Over the years that I have worked in the project management field, I’ve taken a number of courses, read a number of books, and have seen and utilized a number of tools that have all promised success in leading teams and managing successful projects. And as helpful as they were, I found that the greatest asset in leading teams and managing projects is not found in technical tools and procedures but in skillfully relating to people. You can have all the processes and procedures memorized, have all the certifications, be an expert in all the technical tools, and list out all the terminology without skipping a beat. But if you can’t skillfully manage human relationships and interactions, you will fail in your attempt to successfully lead teams and manage successful projects.
If you’re not the greatest natural leader since Captain America, I’m here to help out. I’ve listed 10 guidelines to help you improve your ability to lead. If you can master these, you will exponentially increase your ability to lead teams and manage successful projects. Keep in mind that you won’t always get these skills right away. You’ll make mistakes. I know I do. But that’s ok as long as you keep working at it and resolve that no matter what, you’ll be a better leader. You need to do this because so few people are, and this world is starved for good leaders. So without further ado…
1) Don’t criticize or complain about people.
The surest way to demotivate people is to constantly criticize them or complain about them. If they make a mistake, put it in perspective with the things they constantly do well. Accentuate the positive and utilize mistakes as opportunities for continued improvement. This leads us to our next item…
2) Praise improvement, even minor improvements.
Psychologists discovered long ago that when you positively reinforce a desired behavior, people are far more likely to repeat that behavior. Most people want to do the right thing, which means you will find far more success in leading a team if you focus on using positive reinforcement rather than negative actions like threats and fear tactics.
3) Give honest and sincere praise and appreciation.
All people deeply desire significance. One of the easiest ways you can help fulfill desire that is by offering honest and sincere praise and appreciation whenever possible. This is probably one of the greatest motivational methods you can ever employ.
4) Encourage other people to talk and be a good active listener.
People want to be heard, really heard, and not patronized. Oftentimes, instead of listening to someone in a conversation, people are really just waiting for an opportunity to speak. If this is an area where you struggle, one trick is to say “What I understand you’re saying is…” By repeating what you understand the other person to be saying, it forces you to really listen to what they are saying. And as a side benefit, it reinforces to the speaker that you truly are listening to them and respect what they have to say.
5) Be genuinely interested in other people and make them feel important.
Everyone’s favorite primary subject is themselves, its human nature. Social media at large and the “selfie” testify to this fact. Nobody likes to feel ignored and unappreciated, including you (see item 3). So go ahead and make an effort to be interested in people and you will win their gratitude and by extension a cooperative attitude.
6) Be sensitive to people’s pride and let them save face.
The simple fact is that all people are prideful creatures. If you call them out on being wrong about something and make them look bad in front of others, they’ll fight you to the bitter end. But if you can offer criticism or disagreement in a manner that allows them to save face, they’ll be much more willing to cooperate and work with you.
7) Be respectful of other people’s ideas and opinions. Try to see things from their point of view.
When you try to understand another person’s point of view you may find that you learn something. But even if you don’t, you will still find it much easier to respect the people with whom you disagree.
8) If you are wrong, be honest and humble enough to admit it.
Sit down for a moment, are you ready for this? You are not perfect, you are not always right; you can and do make mistakes. One of the greatest personality traits you can develop is that of humility. We all make mistakes, and rather than deny and repeat those mistakes, wise people admit their failures and learn from experience. In doing this the wise person is able to grow and continually get better. If you’re honest and humble enough to own up to your mistake, apologize to those affected, and work to avoid repeating your mistake; you will gain the respect of those you work with.
9) Set a high bar for people and let them know you believe in their ability to succeed.
In 1980, the US Olympic Men’s Hockey Team was set to play against the Soviet Men’s Team in the Winter Olympics. At the time the Soviet team was the undisputed powerhouse in men’s hockey. Nobody expected the US team to have any chance of beating the Soviet Team. The US team was a mix of amateur and collegiate players and the Soviet Team had won the gold medal in six of the seven previous Olympic Games. Before the game, the US team coach Herb Brooks read his players a statement he had written out on a piece of paper, telling them that “You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here. This moment is yours.”(Coffey, 2005). The US team went on to beat the Soviet Team and then Finland and secure the Olympic Gold. Set a high bar for your people, believe in them, communicate that to them and be amazed at what they can achieve.
10) Follow the greatest leadership rule ever given (IMHO).
If you wish to be a great leader, make it your focus to serve those whom you would lead. There are a lot of people that want the power, prestige and pay that comes along with leadership positions, but few want to do what it takes to actually be a good and effective leader. Great leadership isn’t about bossing people around; it’s about inspiring and guiding people towards a common goal for everyone’s benefit. Build your team up, give them credit for their work, praise their efforts and reward them when they succeed. There is a saying that states “Be the change that you want to see”, we can adapt that to this discussion by saying “Be the leader that you would want to lead you”.
*Coffey, Wayne (2005). The Boys of Winter. New York: Crown Publishers.
1.1. Definition of Team Leadership
In definition, team leadership refers to the leadership practices and values exhibited by leaders, governing a specific group of individuals who are working towards achieving a particular goal or objective. A team would not be able to function as a whole without the governance, authority, and effective interaction with a good leader. In this regard, leadership is a function more than a role, and can refer to both the process of leading and to those entities that do the leading. In team leadership, the role of the team leader becomes crucial, as he or she is one who facilitates the processes, the tasks, the working relationships, and the goals, priorities, needs, and achievements of the whole team. Team leadership is an important element in maintaining a good team, for it enables the group or team to effectively and efficiently work with one another, in its aim to achieve its common goals and objectives.
1.2. Team Leadership in a Particular Case
The importance of team leadership can be appreciated with the help of a particular case, wherein team leadership has been the core competence. The Sony Company assigned Toshi T. Doi in the 1980s, and he was the one put in-charge of reversing the trend of its computer products, to create a new line of small office computers. What Doi did was to create a team composed of eleven engineers and inspired them to design any kind of computer with a few specifications, thus, giving them absolute freedom. In six months, the team had created and developed a market-ready engineering workstation, which would usually take up to two years to develop. Within one year of the product's introduction in the market, it had taken over 20% of the Japanese workstation market, thus, achieving a remarkable team accomplishment (Katzenbach 2000). In this particular case, a variety of elements and aspects could be identified and recognized to be responsible for the success of the team. However, such elements would not have been integrated without the leadership of Toshi Doi. In this regard, Doi's team leadership skills have been the primary element in the success of his team.
2. Team Leadership: Involving a Great Leader
2.1. Characteristics of a Team Leader
Team leadership would not be effective and efficient without the support and the exceptional skills of the team leader. Because the team leader is responsible in planning, organizing, and controlling the activities involved in the team, he or she must have a number of excellent skills. The skills of an excellent team leader include a strong leadership ability, the ability to develop people, excellent communication skills, good interpersonal skills, the ability to handle stress, good problem-solving skills, and time management skills. Strong leadership ability means inspiring the people assigned to the tasks, and requires the involvement and empowerment of the whole team. As such, the team leader must exhibit a participative and consultative leadership style, thus, providing guidance and coaching to the team. The ability to develop people means that the team leader has the commitment in training and developing the people working on the tasks of the team, thus, establishing an environment where people can learn from the tasks and experiences in the team. The team leader must be good communicators, establishing effective and frequent communication for sharing information and problems involved in accomplishing the projects of the team. Interpersonal skills must also be developed in the team leader, as it involves good oral and written communication skills, which would be essential in establishing clear expectations of members of the team. This is particularly important in empathizing with team members when special circumstances arise. The ability to handle stress is also important for the team leader must be able to act as a buffer between the team and the top management or the customer of the team. In this regard, good communication and interpersonal skills must be given emphasis. A good team leader must be an excellent problem solver, becoming critical on the problems that arise in the accomplishment of a particular task or project. Lastly, time management skills are important for team leaders, thus, involving self-discipline and willingness to delegate tasks. In terms of the delegation of tasks, this involves the empowerment of the team in achieving the objectives of the project. Thus, proper skills are needed by the team leader in order to lead and delegate responsibilities of the team (Gido and Clements 2005).
2.2. Leadership Styles
Good team leadership would not be effective without the use of different leadership styles, which would be helpful in enabling the team leader to adapt to several situations, crises, and types of individuals in a team. Goleman (2000) emphasizes six leadership styles that can be adopted by a team leader to effectively manage his or her team, namely, Authoritative or Charismatic leadership, Affiliative leadership, Democratic leadership, Coaching leadership, Pacesetting leadership, and Coercive leadership. The Authoritative or Charismatic leadership style is the most effective in driving up every aspect of climate, and is used by a team leader to motivate individuals by making clear to them that their work fits to a larger vision of the team. The Affiliative type of leadership is being used by team leaders when they try to build team harmony, increase morale, improve communication, or repair broken trust, as praise is used freely. The Democratic leadership helps the team leader to spend time getting the team members' ideas, thus, building trust, respect and commitment. However, the process of decision-making may take a lot of time, to be able to ensure that all ideas are being heard and suggestions accommodated. A team leader who helps staff understand their strengths and weaknesses is using the Coaching leadership style, thus, helping them tie these traits into their personal and teaching goals. In the Pacesetting leadership, the leader is fanatical about extremely high performance levels at all times, thus, leading the team through his or her performance. The Coercive leader demands compliance from every member of the team, where dissent is not well tolerated. Despite the number and the variety of leadership styles, it must be understood that team leadership would be most effective with the combination of a number of these leadership styles, for the use of only one leadership style is not enough to answer to the needs of team members, especially in response to problems and crises at hand.
2.3. Impacts on Members and in the Organization
Given the characteristics and the styles of leadership that can be utilized by team members, several positive effects or advantages can be recognized in relation to adapting and using effective team leadership. Advantages can be determined in using effective team leadership, most especially in terms of team members. The primary advantage of team leadership is bringing about and developing teamwork and camaraderie among team members. Teamwork and camaraderie involves integrated and collaborative work, thus, enabling each team member to work effectively and efficiently, despite individual and personal differences. This advantage also involves developing friendship, which further enables the team members to accept and recognize their uniqueness from one another. Another advantage of team leadership is the development of a team culture, which refers to the attitudes, beliefs, and behavior of the whole team that dictate their response or action towards specific situations. The development of such a culture is also defined by how the team leader addresses the problems and the difference of his or her team members, thus, the more effective team culture, the more effective the approach of the team in terms of its tasks and responsibilities. The third advantage of team leadership is developing effective and good communication among the team members and between the team members and the team leader. Developing good communication is the recognition that it is a two-way process, and is the key in the teamwork of members and the team leader. In addition, it is also vital in maintaining work ethos that involves the development of members by avoiding risk and resolving conflicts within the team. A team communicates by various reasons, such as needing to relax from a stressful task, know the person he or she is relating to, clarify specific instructions, and share ideas, comments or suggestions. In this regard, developing good and effective communication is a vital key in developing teamwork and camaraderie. Another important advantage in team leadership is building trust, which enables one to share valuable information in order to collaborate and contribute to the whole team. In building trust, the reputation of each team member must be strengthened. Another important aspect in team leadership is having a shared vision among the team, for this would help each member and the team leader himself or herself to come up with a particular approach that would be useful in achieving that particular vision or goal. Lastly, team leadership enables the team to reduce conflicts, which results from individual differences and miscommunication. In this regard, the other aspects and advantages mentioned must interact altogether to reduce conflicts and problems within the team.
Advantages or benefits can also be observed in relation to the whole organization, for the teamwork developed within a specific team transcends to the entire organization. Primarily, with team leadership, the entire organization can effectively utilize its resources, including financial, physical and human resources. Effectively developing teamwork helps organize the available and the needed resources of the organization, thus, allocating all the needed resources efficiently. The proper allocation of the organization's resources leads to the organized and efficient operations of the organization, which results to the increase in the overall productivity of the organization. This further improves the overall performance of the organization in all aspects, thus, further influencing other teams and departments in the entire organization.
3. Team Leadership: Role of Team Members
3.1. Characteristics of Team Members
The responsibilities and the job of the team leader would not be successful and meaningful without the support and contribution of the team members that comprise the whole team. In this regard, the survival of the whole team lies on the teamwork of the team members, where teamwork is the cooperative effort in achieving a common goal. Teamwork, trust, cooperation and coordination are then achieved depending on its development, which involves four stages, namely, forming, storming, norming, and performing. In the forming stage, the group begins to establish an identity and attempts to define and plan the tasks that need to be done. In the second stage, the norming stage, the team members start to apply their skills to work on the assigned tasks, thus, leading to the slow progression of work. In the norming stage, conflicts between individuals have already been settled, and are brought about by a number of factors, such as the work scope, resource assignments, schedule, cost priorities, organizational issues, and personal differences. However, because of conflicts have been resolved, trust is developed at this stage, thus, increasing sharing of information, ideas and feelings. In the last stage or the performing stage, the team is now highly committed to achieve the project objectives. At this stage, each member becomes interdependent from one another, thus, becoming fully delegated and empowered by the responsibilities and authority of the team leader.
3.2. Roles of Team Members
In addition, the whole team works effectively and efficiently with the team leader at all costs. In this regard, the team leader is now described as being effective, with characteristics as having a clear understanding of the team objective, clear expectations of roles and responsibilities, and high degree of cooperation, collaboration and trust. Moreover, the team undergoes brainstorming and team building, which further develops the team through socialization and problem solving (Gido and Clements 2005). As such, the time management skills of the team are being developed, making the team more effective in managing their time and resources efficiently.
4. Other Factors that Affect Team Leadership
Motivation is an internal state or condition that activates behavior and gives it direction or mainly the influence of needs and desires on the intensity and direction of behavior. Several factors influence the motivation of an individual, and may include emotions, feelings, short and long-term goals, reinforcements, and the obstacles that must be overcome to reach certain goals. Moreover, factors, such as responsibility, achievement, and the job itself serve to influence and affect one's motivation (cited in Huitt 2001). Motivation, like team leadership is a crucial element in keeping an individual going and achieving his or her goals, most especially in terms of team participation. Motivation is always related to use of effective team leadership, as the motivation of team members relies on the type of leadership used by a team leader. The attitude, behavior, values, and approach of the team leader influence and dictate the work and the motivation of the team members, being responsible for the delegation, planning, organizing, and the managing of the work of the entire team. In addition, the personal desires and goals of each team member influence their motivation and performance, thus, affecting the performance, communication, and culture of the whole team. In this regard, the role of the team leader becomes crucial in meeting and exceeding the demands, needs, and preferences of his or her team member.
4.2. Job or Work
In relation to motivation, the common element among the team leader and his or her members is the job or the work being done by the whole team. In this regard, the job becomes the source of motivation of the team members depending on the type of leadership employed by the team leader. As such, scientific management of the job or work of the whole team must be implemented, thus, redefining the specialization, schedule, and tasks and responsibilities of each team member. Job serves to be also one of the factors that influence the motivation of team members, and it also is dependent on the team leadership being exhibited by the team leader.
5. Analysis of the Case
As mentioned earlier, the case of Toshi Doi from Sony was a good example of how team leadership is effectively and efficiently exhibited in order to achieve specific goals and objectives. From the characteristics and roles of a team leader, it can be understood that Toshi Doi was able to exhibit characteristics of a good and effective leader, based on the achievement of the whole engineering team. Primarily, he gave his team members with the opportunity for growth and creativity, having the autonomy to do what they want for the new project. Organizing the new engineering team has provided the team members to develop teamwork, through active participation on the project. The success of the team's creation or project can lead to the realization that Toshi Doi was successful in adapting to the changing situation of the organization and in effectively handling stress due to the demands of the company. Moreover, the team members, like the team leader, were also able to successfully meet the demands and the needs of the company by being creative and resourceful in developing the new project. Although they were given absolute freedom in developing the new project, they proved to be responsible in meeting the demands of the company through less supervision. In addition, they were also able to create the new project in only 6 months, which super exceeds the time schedule due for the project. This shows that the attitude, approach and behavior of Doi extended to the behavior and attitude of his team members, in becoming disciplined in terms of their work behavior.
This also extends to the motivation of the team members, being given the chance to prove themselves to the company and to their team leader. The work and the approach of the leader have given the team members the opportunity to show their skills and talents, and contribute to the success of the company. This means that the work or the job itself has become contributory to the motivation of the team members, along with the team leadership of Doi.
The primary recommendation for Toshi Doi is to change his leadership style when necessary, or depending on the situation or problem being faced by the team. Aside from giving his team members absolute freedom in accomplishing their tasks or projects, Toshi Doi can, if necessary coach his team depending on the need of the project and depending on the need of the team members. In this regard, the use of other leadership styles and approaches would be appropriate and effective in dealing with different situations.
Another recommendation is to improve and enhance its channels of communication through the use of information system, which can help each member to access information, and even communicate with other members of the team. In this way, communication is always held constant and simultaneous.
Lastly, the team members can increase their consultation, coordination and cooperation with the top management of the company, thus, increasing the support and interaction with the members of the top management.
From the discussion, it can be deduced that teams are important aspects of an organization, for they are responsible for performing the various functions of the organizations and without teams, tasks and responsibilities would not be delegated properly among its members. Similarly, team leadership is important for the increase in the productivity and efficiency of the organization. In this regard, it is important to take note of the different characteristics and approaches of team leaders, which influences the motivation and job performance of team members. As such, aside from the type of leadership being used by the team leader, he or she must also be able to meet the demands of the team members in terms of their work, to further motivate and inspire them to work for the organization. A good example would be the cited case of Toshi Doi, who was able to effectively and efficiently govern his engineering team in order to meet the demands of the company.