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Working the team

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One of the key ingredients in a happy team is leadership. The inmitable Miriam Cox gives us her tips on how to lead a team more effectively.


When I think of the word ‘team’ I immediately think of horses pulling a plough or men rolling around in mud on a rugby pitch…..um, sorry, lost track of what I was talking about there…..ah yes, teams. Perhaps that last example was a little distracting (for me, at least) but the point I’m making is, that to have a team you need at least two members who are willing to ‘pull’ together to achieve a specific goal. And what is the one, most important ingredient that will bond any team and get them motivated into enthusiastic action? Strong team leadership, that’s what. 
Every team needs direction; without it, even the most dedicated, hard-working team members will struggle to get results. Horses will not pull a plough unless they have someone there to tell them when to start, stop and where to go; Rugby players need a knowledgeable coach to keep them fit and teach important strategies for winning. So, there we have it, to work a team successfully you simply need to be a strong team leader. Right, sounds obvious enough but what does that actually mean?
For me, strong team leadership has nothing to do with gender, age or any other ‘outside’ characteristic of a person; what’s important is that person’s ability to encourage the strengths within each team member and deal pro-actively with any weaknesses, always ensuring each team member feels motivated and appreciated.
For example, I have a friend, Samantha, who once worked for a man who insisted his staff call him Sir. Now considering there were only three members of staff working under this rather over-inflated ego; my friend on reception (just eighteen at the time), a young lad on packing and a menopausal lady on sales, who regularly burst into tears at the slightest hint of criticism (and ‘Sir’ provided plenty of that), is it any wonder that work-place morale was always at rock bottom? With no staff meetings or any updates as to what was going on within the business, Sam recalls that there was no feeling between herself and her colleagues of being part of a team and with no known goals to aim for or any offered incentive (end of year bonus or a meal at Christmas), none of them felt obliged to give 100% and it was rare for a week to go by with all three there at the same time; as taking a ‘sickie’ was the only way they felt they could keep sane.
Feeling unappreciated and ground down by ‘Sir’s’ constant criticism and humourless presence, the inevitable mutiny eventually happened when all three handed in their notice at the same time. In a way, team cohesion did occur here because all three did get together and discuss their needs and decide to do something about their situation; what a shame though that they only felt like a team when plotting their escape.
There is a happy ending to this story, which speaks volumes on how excellent leadership skills make all the difference. On leaving ‘Sir’ behind, Sam joined a team on a local newspaper, selling advertising. Not her dream job at the time, however her team leader was excellent, boosting Sam’s confidence by praising her achievements, guiding her through her failures and encouraging her, at all times, to believe in herself and her capabilities. 
As part of a thriving team of eight other young and ambitious advertising executives, Sam thrived on the fun office banter and the excitement they all shared when each got a sale; striving hard to meet the weekly goals which they all agreed upon in their regular team meetings. She enjoyed that first experience of working under, and with, a professional Team Leader so much, learning not only about herself but also how to work a team effectively, that she stayed with the paper for over 25 years; rising to the giddy heights of editor along the way. 
So, to sum up, working a team effectively means being:
  • Well Balanced - not ego led and always aware of your team members needs
  • Confident - if you don’t believe in yourself, why should your team?
  • Consistent - adults are no different to children in needing and appreciating consistently clear boundaries regarding behaviour, work ethics and consideration for others
  • Enthusiastic - enthusiasm is infectious and highly motivating
  • A ‘Listening’ Communicator - when you truly listen, not just to what someone is saying but how they’re saying it, you not only gain massive respect from your team members for helping them to feel valued, but you’ll also pick up on any negativities that may be arising and deal with them before they become a problem.
  • Fun - it’s a proven fact that people are far more effective in the workplace when they’re feeling good about themselves, enjoying the environment and sharing that good feeling with others. Start every day and meeting with a Fun 5 minutes and ensure fun is available throughout the working day…oh, and remember to include fun incentives when it comes to setting those goals.
Leading a team effectively isn’t just about keeping team members happy; the pay-off is even bigger for the Team Leader: Who wouldn’t get immense pleasure from seeing their team flourish, succeed consistently and never take a day sick unless absolutely necessary?

Read Miriam's other feature: How to be confidently confident.

Miriam Cox is founder of www.empowermentuk.co.uk.

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