Idea from Managing Teams – The Obstacle of Poor Team Leadership

Yesterday I wrote about four ideas that I curated from a book I had previously reviewed titled Managing Teams. It is one of the books from the Harvard Pocket Mentor series. You can read my review of the book here. In this post I am sharing with you one of the four ideas which is, the obstacle of poor team leadership.

The Obstacle of Poor Team Leadership

One of the most common reasons why teams may not function effectively is poor or ineffective leadership on the part of the team leader. Unfortunately it is very difficult for a team leader to admit that their leadership is ineffective. In fact it takes a leader with a strong sense of self-awareness and self-honesty to admit they may not be leading their team effectively. For a leader to recognise that they are not leading their team as well as they should, the leader first needs to recognise the signs of ineffective leadership. In that sense here are some questions the team leader must be able to answer:

  • Is participation in my team low in areas such as contributing views and ideas during team meetings and decision-making sessions?
  • Can team members explain the purpose and goals of the team clearly and why they are important to the organisation?
  • Am I as the team leader taking on tasks that should be done by team members?
  • Is conflict persistent within the team?
  • Is it difficult to get the team to make decisions?
  • Do my team members feel I am expressing favouritism towards certain team members over others?

As a team leader if you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, it may be a sign of ineffective leadership. You need to promptly deal with the issue. There are a number of reasons why one or more of these ‘ineffective signs’  may be happening within the team. For instance the team leader may be newly promoted and is still be struggling with leading a team since they lack the experience. Another reason may be that the team leader has not empowered the team members sufficiently to play their roles effectively within the team. Team members may need more guidance and development from the team leader. 

To lead effectively, the team leader will need to balance being directive with non-directive. Directive means being very explicit about what you need the team to do. It’s almost like giving them instructions about what they need to do, when they need to do it and how to do it. Non-directive is more about giving the team little or no guidance because you trust there ability to do something. In this case you tell them what to do, when to do it, but not how. Here are some tips to balance directive and non-directive leadership and consequently deal with the issue of ineffective leadership.

  • Clarify the team’s objectives, which is the what they need to achieve, but allow them to decide how they will do it. But be mindful about team members who will need more directive guidance or when a team task will need directive guidance from you.
  • Encourage team members to rotate leadership among themselves for various tasks so that they can share responsibilities and learn from each other.
  • Hold team members accountable for the completion and quality of their work. From the onset clearly define completion and quality standards.
  • Display commitment to the team’s goals and be actively involved so that you can be a role model to the team.
  • Invest in personal and team development. Give everyone the development support they need to do their jobs effectively.

In the next post I will write a group session that you can use to teach a group the lessons in this idea.


Managing Teams – Four Key Lessons

Managing Teams

Some time ago I reviewed one of the Harvard Business Review Pocket Mentor books titled, Managing Teams (you can read that review here). I revisited the book and identified four key ideas to curate from the book. These ideas describe four obstacles that can hamper team effectiveness and how to overcome them. I have briefly described them below:

  1. The obstacle of low participation where team members don’t participate wholeheartedly in team meetings and activities.
  2. The obstacle of poor communication when teams communicate poorly and prevent the team from achieving its goals.
  3. The obstacle of ineffective team leadership when the team leader is the obstacle because they don’t  lead the team properly.
  4. The obstacle of destructive conflict where teams are experiencing the type of conflict that has negative impacts on the team.

These are four key issues that team leaders and managers cannot overlook and the book gives some great ideas on how to tackle them. Regarding my vision for Justbookideas, I am turning the four ideas into a learning tool that consists of a book summary and  group session that anyone can use to teach others about the four obstacles and how to overcome them. So please watch the space.

One Idea from Sprint by Jake Knapp

sprintSprint by Jake Knapp attempts to teach us an engaging and interactive way to come up with solutions and test ideas in just five days. In my opinion the book succeeds at doing that. See my review of the book here. While the book focuses on a single technique, within the techniques are many ideas that canbe used independently. One of such ideas is the ‘four-step sketch’. The four-step sketch is a way to come up with a rough sketch for a potential solution. The four steps involved are: notes, ideas, crazy 8s and solution sketch.

  1. Notes: during a sprint you will collect lots of information and ideas. The aim of the four-step sketch process is to bring the information and ideas together to begin to create solution for the goal set at the beginning of the sprint. For the notes step, people will be given 20 minutes to go round the room and note down information which they find relevant to the solution being designed. After the 20 minutes is up they will be given an extra 20 minutes to review the information they’ve noted down.
  2. Idea: next is the idea strage, when each person will start jotting down ideas derived from all the information they collected at the notes stages. Ideas can be jotted down as doodles, headlines, diagrams, stick figures and whatever cones to mind. It does not matter if the ideas look messy or are incomplete. Another 20 minutes is used for this stage.
  3. Crazy 8s: this is a quick exercises which involves each person taking their strongest idea and rapidly sketching out eight variations of the idea in eight minutes. To do this each person divides the sheet of paper they have into 8 different sections and uses each section for sketching one variation of the idea, so that in the end the same idea has eight variations. Note that the ‘crazy’ does not refer to the idea, but rather the pace of the sketching. The focus here is on deriving usable ideas.
  4. Solution Sketch: this is the stage where everyone’s idea will be assessed by the whole group. But first each person must take their best idea sketch it out in detail in a three-panel format. This can be three sticky notes or three sheets of paper. Some tips for doing this well are: make sure it is self explanatory, keep it anonymous, it doesn’t have to look elegant, ugly is okay, good writing is important and give it a catchy title.

My One Idea From Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono

six-thinking-hatsEven though the Six Thinking Hats has six hats you can use to facilitate thinking during a session, you don’t necessarily have to use all of them during a session (you can read my review of the Six Thinking Hats here). You can choose to use the hats that are relevant to the topic on discussion. So supposing you are running a meeting and discussing a topic that people have a lot of strong feelings about. For example a new work process, shift work pattern or loss of a benefit, how can you get people to discuss their feelings without it turning into world war III? Continue reading

My One Idea from Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo

talk-like-tedThis is a book super-packed with ideas when it comes to public speaking and presentation skills (see my review of the book here), and I could have shared numerous ideas, but my goal is to focus on just one. I did cheat though as I collapsed three ideas into one, which I have titled as: How to improve your presentations with three actions. The three actions ate briefly discussed below. Continue reading