The Team is Your Destiny
"Why didn't you tell me!"
Karen was angry. I knew right away this wouldn't be anything like the happy call we'd had a couple of weeks earlier when she told me she was getting the promotion she wanted. Henceforth, she wouldn't be "Karen the marketing analyst." She would be "Karen the team leader."
Karen is a focused and disciplined woman. So, she didn't rant for more than a couple of seconds. She got right to the point.
"I just figured it out," she said. "I don't have any power anymore."
I had to laugh. And soon, we both laughed, because she was right.
Karen never said it out loud, but she believed that once she became a manager, she would have more power. Turns out it was exactly the opposite.
When you make the move from individual contributor to someone responsible for the performance of a group, your power doesn't go up, it goes down. Here's why.
An individual contributor can improve performance by working harder or working smarter. It's entirely up to him or to her. If you want to do better, you just work harder or work smarter. That doesn't work once you're the boss.
Now, you're measured on your team's performance. The team is your destiny.
You Have Two Jobs
Suddenly, you don't have one job. You have two. One job is to help the team accomplish their mission. The other is to help individual team members succeed and grow. "Help" is the keyword here.
You might call that "servant leadership." But that's a relatively recent term, and this is a concept that goes back a long way. Decades ago, Thomas Watson, Sr., the founder of IBM, said, in the language of his day, "A leader is a servant to his men." More recently, Bill McDermott announced on his first day with a new team at Xerox that his job was to help them. The great leaders you see around you may not say it, but most of them do it.
Help the Team Succeed
It starts with thinking of the team first. This is something you must both talk and walk. Demonstrate how to do it and encourage others to help each other. Celebrate team members' success. Avoid activities that pit teammates against each other.
Create psychological safety. That means that people must be allowed to speak their minds. They must be able to do that to and about each other and to and about you.
Deal with toxic team members quickly. A toxic team member is like a corrosive acid that destroys the links and relationships between team members. A toxic team member is someone who doesn't pull their own weight and ridicules those who do.
Coaching is your first resort. If that doesn’t work, helping that team member find another place to use his or her talents is the last resort.
Help Every Team Member Succeed
Help every team member succeed at his or her job. Make sure they have the training and resources to do the job well. Sometimes, you'll need to clear a path for your team member.
Help your team member build on their strengths and make weaknesses irrelevant. People who get to use their strengths at work are happier and more productive. That doesn't mean you can ignore weaknesses, though. Make weaknesses irrelevant by helping the team member do the job "well enough." Make weaknesses irrelevant by having others on the team cover that part of the work.
Help every team member succeed by helping them improve in the way they want to improve. Some will want to work toward another job. Some will want to develop a personal skill. Some will want to experiment with new things. Whatever they want, unless it's toxic, your job is to help.
If you're responsible for the performance of a group your job is to help the team succeed and help individual team members succeed. That isn’t power, but it can give you joy and success.