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Last Updated on March 17, 2020

10 Essential Skills to Become a Successful Team Leader

10 Essential Skills to Become a Successful Team Leader

There’s an age old debate on whether good leaders are born or made. And while we will not be settling that argument here today, I think it’s safe to say that even if you aren’t born to leadership, there are some skill sets that you can employ to become a successful team leader.

But first, you need to understan the difference between a boss and a leader.

The terms boss and leader are often times used interchangeably, and with good reason. There is a lot of overlap in their meaning. But there are subtle differences, the most important one being that almost anyone can be a boss, leaders are harder to come by. Some of the differences between a boss and a leader:

  • A boss manages work, a leader inspires people – A boss will assign tasks and duties to their team, monitor the progress and assess the results. A leader inspires people to willingly contribute to the success of an organization.
  • A boss always has an answer, a leader always looks for a solution – Part of leadership is coaching your employees. This not only helps to build cohesiveness within the team, but is a great way to build your employees’ problem solving skills and further their career.
  • A boss monitors value, a leader creates value – Every employee needs to bring value to the organization, and that value needs to be greater than the cost of that employee to the company. A good leader is able to recognize their employees’ unique skill sets and utilize them in ways that maximize their talents for the benefit of the company.

These are just a few of the differences between a boss and a leader, but you get the idea. Now we’ll move on to some of the techniques you can use to become a successful team leader:

1. Confidence (Not Arrogance)

People are naturally drawn to confident leaders.[1] Having clear goals and a clear sense of direction on achieving those goals is critical to successful leadership.

Just be careful that your confidence doesn’t turn into arrogance.

Think about the pilot of an airplane. In order to fly from point A to point B, a pilot needs to be confident in the route chosen, his/her ability to fly the plane and the competency of the crew. That pilot inspires confidence and most of us would be willing to take that flight. If however, that pilot starts out with only a vague idea of where they are going and the route they will take to get there, it doesn’t inspire confidence and very few people would be willing to follow that captain’s lead.

2. Decisiveness

Leaders make decisions in a timely manner. Not doing so is just letting the situation escalate until circumstances dictate an answer. Letting this happen is the exact opposite of leadership and will not inspire anyone to follow.

Here’re some tips to help you: 5 Tips for Lightning-Fast Decision Making

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3. Organization

A good team leader recognizes that all resources are limited. This includes monetary capital, human capital as well as time. Being able to organize and prioritize each of these things so that waste is minimized is essential to a good leader.

Hint: Employ systems to streamline productivity as much as possible. Have a standard system to deal with email, paperwork, time management and anything else that you can.

Without organization, a lot of important decisions will be left to circumstance.

4. Negotiation

Whether it’s in the job description or not, almost any team leader needs to be a good negotiator.

Disputes and conflict will inevitably arise within your team. When that happens, you need to be willing to settle these disputes and restore harmony within the group.

Always keep in mind that when dealing with different personalities, perception is reality. You may see one side as rational and the other side as ridiculous, but through that person’s eyes, they have a legitimate gripe. You need to not only solve the immediate issue, but also ensure that any resentments won’t impact the larger goals of the team.

Start by listening and acknowledging both sides, half the battle is reassuring people that you have heard them and take their issues seriously. Then, try to come up with 2 to 3 compromised solutions that would be acceptable to you.

Finally, ask them to pick the scenario that they both could live with. You’ll find that while neither one gets what they want, if they feel invested in the solution, they will be much more likely to abide by it.

These tactics maybe useful for you: 12 Tactics to Negotiate Better and Not Be a Pushover

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5. Delegation

Knowing how to delegate is not an option for a good team leader; you MUST be able to delegate tasks to your team members without micro-managing them.

In order to become an effective delegator, you must first have a clear understanding of the scope and time frame of the project. You also need a good understanding of each team member’s skill set.

Once those things are clear, you can then break down the goal into individual tasks that need to be accomplished within a time frame. You can then assign each task to a team member according to their individual skill sets.

Your job then becomes one of answering questions that arise, monitoring progress and tying everything together to make a finished product. Proper delegation is the truest form of management.

6. Prioritize

Being a good prioritizer is an undervalued skill, but it’s essential to optimizing your team’s time, effort and resources.

In a team leadership role, you need to be able to prioritize the tasks that are the most essential and the most time sensitive for the success of the project. From the point of view of the small business owner, you need to prioritize what you will personally do.

In my businesses, all of my efforts are devoted to activities that will increase sales and income for the company. I spend my time marketing, networking and promoting the businesses. Anything that takes me away from those activities needs to be done by either an employee or it gets contracted (or delegated) out to a specialist.

Take a look at this guide if you want to prioritize better: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

7. Motivator

Being a good team leader means knowing how to motivate both the group and the individuals within the group. Using techniques like outside team building exercises can enhance group cohesiveness and group problem solving skills. These are the very things necessary when working in a group environment.

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While implementing good team building activities is essential, it’s not enough. You need to understand how to motivate the individuals within your team. Everyone has their own motivation for doing things.

Some are motivated by money, so is there a bonus at the end? If not, make sure they understand that their performance will be taken into consideration during their next annual review.

Some people (especially parents) may be motivated by having a more flexible schedule. Can you offer them Friday afternoon off if they come in an hour early on Monday – Thursday? (or stay an hour late)?

Some people are motivated by fear of consequences. And while constantly threatening people’s jobs may work in the short term, it’s no way to motivate people in the long term. But that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be consequences for missed deadlines or poor performance.

As a team leader, you have both the carrot and the stick at your disposal.

8. Maintain Composure

Any human endeavor that requires group coordination over a period of time is bound to run into snags, problem and issues, some foreseeable, some not. When these issues arise, a good team leader will stay focused on solutions rather than being fixated on the problem. This attribute does not come naturally to most people, but it is one that can and should be learned.

I personally learned this skill when I became a pilot. First of all, as any pilot will tell you, if you get into trouble flying an airplane, the worst thing you can do is panic. No one makes good decisions in a panic of distressed state of mind.

It’s important that you are able to calmly gather all the information about the problem before you do anything that might make the issue worse. Only when you are clear about the nature and cause of the problem can you then address it properly. There’s a reason that most plane crashes are due to pilot error. Don’t let pilot error crash your project.

9. Encourage Creativity

This has a lot to do with having good listening skills. A good leader will listen to their team at least as much as they direct the team.

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Having regular meeting where team members can discuss the problems and issues they are having is a great way to not only build team cohesiveness, but it also allows for the brainstorming of ideas to solve problems.

As a team leader, you should set ground rules for these brainstorming sessions that include:

  1. There are no stupid ideas – Brainstorming sessions by their nature are creative endeavors, nothing squelch’s creativity faster than a judgmental atmosphere.
  2. Don’t criticize other people’s ideas – A brainstorming session is not the forum to decide if an idea is good or not. In fact, you should be encouraging people to come up with wild, strange or unlikely concepts. After all, that is how industry changing breakthroughs come about.
  3. Build on other’s ideas – This is where encouraging wild ideas pays off. It’s very common that one person’s idea will trigger someone else’s different (or even better) idea. In effect, your team is harnessing and building off of each other’s brain power. And this is what we are after, it’s this type of “out of the box” thinking that can lead to revolutionary changes.

10. Integrity

No one can be an effective leader without integrity. It doesn’t take long for the troops to lose confidence in a leader who won’t stand up for them or who blames others for their mistakes. These types of leaders quickly evolve in to tyrants. They are no longer seen as a “team player” by the group and trust quickly dissolves. Once this happens, they no longer have the ability to inspire people to follow them, and the only tool left is to lead by fear and intimidation.

Obviously, this can work in the short term, but not as a long term strategy.

To avoid this, you can inspire confidence in your organization by listening to your staff and taking their advice (when warranted). Be forthright and admit to mistakes when you make them. And finally, don’t be afraid to go to bat for your employees with upper management if you think you are right. You don’t necessarily have to win, but it’s important that your troops see that you tried.

If you employ these tactics, you can inspire people to follow your lead without having to rely on intimidation or fear.

Final Thoughts

We’ve talked a lot about what makes a good or successful team leader . But why is it important for a leader to inspire followers as opposed to intimidate them? After all, we’ve all known leaders that have gotten good results using fear and intimidation as tactics, so what’s the advantage to inspire them? I think the answer is three fold:

It’s better for the organization. n terms of both the quality of the end result and the monetary costs to the company. It’s been well established that employees who feel vested in both the organization and the project become much more productive than those who don’t. Employees are also much more likely to remain with the company if they are happy and don’t fear losing their jobs. Retaining good employees can be a major cost saving tactic.

It’s better for the employee. Don’t underestimate the value of job satisfaction to an employee. Things like enjoying their job, co-workers and boss contribute a lot to morale. Often times, employees value job satisfaction over monetary issues and will stay with the company because of that.

It’s better for you. s we’ve said before, fear and intimidation will get you results in the short term. However, longer term the results will suffer as employee satisfaction and retention rates go down. As the team leader, you are ultimately responsible for the product your team puts out. Ensuring that your employees are giving you their best efforts only helps you.

More Tips About Effective Leadership

Featured photo credit: Louis Hansel via unsplash.com

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David Carpenter

Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

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