Bob Daretta once said, “The higher you go in your career, the less you will need your technical skills; the more you will need leadership and speaking skills.” Most likely, at the start of your career, it was a lot of doing. The more you did and the better you did it equated to success. As you become a leader, it’s no longer about doing things yourself; instead, it’s doing things through others.
Set the culture and the vision. The culture of the team is determined by the leader. While elementary, it’s a little like “monkey see, monkey do.” By your actions, you will tell the team what is acceptable and what isn’t. Also, the team looks to you to chart the course. If there is confusion among the ranks, it means your vision isn’t being effectively communicated. Take time to define and then articulate the vision for your department.
Clear the path. As a leader your job is to make your team successful. A key component of this is removing obstacles blocking success. From gaps in training to not having resources, you should focus on giving your team all the tools they need to be successful. Also, watch out for those who like to throw up artificial barriers and become an obstacle to success. When a new idea is on the table, they make excuses why it won’t work. I’m not saying constructive criticism isn’t good when vetting an idea, but there is a difference between constructive criticism and excuses. Protect your team from these people.
Build relationships. Relationships are the key to any team. We’ve talked about relationships a lot here. The main things to remember are to be authentic and to take time to get to know each individual. It’s important that your team feels valued. One of the biggest ways to do this is to listen. When they are talking, be present. I struggle with this. With the barrage of e-mails, IMs, etc, it’s easy to be distracted when a team member is talking to you. Do whatever it takes to avoid those distractions when talking with your team.
Set expectations and follow up. Inspect what you expect! A quick way to create confusion is to never set expectations or set an expectation and not follow up. There is a sense of security in understanding what the expectation is. People want to exist an unambiguous existence. If you don’t set expectations around their work, it’s going to make the deliverables very ambiguous. If you don’t follow up, people are going to wonder if it was really important to begin with. They will less likely jump on board with the next expectation if you don’t establish a pattern of following up.
Don’t keep dead weight. It’s tough for top performers to be surrounded by people who aren’t even trying. Have you ever wondered, “How is this person still here?” If so, you understand the frustration the team feels when you keep under-performing team members on the team. It’s not fair to the team, and it’s not fair to the individual; most likely this person could be successful somewhere else!
If you have moved up through the ranks, take a look at your leadership and communication skills. What got you here won’t get you where you want to go. You consistently have to evaluate what skills you are relying on and which ones will make you successful.