Wise leaders know that no one succeeds alone for long. It takes a team to achieve lasting success. If you’re looking for ways to become a more successful leader at work (or anywhere else), try practicing these three philosophies every day.
- Your Team Is Your Most Valuable Resource
Your team includes everyone who can help you achieve your goals—whether that’s completing a project, running a profitable business, or executing your organization’s mission. Take a look around: they’re in your department; they’re in other departments; they’re your vendors; and very importantly, they’re your customers. When you realize that your success is directly tied to their success, you can focus on doing the things that will help them be successful.
The foundation for a successful team is genuinely caring about the people you work with and the customers you serve. Create an environment where they know you’re committed to their success—your internal team as well as your clients, partners, and vendors. Steve Farber has made a strong case for love as a hard-core business principle: “When employees feel love, they are more loyal, innovative, creative, and inspired, and when you genuinely care about your customers, they know it, and they reciprocate by putting more money in your pocket and talking about you to their friends.”
You can help your team be successful by actively engaging with each person to find out what’s making it hard for them to do their work. It might be a lack of tools or resources. It could be a lack of training. It could even be not clearly understanding how they fit into the bigger picture. Once you have this information, you can focus on removing these roadblocks and clearing the way so they can successfully complete their tasks. Your job is to make sure they have everything they need to get their job done.
- Build Your Team Every Day
To be a successful leader, you have to build your team every day. One annual off-site team-building exercise per year won’t create a successful team or a culture of teamwork. Remember—they’re your most valuable resource, and you have to invest in this resource every day. You can do through actions that create a culture of teamwork. Here are a few suggestions on how to do this:
- Set a shared vision for your team. At one sustainable energy company, the operations team worked together to define their vision. They came up with a simple statement: “Make it easy to join the clean vehicle movement.” Because they all worked on creating the statement, they easily united around the vision and used it as a guide to provide excellent service to every customer they worked with. In fact, they hung the original handwritten statement on the wall where they could all see it as they worked.
- Focus on the team’s results. Make your mantra, “We succeed together.” Give credit to the team as a whole as well as to individual members for the work they do. And when something goes wrong, you must take responsibility. As the leader, you’re ultimately responsible anyway. A surefire way to kill a team is to start playing the blame game. Keep your team alive and well by helping them focus on fixing the problem together, learn from failures, and identify ways to improve.
- Help your team members grow. Look for ways to place your team members in positions that help them grow and achieve their goals. Pay attention to their interests and aspirations, and whenever possible, incorporate those into their work. If you have a team member who really wants to use their degree in accounting, find ways for them to support financial tasks. When you help them, they will help you. When you are loyal to them, they will be loyal to you.
Being a team and building a team are things you do every day. It’s part of the culture you create as a leader. Recognize and reward teamwork. Organize work so it can be done by teams. Point out how individual strengths contribute to a stronger team. Build shared fun into the regular workday, and celebrate small and large successes.
- You Don’t Have to Know Everything
Contrary to popular portrayals of leaders, being a good leader does not mean knowing everything. It’s quite the opposite: successful leaders recognize their personal strengths and weaknesses as well as their team’s core competencies. Take some time to catalog your strengths and weaknesses, and then seek out experts and resources that are strong where you are weak. This may include outsourcing some functions that fall outside core competencies. When you go this route, be sure to choose these team members as carefully as you do your in-house employees.
For example, if you’re a non-profit or mission-driven organization, look for a web development company that specializes in working with non-profits. You’ll have an easier time working together because that vendor will understand your dedication to your mission. If you’re a small or medium-sized business, you may want to hire a professional employer organization (PEO) to handle your payroll and HR functions, leaving you more time to focus on your core business practices. Having a rock solid IT infrastructure is vital for your team to get their work done. Instead of building your own IT group and data center, you may decide to hire a managed services provider who can bring years of experience and the necessary tools and infrastructure to your team.
Most importantly, make sure your extended team shares your vision and will work with you as a trusted partner. Look for concrete evidence that they will help you focus on your core competencies by applying their expertise to your business.
Achieve Long-Lasting Success
It takes a cohesive, committed team to achieve long-lasting success. When you take care of your team and build an atmosphere of teamwork in your organization, you invest in everyone’s long-term success.