Your ability to negotiate, communicate, influence and persuade others to do things is indispensable to everything you accomplish in life. The most effective men and women are those who can competently organize the cooperation and assistance of other people to accomplish goals and objectives.
Of course, everyone you meet has different values, opinions, attitudes, beliefs, cultural values, work habits, goals, ambitions and dreams. Because of this incredible diversity of human resources, it has never been more difficult and yet more necessary for diplomatic leaders to emerge and form these people into high-performing teams.
Fortunately, leaders are made, not born. You learn to become a leader by doing what other excellent leaders have done before you. You become proficient in your job or skill, and then you become proficient at understanding the motivations and behaviors of other people. As a leader, you combine your personal competencies with the competencies of others into a smoothly functioning team that can outplay and outperform all its competitors.
When you become a team leader, even if your team only consists of one other person, you must immediately develop a whole new set of leadership skills. To determine what these skills are, you need to consider the genesis of high-performing teams.
Teams generally go through four phases as they evolve toward high performance: forming, storming, norming and performing.
The forming stage is very important, perhaps even critical, to the success of the team. Your ability to select the proper team members to accomplish a particular task–personal or business–is the mark of the superior leader. If you select the wrong people in the first place, it becomes almost impossible afterward to build a winning team, just as it would be impossible to win athletic championships with unskilled or ill-suited players.
In the forming stage, the team members come together and begin to get a feeling for each other. There will be a good deal of discussion, argument, disagreement, personal expression of likes and dislikes, and the forming of friendly alliances between team members.
This stage, especially the discussions and conversations that take place, may seem time consuming, but it’s indispensable to developing a unified group of people that you can lead. One of the most important qualities of a leader is patience. And patience is never more necessary than when you’re going through the early stages of assembling your team.
The second stage of team development is storming–a shortened form of “brainstorming.” During this stage, the group, whose members are now comfortable with each other, begins the hard work of setting goals and deadlines, dividing up the tasks and getting on with the job. During the storming phase, people learn about the contributions each member can make to achieve the team’s objectives.
The third stage of team development is norming. This is when norms and standards are established among the team members so that everyone feels secure and confident in his or her place. All members know what’s expected and how their performance will be measured. They also are aware of the responsibilities and obligations that they have, not only to the job, but to each other. Your ability as a leader to promote the norming process is critical to the team’s success.
The fourth stage of team development is performing. In the final analysis, your ability to get results is all that really matters. Your lifestyle, your rate of promotion and level of rewards, and your respect and esteem among your co-workers and bosses will all be determined by your ability to perform and to get others to perform.
Getting Results From Your Team
There are basically five qualities you need to foster throughout the stages of team development. The degree to which you accomplish this before you start working will determine your success as a team leader and the success of the team.
1. Shared values. You can foster this quality by asking the question, “What are our values?” or “What do we stand for?” People will contribute the values they consider the most important. As they do, you or someone else can write them on a flipchart. The values will usually be something like: integrity, excellence, quality, caring about people, profitability and harmony.
2. Shared objectives. Everyone must take the time to discuss the actual reason for forming the team and the chief results that are expected.
Leaders can see the big picture. They’re absolutely clear about what they want to accomplish and what it will look like. They have the ability to articulate this vision in the minds and hearts of others and to get everyone, no matter what their background or personality, working together in harmony toward the realization of that vision.
People can’t hit a target they can’t see. Again, even though it may appear time consuming, everyone needs to have ample opportunity to discuss and agree on the ultimate goals desired before work begins. The more thorough the discussion of goals and objectives, the more effective the team will be when it begins working.
3. Shared activities. Everyone knows what they’re supposed to contribute to achieving the team’s goals and objectives. They also know what each of the other members is expected to do. All the work is clearly divided up among the team members, and everyone knows their role in the process.
4. A team head who leads the action. You become the role model for all of the others. You go out in front. You continually look for ways to make it easier for your team members to do their jobs. You accept complete responsibility for achieving the overall goal. You start a little earlier, you work a little harder, and you stay a little later. You set careful priorities on your time, and you always work on your highest value tasks. You never ask anyone to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself. You always put yourself out in front and go to bat for your people in every circumstance. You are a leader because you continually lead.
5. Team members who continually evaluate their progress. They’re always asking themselves, “How are we doing, and how can we do better?” When they manufacture or sell products in the marketplace, they ask their customers for ongoing feedback and evaluation. They set incredible standards of excellence and are constantly striving to be better.
Whenever they have problems, misunderstandings or difficulties within the team, they reexamine their values, their goals, their activities, their assignments and their responsibilities. They’re more concerned with what’s right than with who’s right. They’re more concerned with winning than with not losing. High-performing teams run by excellent leaders are determined to perform in an excellent fashion. All members know that their ability to work together in harmony and cooperation is the key to all of their success.
The wonderful thing about becoming a leader in your work and personal life is that you can practice the skills of influencing and persuading others toward a common objective. You can promote the principles of excellent teamwork by establishing your values and goals, determining your activities and then leading the action. And you can improve yourself by continually evaluating your performance against your standards.
One of the marks of excellent people is that they never compare themselves with others. They only compare themselves with themselves and with their past accomplishments and future potential. You can become an even more excellent person by constantly setting higher and higher standards for yourself and then by doing everything possible to live up to those standards. The more proficient you become at getting the results for which you were hired, the more opportunities you will have to get results through others. And your ability to put together a team and then to lead that team to high performance will enable you to accelerate your business and fulfill your goals faster than ever before.