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First Time Leader? Five Tips on How to Lead a Team Effectively

Friday, May 05, 2023

Whether you are a leader of a small team or a large organization, applying these 5 principles will help you become effective in your leadership. They will help you recognize your purpose as a leader and be able to create the right environment for your team to thrive.

Understand that the purpose of leadership is not about simply giving your team directions. The purpose is to create the right environment that enables team members to make the right choices that bring about the desirable outcomes that were previously decided upon.

Your leadership doesn’t depend on your positional authority. Nor does it depend on your job title or years of industry experience. Your ability to lead effectively depends on the actions you take.

Actions lead and inspire people more than credentials and accolades. Actions speak louder than your achievements. Achievements may be impressive in the beginning of a relationship, but it takes on less and less meaning over time especially if the actions taken were ineffective.

Your actions include behaviors, decisions, and communications. When your actions become indisputably effective, your team members will want to follow you.

From the space of knowing this true purpose of leadership, here are five tips to implement that will help you lead a team effectively.

1. Practice Self Regulation

Self regulation gives us the lever that helps influence our own thoughts and emotions. As a leader, we strive to influence other people. But we cannot have real influence on others until we have effectively learned to influence ourselves. For example, there are things we need to do as part of our responsibilities, but we are not inspired to do them. We must be able to influence ourselves to take action and do those things we don’t want to do. Then we can effectively influence and lead others to action.

There are three domains of self-regulation that must be mastered. First, the domain of our physical bodies. Regulating your physical self means being able to effectively control the body to make it do what’s necessary even in an environment that is less than ideal.

For example, maybe you have to work in an environment full of distractions, where you might not get your best work accomplished. Or perhaps you have moved to a different location, and now live in a very hot climate than you’re unaccustomed to. Even in those situations where the environment is not what you’re comfortable with or what you prefer, it is necessary to get your body to do what it needs to do. This is self-regulation. When we understand that our bodies do not control us, but we have control of our bodies and when we master that control, then we master self-regulation.

The second domain of self-regulation is our emotions. Our state and our emotional reactions dictate the way we show up and act in the workplace. In order to lead through actions effectively, we must regulate our emotions. If you do not have self-regulation, these emotions and impulses can take over to the point where you overreact and exude extreme emotional reactions.

Another emotional aspect to self-regulate is the constant belief that we are not doing enough. Self doubt would have us second-guessing our decisions and our actions constantly. This is something that must be managed if we are to inspire a team and lead with confidence.

The third domain is to be able to self regulate mentally. How do you maintain focus and attention among distractions that are constantly growing? You can do this through mental self-regulation. This is about having governance over your mind and your thoughts so that you can strengthen your ability to focus and achieve self mastery despite the circumstances around you.

2. Pinpoint Success

As a leader, it is critical to know what to communicate to your teams in terms of direction or strategy. If you are not clear on what success means, your team will not be clear either. A leader must articulate common concerns and create a shared language so the teams you lead can understand you. When you pinpoint success, you can know if your efforts are working or if they need to be changed, based on whether your team is closer to the goal.

If you aren’t able to pinpoint what success is, you will not know when you’ve arrived. To define success for a team, leaders must clearly identify and communicate the vision. When you can effectively communicate the value of the team’s goal and the value the team contributes, then you step into leadership.

3. Preserve Safety

In our business culture, it’s normal to celebrate growth and value achieved. Celebrating achievements continually creates a culture of wanting that acknowledgement and recognition. This can motivate employees toward growth and contribution, because humans like being recognized for their efforts.

But what happens when there is failure? In any business setting, there will be mistakes and failures. Inevitably, there will be milestones that aren’t met. What should you do in those circumstances? As leaders it’s our responsibility to create an environment that supports team members. This means giving direction, but also providing resources for your team to carry out what is needed.

Leading also means creating an environment where it is safe to fail. Demonstrate that failure is not tied to a person’s identity and character. Instead, failure should be recognized as part and parcel of the journey. Failure should be viewed as feedback on what to improve and an opportunity to do better. Demonstrating this is the way a leader preserves safety, and creates an environment that supports growth of team members.

4. Perpetuate Status

A leader needs to have an understanding of your team’s status and become great at assessing your team. Get clear on your team’s baseline. In any organization, a team usually has a lot more responsibility than capacity to fulfill. It’s common to have more gaps to meet than can be filled. So it is more important as leaders on where we should put our limited focus and where to place limited capacity.

What is most important to pay attention to will change, so it’s important to continually assess your team and report progress. Ensure your own managers know where your team is so they are aware of the status. This is important in boosting your own leadership abilities, so your managers see progress and can assess you, and help you course-correct when necessary.

5. Performance Standard

Having a performance standard is the most important part of a leader’s responsibility. And leaders must relate these standards of performance to their teams. Each member of a team must then individually make the commitment to meeting those standards. To be successful, performance must be consistent, effective and efficient and it is up to a leader to set that example.

Ideally, each person on your team must hold their role so well that they have excess capacity to then support others. Performance standards will give your team awareness to see if there are gaps that need to be filled. You can also gauge your own performance against the standards to recognize where any gaps are and where improvements need to be made in your individual performance.

As a leader, it is important to effectively communicate what the performance standards are. Beyond simply giving a vision and explaining their roles, articulate what the performance standards are. In this way, you can set your team up for success.

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