Leading a Stronger Team


Finally! Game day is here! An excited crowd marches to a stadium filled to capacity trying to be part of something great. Everyone wants to witness the latest and most needed improvements to an underperforming football team. There have been many promises of great performance, outstanding improvements through training, new game plays, fresh coaches, and players. The world is watching and waiting expectantly for this awesome display of professionalism. What will be the outcome?

We are often reminded about the importance of teamwork at our respective places of employment. Teamwork brings not only people together to achieve greater goals but unexpected challenges are easier to overcome when working together. There are many analogies and comparisons used for teamwork. “There is no I in TEAM!” to which a pessimistic teammate could reply with, “true, but there is an M and an E.”  Such selfish outlook can in time become reality for employees believing there is no hope and can spread like a wild fire among the team without strong leadership.  

For the concept of team to work effectively, several things need to happen. Employees need clear guidance about the manager’s expectations for the position that they currently occupy. The team needs to be keenly aware about how their work performance influences the customer’s experience and affects the greater outcome for the organization. Do not assume that giving an employee a book of performance standards and releasing them into their respective positions will yield positive results. That would be the equivalent to a coach giving the rookie a play book and expecting great performance without practice or mentoring on game day.

Managers need to demonstrate experience, confidence, and leadership ability at all times. Just like team players need strong coaching, employees need strong leadership to continue improving.

Know the Team

Assign specific tasks to each employee on the team. Just like in football every player has assigned positions, every team member needs to know what their role in the team is. Not everyone can be a quarterback or a wide receiver and definitely not everyone can be a coach or assistant coach. Be the leader that your team needs by providing clear guidance about the tasks that each team member has to accomplish.

Communicate Effectively

Using the game day scenario presented earlier, imagine this: The coin is flipped to determine which team will receive the ball first. The game begins to a cheering crowd but to the fans’ dismay, the players stand confused on the field, begin bickering among themselves, some walk off the field in frustration, the coach begins yelling from the sidelines and the referee issues a “delay of game” penalty.

While this scenario is an extreme example of an extremely dysfunctional football team, I have witnessed meetings and teams of government employees behave that way. What does it say of our organization? What can leaders do to prevent such incidents? The answer always starts with communicating effectively.

Communicating effectively is the single most important aspect of leading a team. Clearly explaining expectations, goals, and consequences of failure, are just a few examples of what needs to be communicated. Without effective and timely communication between all members  of the team, there is no team. The team is as strong as the weakest link. Managers not only have the responsibility to identify where the weaknesses lie within the team, but they have to be the strongest link in order to lead the team to success.

Alberto Principe is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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