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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

Reference

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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 April 22, 2021

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

Habits are what sets an average leader apart from a great leader. We can argue that talent is the biggest factor; we may debate how the amount of charisma sets the two apart. Yet, if you were to show me what you believed to be a great leader, I can show you the habits that made her/him great. Great leaders have great habits and know how to work hard the smart way.

Developing Great Habits Is Hard Work

In my early college days, I had spent a lot of time learning how to play the trumpet. Playing the trumpet took time and discipline. I had some natural talent, but not enough to hide my lack of ability. My trumpet teacher was a man of discipline, and there was no doubt he had talent. What stood to me was his work ethic. He had to be one of the hardest working mentors that I had the privilege of working with.

One afternoon, I was in his office getting ready for my weekly trumpet lesson. As I was preparing, my eyes scanned the room and saw that there were quotes all over his office. My eyes rested on one quote that forever changed my thinking about my playing. It was a quote from my high school basketball coach Tim Notke that would become popular through professional athletes Kevin Durant and Tim Tebow:

“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

Hard work trumps talent. The key to success is not found in your talent or ability. Talent and ability are necessary, but they are not the primary factors. They are supporting roles in the story you are writing.

Ultimately, hard work is the key to your success. A good work ethic creates the momentum that propels you forward towards your goals.

Motivation Is Not the Answer

How many times have you seen someone go to a conference, get inspired, and then come home and do nothing?

If motivation were the answer, the world would have transformed hundreds of times over. Yet, when we look out our doors or turn on the news, we do not see a utopian society.

We have thousands of people who become inspired but lack the work ethic to apply anything they have learned. Time and time again frustration creeps in. We are so motivated and inspired by what we see but fail to put in place the things that would change our lives.

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Frustration happens when the gap between what you expect to be true and what is true gets bigger. Motivation tends to create an expectation that is not rooted in reality. We want to take on the world but cannot get off Netflix long enough to do so.

Motivation is not the answer, but working hard is. Good habits and routines that produce success are the byproducts of a strong work ethic. The habits and routines we create and follow are the foundation on which we build a winning life.

How to Work Hard by Working Smarter

Here are 4 routines that will help you learn how to work hard and achieve your short term and long term goals.

1. Define What a Win Looks Like

In football, a player that crosses into the end zone gain points. In soccer, a player kicks the ball into the net to score. Hockey, lacrosse, and basketball are all the same. The player takes the object and moves it into the designated area to gain points. The team with the most points wins the game.

Why is it that we can define what a win looks like in sports, but we fail to do so in our leadership, our businesses, or our homes?

Learning how to work hard without setting a target is futile. It is insanity to work hard without having a clear direction to place your energy. I would argue that defining a win is one of the most important routines that a leader can have. Defining a win separates superficial activity from meaningful activity.

When I define a win, I know the goal line I have to cross[1]. Knowing where the goal line is informs me of the activity I have to engage in to cross it. Without a clear direction, I am spinning my wheels hoping that I will get to a destination I haven’t defined. It is like asking a GPS for directions but failing to input the destination.

4 Steps to Define a Win
  • Know the outcome you desire.
  • Declare the outcome in specific, meaningful terms.
  • Write the outcome down.
  • Set your activity list to only do that which will complete your goals.

Let me give you an example. 15 years ago, I started speaking professionally. As a young and naïve speaker, I thought winning meant that I had to get a reaction from the audience. If they cheered, smiled, or cried, I considered myself a winner. The problem was my lack of understanding of what a win looked like. As a seasoned speaker, my wins look different.

As of today, when I speak, I am not looking for any emotional reactions from the audience. I win if, and only if, I clearly communicated my point so that anyone hearing the talk can take it and apply it to their lives that day. That is how I define a win when I speak now.

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Create a habit of declaring a win. When you do, you will see your productivity soar and your encouragement increase. Pairing a hard work ethic with wise decisions creates victory. Stop being a mouse on a wheel that goes nowhere, and start being the captain of your fleet.

2. Evaluate Your Activity

Not all activity is equal. There are things you must do, things you need to do, and things we can either give away or delete. The greatest challenge of a leader is understanding the difference. Understanding what activity is busywork and what activity is mission work is pivotal.

Not only do we need to learn how to evaluate our activity, but we must make this a core routine in our arsenal of success. Stop working so hard on everything and start learning how to work hard on the right things.

Not every activity will move the needle forward for you. In fact, you were never meant to do everything yourself! Once we stop trying to be a martyr in our leadership, we can start looking at how to take things off our plates through delegation.

Based on the Eisenhower box, there are 4 things that we look at when deciding on which activities are important:

  • Do now
  • Plan to do it later
  • Delegate to someone else
  • Delete it

Powerful questions are the way you discover if the activity is right or not:

  • Does this activity move me towards or away from my goals?
  • Do I have to do this activity or can I give this activity away to someone else?
  • Does this activity have to be now right now or can it be scheduled for later dates?
  • Does this activity have to be done at all?

Evaluating the type of activity you engage in should be a routine that you do daily. Learning how to work hard should create progress. Having a system of evaluation and a routine to do it will help.

3. Prioritize Your Calendar

If you were to show me your calendar, I could show you why you are not further along. When you lack the routine of placing things on your calendar, two things happen.

First, what does not make it on your calendar does not get done.

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It is a simple truth that is often overlooked. Your calendar contains the power to change your life. Yet, we don’t use our calendars to their fullest potential.

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” -John C. Maxwell

Also, if you don’t mark you activities on your calendar, you are leaving it open to other’s priorities.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” -Stephen Covey

Having a routine in your life where you place things on your calendar is pivotal to your success. This is not a routine one should overlook.

It’s time to take your leadership and business to the next level. It’s time to start putting your daily routines on your calendar, along with your priorities.

4. Reflect on Your Day and Plan the Next

We are all about the morning routine. Whatever that looks like for you, there should be a routine in the morning that sets you up for success.

Hard work starts when your feet hit the ground in the morning. Creating the habit of winning starts with the first thing you accomplish that morning. If you win your morning, you will win your day.

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Best Morning Routine to Prepare to Work Hard

    But how often have you heard people talk about an evening routine? Tomorrow is won the day before it happens. When you fail to plan your day, you may put your effort toward in the wrong things. Route replaces routine. Indecision replaces decisiveness. Losses replace wins. The discouragement will deflate your momentum and increases the chances of procrastination. That is why we set our schedule the night before.

    “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” -Sun Tzu

    Working hard doesn’t have to be hard work. It shouldn’t take much out of you learn how to work hard as long as you work smart. Having a time where you reflect on the day and set your priorities is the difference-maker.

    Use these questions to reflect on your day:

    • What went well?
    • What didn’t go well?
    • What can I change?
    • What do I need to start doing?
    • What do I need to stop doing?

    The Bottom Line

    Navigating through life is hard work. Yet, the work doesn’t have to be hard when you work smarter. When you create routines that support your mission, you create wins. Working hard, the smart way will tip the balance in our favor.

    Boxing legend Joe Frazier said:

    “Champions aren’t made in the ring; they are merely recognized there.”

    Champions put in the hard work behind the scenes. The world recognized them as a champion when they saw the results of the hard work. Right now, you are doing the work of creating a champion in yourself.

    That work is setting your routines in order because you now know that success flows from your daily routines. If you are not experiencing the success you desire, then it is time to change things up.

    More on Creating Healthy Routines

    Featured photo credit: Zan via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] The Balance Careers: Interview Question: “How Do You Define Success?”

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