Influence on a Team

Team Building: Power and Influence Within a Team

Every professional must master the skill of building and working within a team structure. It may be a permanent team of people or a temporary team brought together for a specific project or activity. In either case, your ability to lead a team and produce results is a critical part of your career success.

Your power and influence within a team does not come from your title, your position, or your seniority. It comes from your leadership skills and your team building skills. Without these, you will struggle to get the performance you need from the group.

Team building for permanent teams

The strategy for team building with a permanent group involves ongoing, daily effort and long-term oversight. As the team leader, you are responsible for building and maintaining an environment where each team member feels valued, respected, and fulfilled. This is a difficult job because inevitably your team is composed of different personalities, different work styles, and different ideas.

Let’s say you have been appointed team leader for an established group whose previous team leader is no longer there. This puts you in a position of coming into a group that is accustomed to a pattern of working together and probably sees you as a potential disruption to that comfortable pattern. Here are some tips for establishing your leadership in situations such as this.

1. Listen. Make a point of listening to the team members, individually and collectively. Give them an opportunity to tell you about themselves, both professionally and personally. Don’t make judgements based on hearsay or third party talk.
2. Observe. Watch how the team interacts with each other and with other people. See who tends to step forward quickly and who tends to hang back. Look for the person who others turn to for advice, guidance, and implicit leadership.
3. Expect. Even as you are listening and observing, set clear expectations for the team. Make sure they know what you expect from them in terms of communication, problem solving, performance and responsibility. This does not mean giving orders that are to be obeyed; it means laying out clear guidelines for behaviors and actions, and then modelling those behaviors and actions yourself.
4. Lead. This is a very small word with very big implications. To lead is to coach, guide, influence, decide, delegate, model, plan, implement, discipline, develop, and direct, just to name a few things. The leadership strategies you use will depend on the nature of the team, but you can be sure that if you don’t step forward and lead then someone else will. Be the leader so that you will be seen as the leader.

Team Building For Temporary Teams

Temporary teams may form for many reasons. There may be a specific project, a nagging problem, or planning and evaluation to be completed. Whatever the reason, team building and leadership of a temporary team have all of the same challenges discussed in the previous section plus many others. Your leadership task is to build a successful team in a situation where there may be time constraints, budget constraints, resource constraints, or institutional constraints.

Successful team building in these situations requires you to listen, observe, expect and lead more quickly and more effectively than ever before. Remember that team members may have another primary job in addition to serving on the team, so be sure to set expectations that are both firm and realistic. Be an advocate for your team members and foster positive team dynamics so that the group will attain success.

Two Heads are Better than One

Women as Leadersby Susan West

Any business executive or manager, who thinks that she knows-it-all and doesn’t require the help of others, is sure to be eating her words sooner rather than later. There’s a saying that goes… “Two heads are better than one.” Well, as far as being an effective leader goes, you need more than just two heads. In fact, surrounding yourself with an entire team of extraordinary people is what you should be doing.

My favorite years in corporate America were when I had a team of seven folks reporting to me. We were very complimentary in our skill sets and strengths. Although, I was the Vice President, and they reported to me, each one knew they were the leader in their area of expertise. We set up projects and each Manager was responsible for leading their project. I became one of the team players on their project. Being a powerful leader is knowing when to lead and when to follow.

Working alone and trying to do as much as possible, single handedly, you risk becoming burned out. A team can help to generate a lot more ideas, which would be beyond the scope of a single person. Some managers have the propensity to go with the first solution that they reach, without even acknowledging the possibility of other solutions. But if the same person was working with a team, she would be more likely to keep searching for a better answer, even if it seemed that the right one had already presented itself. To let go of your role as the Manager for the moment and participate with the team letting someone else lead is very powerful. It takes patience, courage and a keen sense of listening to take this step. Engaging others to be the leader and you being part of a team is terrific role modeling and a great use of talent.

An important aspect of leading is how you go about creating your team. There is a tendency for managers to surround themselves with people who they are at ease with, regardless of what they bring to the table. Having people you are comfortable with will feed your ego and may give you a false sense of accomplishment. While this can help to enhance your self esteem, it is doing nothing to increase your leadership power. That can only come from appointing and working with people who can fill your knowledge gaps, can challenge your thinking and can lend their experience to compliment yours.

One of my favorite leaders and author, Bill George, who in his book Authentic Leadership writes,

“As a leader, I have always surrounded myself with people who are more knowledgeable and experienced than I am. The key is having people around you who complement your weaknesses and make up for your lack of experience. This seems obvious, but how many CEO’s fail to do so in building their teams? It is a real danger sign when leaders only appoint people with whom they feel comfortable.”

What this essentially indicates is that leaders should sometimes be willing to allow a team member to take charge. Not only should they let the team member lead, but should also follow their lead. By doing so, leaders can achieve a balance of knowledge, proficiency and confidence, which is a great challenge for any leader to achieve. By giving charge to someone in your team, you will not be giving up control, but will only be delegating authority and providing the opportunity to watch and contribute to one of your team member’s professional growth.

Engage Others to Lead and Unleash Your Leadership Power!

Building Your Team

Women as Leadersby Susan West

Leading is so much easier and more rewarding when you have surrounded yourself with the right team. When the team you lead relates well to one another, compliments your strengths and weaknesses and is confident enough to deliver, results will flow.

Whether you can recruit your team or inherit your team, you can begin to set the stage for working together by knowing who you are, what your unique abilities are and be willing to share the good, the bad and the ugly with one another. By your sharing your strengths and weaknesses, an increased level of awareness and openness becomes the norm. Expect the same from each of your team members. Ask them to share the same information with you and
their peers. This open sharing of likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses can open the door for projects to end up in the right manager’s hands and more collaboration between team members based on experiences.

When I was working on a very large quote for an important client with a peer of mine and a team of six others, we found ourselves spending many hours together. In the beginning of this project, we took the time to talk about ourselves – sharing what each of us did well and what each of us did not like to do. This open discussion led to clear assignment of tasks and facilitated quick ownership of their area of responsibility. Although, I was
leading the team and there was a lot of pressure by the Executive management team to win this quote, my confidence in our ability to deliver was high. I knew the team well. I knew what their strengths were and had engaged their commitment to the project at the very beginning. My job of leading the team was much easier.

The work done in getting to know one another well and understanding how best everyone can contribute up front in the early stages of pulling the team together is priceless. Take the time to learn more about your team members and let them learn more about you.

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