself because I was too busy to stop and analyse my leadership process.
But when I joined Mindvalley, I was amazed by how large their educational library is – full of books and training tools on marketing, leading, personal growth and so much more. Not long, the way I thought about my role changed.
The first book I picked up blew me away, and helped me scale the external sales team to branch out as a separate start-up company, called Mindvalley Engage, making just under $2.5 million dollars in revenue in the first year.
That book was Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, by Verne Harnish, which taught me to dream big for my team, plan my vision over the next five years, and take Mindvalley Engage to the next level. I also read the Five Dysfunctions of a Team and the Five Temptations of a CEO, both by Patrick Lencioni.
These books didn’t just change and revolutionized my management style, but I also learned so much about myself in the process. I learned how to receive feedback from my team, to admit my mistakes, and to be solution-oriented rather than problem-oriented.
I also conduct weekly training sessions with my teams so we all come together to discuss new things we’ve learned, mistakes we’ve made and how we fixed them and of course – document checklists accordingly for reference so that we can avoid a similar mistake in the future.
The point here is to collaboratively accelerate our learning process, and we do so by sharing our knowledge and findings.
3. Learn to Compliment
Never make people feel small. People are quick to pick on mistakes and correct others, and most often forget to acknowledge the good initiative, great work and the extra mile of others.
Everyone appreciates gratitude. If you’re quick to point out someone’s mistakes, also don’t forget to peel your eyes and ears for their good work. Saying “thank you”, “good job”, “I appreciate your help”, all can go a long way to inspire and motivate.
When it comes to mistakes your team have made, remind them that mistakes are okay, because we learn from these. A mistake is only a problem if it’s repeated many times. Winston Churchill said “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”
What matters is the mode of delivery (choose your language wisely) if you need to address a mistake that was made, or if you need to provide some constructive criticism.
At Mindvalley, we like to call it “delivering a positive sandwich” – start with what you love about them and their work, move on to areas you see they could improve on, provide tips on how to do this, and then end with a few more positive notes on why you love working with them. Avoid words like “but” or “however” as these can override any compliment when you move into sensitive territory.
Also, bear in mind that if you want to provide feedback, always come with a suggestion at hand. If you’d like to discuss a mistake someone has made, providing a solution will be extremely handy to accelerate growth. It’s better than pointing fingers without any real help for a solution. That is an attack – what we need to do here is focus on support.
4. Know Your Team
According to Tom Rath, author of Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without, people who have a close friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged with work.
When you know your colleagues on a personal level, you will start to appreciate them as a person, and working together is suddenly easier.
More importantly, you build trust. You don’t get competitive or take offense from what they say or do, and you will understand their actions and decisions better. You will be able to recognize when each team member has their work hat on, and when they’ve got their fun hat on. You will find that you are now less offended by small issues.
Chances are you probably spend more time with your team more than you do with your friends or even family. So do you want to be working amongst strangers, or do you want to be working amongst friends? You might as well build a happy place to go to five days a week.
I do this by practicing the following: weekly team lunches where we don’t talk about work but talk about each other – what they’re doing on the weekend, what’s new in their life; and monthly “Dream Lunches” where we discuss their dreams and also provide professional feedback, if necessary.
5. Be a Team Player
No project or team can thrive if all involved aren’t team players. Once you start to get to know your teammates, and begin to trust them, team spirit will come naturally. However, as a leader and manager, you need frequently reiterate this fact, and also – demonstrate the quality yourself.
Every player has their own weight to pull. There is no one person working more or harder than others. It’s also important to demonstrate support and help out if someone is swamped with a particular task. As a team, we also need to commit to decisions and plans of action and hold each other accountable for delivering on those plans.
Sports teams demonstrate this best and I’ll use my basic soccer knowledge as an example. If you’re too stubborn to pass the ball to the guy who’s closest to the goalkeeper merely because you don’t want the glory to be his, then the team isn’t going to score and you’re not going to win either. So instead of focusing on who scores the goal, focus on the fact that the team won the game.