You were hired or promoted by your company to drive change within the organization - to be the leader who makes sure that everyone in the team is contributing to the overall success of the company. A leadership role comes with its own unique set of challenges. Need advice? Here are seven tips to help you lead your team.
1. Organize your team.
No matter how you go about the whole process, organizing can take away from each team member’s autonomy or sense of freedom. After all, in a team of smart, talented, dynamic people, only very few like to be told what to do and even less like to feel like they’re being micromanaged by the leader.
Despite the level of autonomy or freedom you have in the workplace, it’s important to get your entire team organized and foster an understanding of the common goals you’re all working to achieve.
It’s ridiculous to penalize or fine a team member for missing a deadline but have a process in place so everyone understands what is urgent versus what isn’t. And while asking each team member what they’re doing every single hour isn’t exactly leader-like, you must have the ability to empower everyone to be responsible, tuned-in and productive, while also making sure their work days run smoothly.
A key to great leadership is clear communication. Without it, you won’t be able to organize your team effectively, or inspire and rally them toward what you’re trying to achieve.
2. Tell your story.
No, not the story you heard in the news about a CEO, who overcame a personal struggle. Or the executive who moved you to tears during a recent TED talk.
Tell your story.
What have you accomplished? This can be anything, such as that time when you had to sell donuts in New York or how you’ve been building websites since the age of 10. Who are you and what were you doing before you became a leader of this current team? Your employees will be inspired by you if you’re honest and open.
There’s a bit of a catch to this tip though, so listen up. There’s a way to tell your story. Make sure you communicate the story effectively and with great detail. Imagine you’re about to hear a speech from the keynote speaker at a marketing conference. She is going to talk about her personal story, but you soon discover that what she has to say is boring.
Your story will only have an emotional affect on your employees if you tell it right. Integrate as many details as possible, and speak in a way that will keep their attention.
3. Listen to experts, who are actually experts.
Today, everyone claims to be an expert on something. But that “something” has to be of value - to yourself, to your team and to your entire organization.
Be careful with whom you choose to listen to. Identify the people, who have demonstrated leadership in your industry, who are able to positively influence their audience and who give meaningful responses to questions you are likely to ask. These are the experts who can give you good advice.
4. Be yourself while staying professional.
In the workplace, being yourself means being who you are, in a positive and professional way, at the right time.
For example, let’s say you interview for a job at a PR firm. At the end of the interview, you say you are looking forward to the company’s free snacks. You think it’s simply a nice comment and shows a bit of your humor, but after you say it, you realize it might have come off as sarcastic or seem like it’s the only part about the job you’re excited about.
It’s better to say you’re looking forward to the snacks on your first day and not after your initial interview when you haven’t even been offered the job yet.
Related: 10 Behaviors of Real Leaders
5. Stay calm during stressful times.
Yes, you’ve heard this countless times, but it’s true. When something stressful happens, establish a sense of urgency so your team can be responsive while staying calm.
Your team will follow your lead if you are calm, and they will go about their jobs and overcome stressful situations on the way to solving problems that arise.
6. Get to know your customers.
Your business exists to solve a problem for a human being or for another organization. In order to be a great leader, you have to understand your customers. Listen to them. Ask them for feedback. Read their survey responses, and acknowledge and respond to whatever they have to say about their customer experience.
When you understand your customers, you can communicate what they want to your team as well as to other company leaders.
Related: 50 Tools for Being a Great Leader
7. Pretend you know nothing.
You know a great deal, but you don't know everything.
To be a great leader, you should approach every day with an enthusiasm to learn. To learn about your customers. To learn about your employees. To learn about how you can create and deliver even more value for your company.
The most successful leaders strike the perfect balance between showing the way and standing back to let others shine.