How to be a good team leader?

Once Mike Meldrum ran a workshop for the MD2MD Managing Director groups on Leadership and Management. He included in the workshop a seemingly simple exercise that participants all commented they found very powerful in helping them identify how to strengthen their own leadership and how to be a good team leader. I have developed and extended the exercise slightly and share the result below:

The process comprises asking – and most importantly challenging yourself – through five questions. The process only works if you really challenge yourself and are open to changing your assumptions. One (safe) approach would be to do this in private – that way no one need know about your weaknesses; or if you are brave you might do it with a coach, mentor, friend, business partner or life partner!

So – the five questions, with my own answers as examples on how to be a good team leader are:

1. What is your goal? What is it that you really want to do differently because you believe it will be important for the business but are having difficulty achieving?

I want to grow my business faster.

2. What is it that you do or do not do that works against the achievement of the goal?

I spend too much time doing the day to day things.

3. What are the disincentives or competing goals? What are the thoughts that go through your mind that make it difficult to do something different?  What do your actions (or lack of them) protect you from? What worries you about changing?

I feel I need to keep bringing in the money now.  Also I need to go at the pace of change my team can handle.  Actually the real problem is that I don’t want to commit to too much too quickly in case it goes wrong and I fail.

4. What are the big assumptions behind those thoughts? What underpins the competing goals and the fears they arose?

I assume that by focusing on faster growth I will reduce my immediate income and risk it all going wrong.

5. Are those assumptions valid?

Well… err… looking back I realise that when I grow I generate more net income. So that one isn’t really valid.  The risk is true I guess, but actually how likely is it that it will all go wrong?  Again looking back, when I’ve thought ‘Let’s just go for it’ I’ve actually achieved my goals and whilst it has sometimes been stressful and hard work, I don’t think I’ve ever got close to losing anything, never mind everything. So maybe I should ‘just go for it’ again.

Written by Bob Bradley, founder of MD2MD.