You know that performance happens on the team level, and if you’re a team leader then you are responsible for the performance and engagement of your team. It’s my belief that even the best team leaders can improve (after all, you learn and grow the most in your areas of strength), so if you want to be a better leader, here are three things you can do right now:
- Clarify your values.
As a leader, you don’t have to be perfect – but you do have to be predictable. Your followers need to understand you; how you will judge their performance, what you stand for, and in essence, what values you uphold. So you need to clarify your values for them. Do you value speed and innovation? Intelligence and integrity? Authenticity and altruism?
You might think, “sure, of course, I stand for all of that!” – but you can’t stand for everything; you need to choose. People like to follow a leader who knows what is most important to him or her. When you know that, then you can start sharing it with your team, and they will be more confident following you.
- Learn how to tell stories.
Human beings find meaning in stories. We’re just naturally wired to love narrative, to make sense of everything as beginning, middle, and end. So as a leader, you’ve got to use stories to share your values and give examples of excellence.
I’m not asking you to take an improv class or become Mark Twain overnight – the way you tell the stories can be your own. It doesn’t have to be evocative or descriptive, it doesn’t have to end in applause or leave your team members with tears in their eyes. It just has to show them what is important to you, so they know what excellence looks like to you.
- Check in with your people every week.
Hopefully this one sounds familiar – but the single most important thing you can do as a leader is to check in with your people once a week. The best leaders know that they don’t have all the information from the front lines – all the intelligence from the real world, happening in real time – that belongs to the team members who are out in the world, doing the work every day. Checking in with your team will not only provide you with the insight to help them use more of their strengths every day, but on the most basic level it will give you the information you need about the work that they’re doing. The world moves quickly, and this is the best way for you to stay in touch with how your team is engaging with the real world.