By: Peter Diamond August 26, 2016
There’s nothing more motivating than working on a team that’s firing on all cylinders. Everything is in sync. The business is moving forward. Tangible success is achieved. People are in a groove and working hard isn’t hard work. It’s seemingly effortless, with no wasted energy. When everyone feels good about the work they’re doing together, even those outside the team can feel a palpable difference. Something special is happening. It’s contagious, and people want to be part of it. What’s their secret sauce? And how can you get it for your team? Over the past three years, I’ve interviewed hundreds of marketing professionals to discern how teams operate and why some are higher-functioning than others. During these interviews, people freely share how they feel about teams and their leaders. Surprisingly, people’s candor always points optimistically toward improving performance — even if the team is struggling. High-octane leaders possess and consistently exhibit six attributes that bolster team performance.
- Engaged. The most inspiring leaders set a clear direction and fully commit to making their teams successful. They have a grip on the issues and understand what people need, without micromanaging. When asked, these leaders slow down and make themselves accessible to provide productive counsel. They know the importance of being present both physically and emotionally. It’s subtle, but team members are keenly aware when a leader puts the team’s best interests ahead of her or his own.
- Inclusive. True leaders create a supportive culture rooted in trust. Differing views and perspectives are valued and welcomed. They understand the importance of complementary skills and varied approaches to problem-solving. In fact, they go out of their way to create a diverse team. They eschew egos and drama because they know how divisive those distractions can become. Everyone feels heard and respected. Most important, these leaders stay focused on the business and rise above office politics.
- Relationship-building. The best leaders align themselves with the team and recognize they must work alongside others to be successful. They knock down any walls or silos, cultivating deep relationships within the organization. They’re equally adept at building long-lasting ties with clients and external partners. They unselfishly offer help and solutions to fix problems even if those difficulties reside outside their purview. They realize isolationism restricts what a team or organization can achieve. They prefer an open-source approach that welcomes others and creates great opportunities for success.
- Timely. Successful leaders don’t dilly dally with decision-making. They understand time is precious, and they don’t want to waste it. They know when it’s appropriate to focus quickly on key issues. This allows them to move forward even in the face of uncertainty. In fact, it’s a hallmark of this management style. Leaders take responsibility for keeping projects and initiatives on track. They’re confident when they must rely on their intuition because they’re not afraid to take reasonable risks. If all the data isn’t available, their teams still make good progress together and have faith in their shared direction.
- Forward-thinking. Leaders want their team members to be successful, too. They take seriously their role to ensure team members are growing and evolving. Long-term success is linked to the strength of the team’s capabilities. This includes opportunities for continuous education and management training as well as rotating people in positions or expanding their individual responsibilities. They know good people will move on to another role, but they’ll always have the connection and open door to work together in future.
- Appreciative. It’s hard to say enough about the power of a simple “thank you.” And even more can be said about acknowledging a person’s true character and the impact he or she has on the team. Leaders who make the time to connect on this level endear themselves to everyone in their sphere of influence. People want to feel good about what they are doing and the contributions they make. Team members remember how they were treated. They’ll move heaven and earth to help without question when needed.
Teams live or die on a leader’s ability exemplify these six attributes. Not only did I strive to put these into practice when I was leading teams for more than 15 years, I’ve witnessed marked differences among leaders who employ these behaviors and those who don’t. Ineffective leadership ultimately has a direct impact on business results, morale, turnover, growth and innovation.