These 5 steps foster creative approaches and increase team success
“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” Abraham Maslow
As a new supervisor, you don’t know what you don’t know. It’s hard not to trip yourself up in the effort to impress your bosses and make your mark.
I can assure you that one of the quickest ways to fail as a leader is to expect everyone to look and act like you. If you try to be the only one driving outcomes and think you’re bringing your team along as observers, you can’t be an effective leader or supervisor.
A leadership development course saved my career.
When I was first hired to lead a minor league baseball team in the 1980s, I was totally unprepared for the challenges I faced. I had been in a small organization where I did everything and, at 28, I was sure my hard work landed me this supervisory job. In my own eyes, my way was the good way, and my opinion was the only one that mattered. And it showed in the ways I treated people; I would let employees talk, listening with half an ear, and then I would deliver the decision I had made before they started talking.
Fast forward a bit, and I realized I was failing at my dream job. The people who reported to me knew they were “just there to do their jobs” and “nobody cared” about their thoughts or ideas. Although I tried to hide what was happening, my staff was resisting my direction and treating me with animosity. It was so bad that my organization suddenly had high employee turnover. I was banging my head on the wall, and I knew I was close to losing my job.
In desperation, I took a leadership development course that completely changed the way I approached my team. The “AHA” moments from that course put me on a path that would lead me to top executive positions in some of the most prestigious venues in the world. In a nutshell, I learned:
- Different people look at things differently. “AHA!”
- Other opinions are valuable and worth hearing. “AHA!”
- Good leaders consider other’s opinions. “AHA!
- People don’t always need to be right, but they do need to be heard. “AHA!”
As a new supervisor you will be leading people who are different than you. Don’t build a team of mini-MEs!
Behavioral science tells us that we all have varied goals, experiences, education, fears, motivations, and ways we see the world. Some team members will excel at acting quickly while others are slower and more deliberate. Some enjoy completing tasks while others get their satisfaction from interacting with people. Some speak boldly, while others express empathy or sensitivity.
The point is, great teams are a mixture of all these people, and successful teams are not made up of mini-MEs. They require a mixture of individuals, people who bring unique ideas and perspectives to the team. A good leader understands that each one has something valuable to offer, provides an opportunity for each member of the team to speak, and listens carefully to the information shared in the discussion.
These 5 steps foster creative approaches and team success
- Become a facilitator. You may think a leader has to state their opinion and then convince everyone to follow. In reality, your opinion should be shaped by the people in the room. To create a space where you will hear multiple opinions, start the conversation with the mission. “Today, we’re here to find a solution for our supply chain issues with getting X.” Then invite each person to speak, and truly listen.
- Make eye contact. Be sure each speaker knows they have your attention and respect.
- State what you heard. When an employee speaks up, don’t rush in to fill the blanks or push forward to the next speaker. Repeat back what you heard. “Wanda, I believe I heard you say . . . .”
- Clarify. Ask questions that deepen your understanding. If something is unclear or needs more details, encourage your team members to continue talking. “Can you tell me what you mean? Tell me more.”
- Put air between your reaction and your words. Put a lock on your emotions, ego, and energy. If someone has said something that makes you uncomfortable, pause. Take a deep breath, count to ten. Listen some more. There is no need to address that discomfort in the meeting.
After you have gathered input from your team, you will have the opportunity to act. In some cases, your decision might be the one you would have made without your team’s ideas and suggestions. In many cases, however, the wisdom shared by your team will change your approach, give you a new solution, or offer details you would otherwise have missed. When you act, you can build further trust by pointing out the ways your actions were influenced by the team.
Valuing the members of your team, especially because they are different, will help you, as an emerging leader, make better decisions.
To be a good leader, you must cultivate a climate where your employees feel understood and know that you value their approach and contributions to the team. People don’t always have to be right, but they do want to be heard.
To build and retain a high-performance team, I encourage you to embrace the fact that everyone is different, just like the superheroes in the League of Legends. It is not your job to make everyone think or act like you. It is your job to motivate and encourage a team made up of individuals, and to help each member understand they have the potential to make a difference for their team and their organization. And that can make anyone feel like a superhero.
Equip new supervisors with the skills, knowledge, and awareness that helps them bridge the gap when they transition to supervising their former frontline coworkers. Help them bring out the best in every member of their team.