There’s No Leadership Without A Team

August 1, 2013 No Comments by Zohreh Yamin

There’s No Leadership Without a Team

How many times have you heard someone say that leadership is the key to top performance? There’s truth in that, of course. But, obviously, a great leader will get nowhere without a great team.

When we talk about performance, there are certain very clear, indispensable factors—essential components that must be in place. We need to know our expectations. We need to have technology that works. We need to have the necessary communication flows.

But when it comes to team performance, unit performance, organizational performance—whatever you’re looking at accomplishing, it’s obvious: you cannot accomplish anything without good people, working together in a healthy, productive way.

Team Leadership Inter-Growth

Sometimes, as leaders, we may assume rallying a great team is going be easy. We hire the best, we communicate well, we care about our team and offer the support they need to be successful. So then they’ll come together and do good work, and we’ll achieve great performance. Right?

But here’s what we often just don’t talk about: it can be quite a challenge to get a group of really smart, capable, skilled people to work together in a healthy, productive way! The crucial factor in a team’s productivity is the subtle, or sometimes not so subtle, energy the team has together.

You could think of it as a kind of continuum, with tension at one end of the continuum and ease at the other. Sometimes there can be palpable tension among team members at work. There may be an undercurrent of conflict. You may discover backstage power struggles, gossip and backbiting, hurt feelings, people feeling left out or undercut.

On the other end of this continuum, you’ll find a sense of ease behind the scenes—a camaraderie, laughter, collaboration, a willingness to help each other out, honesty and directness in addressing challenges in the work process, without anxiety, negativity, competitiveness.

As leaders, of course, we have to deal with this energy continuum, because it has a direct impact on the team’s productivity. Tension drains team members’ energy away from the crucial focus: performance. As a team, we need to never forget—we’re here to focus on best meeting the needs of the people we serve. Doing this, we will also fulfill our contractual obligations and position ourselves for contract renewal. A healthy, productive team knows we’re all working together for the best outcomes.

As a leader, I have personally experienced both kinds of teams. Talking with CEOs and leaders at all levels, I’ve learned that many have had the same experience.

When a team feels very tense, not working well together, it makes me want to just resign from leadership—go work in a flower shop! Everything feels hard. I don’t want to come to work in the morning, I wake up in the middle of the night, I think about it when I’m driving, I rack my brain: “What can I do to coalesce the team?” It’s like slogging through mud. I keep trying to reach out to my team, to model positive, healthy behavior. Nothing I do seems to work. I feel like I’m failing as a leader!

But then, when the team is working well, I can’t wait to get started. My energy’s high, I’m laughing, I’m having fun, we’re joking together. Most of all, we’re working together. We’re getting the work done. When the work is going well, it’s like I’m flying. I feel like a natural-born leader—look at me, look at my team! I’m so great! And I’m not the only one with strong, positive feelings about our accomplishment.

It’s clear. A team like that is much more likely to achieve high levels of performance, to accomplish the task and better serve the client. The way the people on your team (or all of the teams in your organization) work together, the energy that characterizes their teamwork—that’s what makes all the difference in your organization’s productivity.

The hallmark of great leadership is healthy, productive teamwork!

So you’ve assembled your team of highly qualified, caring professionals. Now: what can you do to ensure their team culture develops in a positive way? I’ll describe what I’ve seen those kinds of teams (and leaders!) do—along with strategies you can use to get there—in my next post, Rallying a Healthy, Productive Team.

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