The Team Leadership Pitfalls That No One Warned You About
Although many of you reading this run your own petro companies today, for most of us, our beginning leadership role is normally leading a single person. Many times we are given training and tools to help us lead that single person either by our employer or parent who ran the company before us. We learn new skills, have some wins and losses in our new leadership role and begin to grow as leaders. If we continue to excel in our role we eventually gain additional people to lead.
Interestingly, we are not usually given additional training or bestowed with additional insight. It is assumed that leading two people is essentially the same as leading one, and that is sometimes the case, especially if your follower’s duties do not require them to interact with one another. Of course, many times the people who follow you do interact with one another, and as your influence grows, so does the size of your team.
This is when leadership gets really tricky. You are no longer only leading individuals, you are also leading a team of different individuals. People with different experience, skills, personalities, motivations, and aspirations. As a result of these differences, leading a team is more complicated than leading an individual. In a team scenario, there are the added complexities of balance, team utilization and team member inclusion, just to name a few.
At Meridian, we regularly study and implement the teaching of leadership author John C Maxwell. In his books, John often quotes his favorite leadership proverb, “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk.” How true this is! So many times, leaders charge ahead, believing that there is a group of followers behind them, only to look over their shoulder one day and realize that they are alone and that their follows have fallen away or maybe even run away.
To avoid this all too common problem, a leader is required to carefully balance two different principles. On the one hand, you must challenge your team members to leave their comfort zone, because it is there that they will grow, find fulfillment, and make a bigger difference. On the other hand, you can’t push them so far that they feel like they have been pushed off a cliff. Either of these extremes will cause you to lose your team and that may have a substantial impact on your organizations success.
Team utilization can be another difficult road to navigate. It is the leader’s responsibility to find out the unique gifts and talents that each of their team members possess. You have likely heard the saying, “To be successful, it is not enough to just get the right people on the bus, but you must also get the right people into the right seats on the bus.” If you put a “people person” into an administrative role where they never interact with people, they will not only do a less than stellar job, they will also probably have some resentment for you; the leader that put them in that role. Having the right person in the right seat means we must be sure there is a good match between the person and the job.
There are all kinds of assessments that can help you do this and there is another tried and true method as well – ask them. If you ask a person what they are good at and what they enjoy and it is almost certain that they will give you an answer. When you do this, you also make them part of the process, solidifying their role on the team at the same time.
Another item to consider is team member inclusion. Many times a few team members do most of the work, and resent it. Others feel like they are underutilized and typically feel less valued by the leader when this happens. It is the leader’s job to make sure that everyone on the team is helping lift the load and that none are being crushed in the process.
So, if you find yourself leading a team, ask yourself these questions:
- “Am I stretching my team members?”
- “Am I keeping the environment safe for my team?”
- “Am I utilizing my team member’s strengths?”
- “Am I including all of my team and keeping team members from being overworked?”
If you can master these skills, your leadership will grow, your team will succeed and your team members will be glad that you did.