Last week I wrote about seven behaviours that IT leaders need to change to get the best out of high-tech, human-first teams. In this article I’m going to share seven leadership habits that are ingredients of success in those same teams – ingredients that are becoming ever more critical in the face of the 4th industrial revolution.
1. Cultivate yourself
As a leader you will already be acting to improve your team, but never neglect yourself. None of us are ‘finished’. Visibly taking steps to develop your own skills, experience and attributes can have a wonderful effect. Intrinsically you will become a better leader as you move through ideas, methods and the edges of your comfort zone. Extrinsically you will inspire your teams and colleagues to do something about their own development too.
2. Cultivate your team
For wherever you’re trying to reach, your team are everything. As a leader you likely set the destination (or helped the team interpret the Customer’s destination), but your team are the engine, the wheels and the navigation. You must invest and maintain that team in tip-top condition to get the best results. Act to make sure that everyone in that team – new, old, temporary, permanent, flexible, whatever – have what they need and feel an equal part of the team. Finally, make sure you connect with hiring: partner with recruitment teams and insist on standards. “People that are better than you” is a good yardstick!
3. Make information open and accessible
If you want to speed up, people provide faster, higher quality answers when expertise and knowledge are open and accessible. In an increasingly technical workplace, or as we’re delivering complex projects, making information flow freely gives you every opportunity to win (and to spot problems or mistakes quickly). In the most complex deliveries, it’s the only way to win. To harness the power, encourage communities, strengthen networks and reward sharing/collaboration behaviour. It works.
4. Orient teams with unifying measures
Measurements of people, teams and businesses are essential, but often misunderstood and badly applied. Teams will respond to achieve set measures, so think about how people could approach them and spend time checking that will meet your goals. A focus on call-answer time may be important for you, but might quality fall, or stress go up as a result? Get your measures right and you can watch not only your results, but behaviours and culture shift up.
5. Use visible thinking to cut waste
How do you get to great answers quickly when we’re in an ocean of information? Answering this question will pay back immensely whether we’re talking about a project team, an operations team or anyone else. Fortunately, there are methods, frameworks and tools available that do just that – they organise and present quality, refined data in a systemised way to teams. Systemising isn’t about restricting or controlling creativity, it’s about freeing it. Think of a firefighter – their equipment is organised and maintained so that when needed there’s no distraction from the goal.
6. Lead openly
Do you want an accountable team that takes ownership? Assigning accountability might work in the very short term, but it builds resentment, tension and a fear of failure. Instead, you must relentlessly share information about purpose, spend time providing context that links individuals to their related responsibilities, and then leave space for people to take accountability. Doing this builds trust, commitment and an unemotional platform from which feedback can be given and received, something that you must be doing every single day.
7. Trust and serve
If you act on nothing else, act on this. You’ve invested time in hiring great people, given them tools and a target to hit. Your job now is three things: First, get out of the way of the actual work being done and believe in your team’s ability to deliver (you’re going to need to give away control to achieve that. Don’t stop until you’re uncomfortable!). Second, be available and responsive to the needs of your team – you’re accountable for the result, so if you need to coach, mentor or remove a roadblock, do it and step back. Third, get feedback on your performance – are your inputs and behaviours helping, hindering or annoying?
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