By Belinda Skinner, Country Manager at en world Thailand Specialist, Recruitment Consultants
You’re only as good as your team… many managers forget this. A high achiever focuses on “me” whereas a true leader will focus on the achievements of the “team”. The sign of a good leader is having a good team behind them. Many managers fear having team members become better than they are, they fear their subordinates having more knowledge than them. Why? Perhaps because they fear they will feel useless, of no value or perhaps replaceable! However, once a leader embraces the idea that success is about having a strong team behind you, they are on the way to becoming a successful leader.
To grow a successful team, a leader must learn to empower their employees. With empowerment we must accept that most decisions have multiple outcomes. Unfortunately, we cannot predict those outcomes. We need to embrace them and learn from them. As a true leader we must let the next generation of leaders to make decisions. Why? As we all know too well, we learn from mistakes. If you don’t make a mistake, you haven’t pushed yourself far enough! As a true leader you should be there to support, guide and offer advice – not dictate. The second hardest step of becoming a leader is stepping back, letting them come up with a solution and supporting that solution, no matter what. Let them have an opinion. Let them voice that opinion. The hardest step is admitting that perhaps sometimes they were right, or perhaps they came up with a better way of doing it! Admitting you are wrong occasionally, isn’t such a bad thing! (In fact, in many cases you earn respect from your managers). The biggest trick is making them feel it was their idea.
As a leader you generally know the answers that your team are trying to find, but you want them to find it, so you help by steering the conversation until they can see a solution. You need to encourage or steer the conversation around to get the answer out. You want them to come up with the answer, even if you already know it!
One of the first steps to having a great team is to remember that importantly, no two people are the same. They will not all respond in the same way. A good leader needs to understand each person, the different ways they think, the different ways they respond and their different motivations. Once you have this, you are on your way to having a great team.
The second step is to make sure your team are on the same page you are. The goals must be aligned. You need to be clear about expectations and must get buy-in from your team. Without that, everyone is heading in different directions. How do you know if you got there, if you don’t know where you are going?
In my personal experience, it takes time to build leaders. But it also takes trust. If you don’t put trust in your team and you don’t show that trust, they will not respond. They need to see that you are genuine about their career growth, their development and their well-being.
Good leadership is not learned in text books nor attending courses. It comes from experience, putting yourself out there, learning from a mistake. Listening to others and seeking advice but putting your own style to it. Theory is great ‘in theory’ but in practice it is not. You need to understand the people you are dealing with, that no two are the same and that no case study you read will fit the box you are trying to fix! “Case by case” is alive and well. Each situation should be treated differently, applying previous knowledge and experiences and learning when it doesn’t work.
People develop by experience. As a good leader you need to get your team to make those experiences and get them to recall the outcomes. Put what they feel into practice, but at the same time, be there to be their safety net. To catch them so they don’t fall too far and to repair them when they do!
Developing leaders comes from encouraging people to push themselves. Never criticize, laugh at mistakes or patronise. It only demotivates people. But encourage, listen and support.
Personally, I am so fortunate and very proud of my next generation of leaders. I have a strong foundation of managers who are vast becoming great leaders. I wouldn’t be where I am without my team of managers and also without the great team that supports them. We have developed a strong culture here of being a “family”. In that sense, it means we work together, we support each other and believe in teamwork. We refer to our team as the “en world family”. We welcome new people to “the en world family” and we are sad to see people leave “the en world family”. Developing that culture has taken a long time of people working together.
The best leaders are those who believe that the success comes from all those doing the work together.