Teamwork is crucial to the success of nearly all business results. But assigning a group of people to work together doesn’t suddenly transform them into a team. To work as a team, every member of the group must be committed to a common purpose, and share in both helping to achieve that purpose and accepting responsibility for the outcome. And that requires leadership.
Building a cohesive, successful team takes a leader who understands team dynamics and guides each member through the process of connecting, collaborating, overcoming obstacles, and growing together. This applies to day-to-day in-house teams, where members work together within the same functional area - whether that’s marketing, manufacturing, engineering, or accounting. It’s also true, to varying degrees, for ad hoc teams, project teams, cross-functional teams, and virtual teams, even when members include people outside the organization, such as contractors, vendors, volunteers, or customers.
Just like leading individual contributors to accomplish goals and improve performance, leading a team to success depends on a key component: leadership style. How do you motivate and direct the people on your team to get the work done? That’s a matter of leadership style. Whether it’s democratic, coaching, transformational, or strategic, whatever style you choose should feel comfortable to you as well as suit the type of team you’re leading.
Leadership style is only one part of the team success equation. Here are two additional critical components of leadership for team building: the leader’s attitude and willingness to support team members.
Leadership attitude is how you feel about the work and the people on your team. If the team’s purpose and goals are low on your list of priorities, team members will naturally pick up on that and feel less motivated to do anything beyond the bare minimum of what’s expected. Along with valuing the work your team does, getting to know and caring about the people on your team - both as individuals and as collaborators - is essential to leading the team’s development and success. When your attitude as a leader conveys a genuine interest in and appreciation for the team’s efforts and contributions to the organization, then team members will respond by taking pride in their work and striving to work together to achieve outstanding results.
In addition, your team will thrive if you lead its members with a focus on serving them. As a leader, you might tend to think of your team as working for you and serving your needs and goals, from meeting benchmarks and delivering expected outcomes to demonstrating your capacity to lead to your superiors. Yet, for your team to accomplish anything, you must first recognize and meet their needs, which requires a willingness to serve the people you are leading. To quote Max De Pree, the former CEO of Herman Miller, Inc.: “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”
Adopting a service approach to leadership begins with asking a simple yet essential question: How can I help?
Here’s a quick list of exactly what you can do to help your team members work together to accomplish their goals:
- "Get them the resources they need."
- Provide relevant and useful information."
- Point the direction toward expected outcomes and clarify their priorities."
- Remove any blockages in their workflow."
- Set high but attainable standards."
- Encourage team members to speak up if they feel overwhelmed."
- Advocate for the team and shield them when appropriate."
- Make sure everyone on the team is recognized and rewarded for their work."