Why Great Leaders Know Teamwork is a Key to Their Success

Conceptual for brainstorming and teamwork

A team, by definition is a group of people who come together to achieve a common goal.  Too often we confuse multiple people who work in the same business unit or in the same company was a team. 

There is one common thread that differentiates groups of people who work together and those that act like a team and that’s leadership at every level. 

The ability for leaders to bring people together to achieve excellent outcomes is a skill that very few do consistently well. However, it’s always easier with the individuals make the choice to work together, which is best referred to as teamwork. Teamwork it’s achieved when each individual buys into the group’s greater good over their self-interest. 

Take Amy, a sales manager in a technology company, as an example. I started working with her as a coach when she was hired to take over a group of 15 sales reps. At the time, only 20% of the team was hitting their quota, collectively they hadn’t hit their sales target in five years, and the engagement was an abysmal 57%. 

As excited as she was about her first ample leadership opportunity, the uphill challenge didn’t scare her because management jobs rarely open up when things are going well. She jumped right in, got to know her team members personally, made some tough decisions about letting a few reps go, and brought in some fresh faces, then got to work in developing teamwork.

She invested time, energy, and money to bring the reps together in person once a quarter and created weekly meetings where each person was an active participant. During those crucial interactions, she manufactured human connection, gained buy-in, and built the belief that the team could collectively achieve a big goal.  

Little by little, the results started to come together, and by the end of her second year on the job, 80% of the reps hit their quota, the group exceeded their sales target by 40%, and the engagement rate jumped 84%.  

Amy understood the key to her leadership success was getting each individual to buy into the group’s greater good over their own self-interest.

“Teamwork is achieved when individuals buy into the group’s greater good over their self-interest.”

Focus on Teamwork

When team members are authentic, collaborate, and challenge each other, the results are almost always superior to working alone. Teamwork is when people bring their authentic selves and skills together to produce excellent outcomes for the group. 

The best team members bring their authentic selves and skills together to produce excellent outcomes for the group. 

Looking back at the most significant achievements in sports or business, you will always find great teamwork was behind it. There is a plethora of research that supports the essential nature of teamwork. 

If you want to improve teamwork, here are a few ideas to get individuals to work as a team.  

1. Get Obsessive Buy-In Towards a Shared Goal

A team, by definition, means to come together as a team to achieve a common goal. Success won’t follow if leaders don’t define a common goal that team members care about achieving.  

If leaders don’t define a shared goal that team members care about achieving, success won’t follow.  

The keyword here is “shared.” While it will be tempting to stand at the top of the mountain and scream a big, hairy, audacious goal to your team, if they aren’t bought into, help define what’s possible, and determine what it would take to achieve it, they won’t give their best effort. 

In the example of the Ryder Cup, the ultimate shared goal is simple, take home the Ryder Cup Trophy at the end of the tournament. However, every team competing since 1927 has had that goal. The key as a Ryder Cup captain or as a team leader at work, is getting obsessive buy-in from each individual about achieving the goal.  

2. Manufacture Human Connection

Teamwork can’t be achieved without people getting to know each other and working well together. Too often, leaders assume and take for granted the quality of relationships between members of their team. Here is the hard truth. Just because members of the same team are in meetings together, doesn’t mean they know or care about each other.  

Just because team members are in meetings together, doesn’t mean they know or care about each other.  

Conflict and diverse thinking are essential elements of teamwork. Because of this, developing relationships built on the foundation of trust and respect is a requirement. While it might be uncomfortable at first, part of a leader’s job is to manufacture human connection and create a sense of belonging between team members. There are all kinds of strategies for this, but my favorite from our leadership workshops is the hero, highlight, hardship exercise. 

3. Inspire Personal Growth That Benefits the Team

When people are growing, they are much more likely to buy into the leader that is helping them do it. So often, we think about growth in terms of a company, but rarely do we think about it in terms of people.

Personal growth is the foundation of motivation. It’s hard to inspire team members who aren’t growing. Personal growth is the foundation of any successful professional. 

It’s hard to inspire team members who aren’t growing. Personal growth is the foundation of any successful professional.  

Leaders have a unique advantage of creating healthy competition between team members to fuel personal growth and development. In the case of the Ryder Cup, successful captains have created pods of smaller team members in the build-up of the competition to fuel personal growth and performance. 

Closing

There is nothing easy about leadership and getting individuals to work as a team. As many stories there are about sales managers like Amy, there are more stories of managers who have the opposite outcomes.  

Since you are thinking, reading, and looking for specific ideas to apply in your leadership approach should provide you confidence that you are on the right track. 

What did I leave out? Tell me in the comments.

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.s

Successful Teams Have Leaders Who Do These 4 Things

Team work

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out some groups of people perform better than others. Not only do high-performing teams produce better business outcomes, but their team members are engaged, feel like they belong, and contribute towards the team’s success. 

There have been many great studies about what makes a team successful. Including Google’s two-year study that found there were five characteristics of enhanced teams, with the most important being psychological safety. While psychological safety is essential, there is another common thread of all high-performing teams, a shared goal.

A team, by definition, is a group of individuals working together to achieve a goal. While the explanation is simple, almost everyone has been a part of a group that wasn’t working to achieve a shared goal. This is precisely where many managers fail. They assume that because of their position, they lead a team, and this couldn’t be further from the truth.  

Just because you manage a group of people doesn’t mean you lead a team. 

What Leaders Do To Build a Successful Team

Leaders think and act differently than managers. They realize a group of people can work well together without a shared goal, but the likelihood of sustaining success or staying together when adversity hits are very low. 

I have found coaching so many effective leaders that they are not only obsessive about gaining buy-in towards a shared goal, but they do a few other things to build a successful team. If you want to emulate them, here are a few things to remember. 

They Aren’t the Only Leader.

Conventional wisdom says the person at the top of the hierarchical org chart is the only leader, but that would be wrong. For any team to reach heights they never thought possible; it needs leaders at every level.

For any team to reach heights they never thought possible, it needs leaders at every level.

While this can be difficult to institutionalize, it starts with changing your mindset that you are the only leader. Once your heart and mind are in the right place, you have to teach others what it means to be a leader and why it’s so important they lead right where they are. 

In Building the Best, I defined leadership this way: “Someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve in order to elevate others.”

There are two keywords here; elevate others. Every single member of your team, regardless of their role or title, can elevate others. It often just takes a leader like you, who invests in the leadership development of others to help make this a reality.

Their Team Meetings Are Essential 

A recent estimate suggests that employees endure a staggering 55 million meetings a day in the United States. This tremendous time investment typically yields only modest returns. Add to the fact that the new remote and hybrid world of work is our new reality; the time leaders dedicate to coming together virtually or in-person must be time well spent. If done well, team meetings can be the backbone to build trust, develop teamwork, and mold culture. 

The time leaders dedicate to their team coming together virtually, or in-person must be time well spent.  

You can have quality and productive meetings by narrowing your focus on the purpose of each meeting and making sure each person is an active participant. While this can be difficult, there might be nothing more important in your business than having meetings that matter.

They Embrace the Journey

Leading a team today is more complicated than ever because of the constant pressure to create positive results immediately. While the best leaders care about the results, they lean into the journey instead of the immediate outcomes. 

No team’s journey is the same, but every team will experience adversity and failure. The leaders who keep their view on the long term instead of the short term will set their team up for success.  

You can do this by getting your team to buy into the journey and embracing the process. As I wrote in a previous column, “focus on the gain, instead of the gap.”

They Create a Culture of Accountability.

In many ways, the most challenging element of leadership is being a leader of consequence and holding people accountable. Accountability is a word that has been used so much that its meaning has been lost. The actual definition is, “The obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner.”

As I teach in our Leveraging Accountability workshops, the best leaders don’t look at accountability as optional; they embrace the obligation because they know it’s a key to a team’s success. You can make accountability an obligation by praising people when standards are exceeded, acknowledging people when standards are met, and giving direct feedback if your people fall short of those standards. 

As that culture of accountability spreads, members of your team will hold each other accountable, and that’s precisely when you know your team has arrived. 

Closing:

There is nothing easy about bringing together people from different places, with different strengths, and with different experiences to work together to achieve a common goal. However, I believe you are in your position for a reason and are just the person to make it happen. 

The only question is, “are you willing to do the hard work necessary to make it a reality?”

What are other strategies you use or have observed other leaders leverage to create effective teams? Tell me in the comments.

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades

How to Lead in a Major Moment of Adversity

marketing

Do you remember a time when you witnessed or experienced great leadership? Whether it’s from a CEO’s to employees or a manager to their team, great leadership is hard to forget.  

Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines, gave a masterclass in great leadership earlier this month. Leading an organization in an industry that’s been devastated by the pandemic has caused more than a pickle. Domestic travel is down 70% from a year ago. There is simply no cost-cutting measure that can make up that big of a gap in revenue other than salaries, wages, and benefits.  

Instead of going against the Southwest values and the promises he made to his people, Kelly made a stunning announcement in a transparent and candid way. He said: 

“Our Southwest Warriors have done everything we have asked, and you all have performed magnificently. You are our heroes, and now it’s time to do what must be done to save Southwest Airlines. Effectively immediately, my already reduced based salary will be $0, and that will continue through the end of 2021. Other executives have also had their base pay reduced by 20% through 2021.” He continued:

“Now we are a team, and more than that, we are a family, and it will take all of us to get through this. We all need to pitch in and do our part. We all need to sacrifice more.” – Gary Kelly

Not only do Kelly’s actions and his statement demonstrate what leadership is all about, but it will provide Southwest its best opportunity not just to survive but thrive again. The reason is simple, 

The more committed a team is at every position, the higher the odds of success.  

At the end of the day, leading like Gary Kelly isn’t only for Gary Kelly. It’s for anyone who embraces the responsibility to be a leader and not a manager. Here are some reminders to help you on your leadership journey. 

Leadership is Never Easy 

Having studied thousands of leaders, I haven’t come across one effective leader who claims that being a leader is easy. The reason is simple; leaders are always dealing with what I call the three P’s; problems, people, and performance. Each day brings new challenges and opportunities in each of these areas, which makes leadership tough. 

“Getting through tough times takes leadership”

It’s people like you who choose leadership despite it being difficult that makes me marvel at you. You could choose to be an individual contributor or to reject being a part of a group or team, but you don’t. As I wrote last week, only leaders who are tested become great. Continue to have the courage and choose leadership.

Increase Commitment By Spreading Out the Sacrifice

Leaders who are willing to step up to the plate and make larger sacrifices than anyone else deserve to be celebrated. Gary Kelly set the example for Southwest Airlines by showing how serious he was about saving this company by taking no salary through 2021. While certainly, not every employee has the luxury of being able to afford to work for no money, finding ways to increase the commitment level across the team or organization is always a good idea. 

There is a simple equation for leaders and teams to get better outcomes for everyone involved:

Commitment + Sacrifice = Better Outcomes

For Southwest Airlines, the example of the sacrifice is a pay cut across the organization. However, this isn’t always the case. A sacrifice could be time, effort, energy, or any self-disciplined choices. Get creative to increase the commitment within your team. 

Think Multi-Stakeholder Regardless of Position

Brian Chesky, the CEO of Airbnb, is another incredible example of leadership when faced with similar challenges as Southwest Airlines. When the Pandemic struck AirBnB, he was quoted as saying, “Sometimes in crisis, you have to write down what’s most important and be unwavering about it.” As a leader who passionately believed in being a multi-stakeholder company, he knew he was responsible for serving five different groups of people:

  1. Employees
  2. Shareholders
  3. Hosts
  4. Guests
  5. Community

When Airbnb was forced to lay off 1,900 people, Chesky was asked, “How does a company that serves its stakeholders, including its employees confront a layoff? His response, “As hard as it is, leaders must look at all the stakeholders, not only one. Just because we were confronted with a layoff, doesn’t mean you can’t do it in a thoughtful and compassionate way.”

Regardless of your position, have empathy for all the stakeholders involved in your organization. It won’t make the decisions easier but it will open your eyes to the complexities of leadership.

Closing

Last week I got on my first plane since March to speak at a live event. I was amazed at how great of a job the airlines did at every level. It gave me confidence that this pandemic isn’t going to beat us and we will get back to traveling.  

Since all dark things eventually provide light, I am thankful for leaders like Gary Kelly and team members at Southwest Airlines who are making extra sacrifices to help many rise, instead of just themselves. This is leadership, and we need more of it than ever before.

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How to Be Humble at Work (And Why the Best Leaders Embrace It)

There are many attributes that leaders must develop if they wish to have a meaningful impact in the workplace. Empathy improves your ability to relate with those you lead, while a focus on accountability ensures that everyone gives their best effort.

But among these many important attributes, the value of humility seems to be consistently overlooked. Part of this is due to common misconceptions about what humility is and what it means to be humble. In reality, however, humility is one attribute that no leader should do without.

Part of the reason humility tends to be overlooked in the workplace is because it is frequently misconstrued as a “weak” attribute. We have been led to believe that people who are humble are easily bulldozed by others and aren’t willing to stick up for themselves. Many define humility as having a low opinion of oneself.

While this may be one widely accepted view of humility today, it is actually a far cry from the true meaning of the word — and the way it should be applied in leadership. Humility isn’t about being passive and weak. It’s about showing respect and recognizing the truth in all situations, including in the workplace.

In contrast to the idea of humility as weakness, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word as “freedom from pride or arrogance.” In fact, it is listed as an antonym for words like “egoism,” “conceit” and “superiority.”

C.S. Lewis shared one of my favorite quotes on the subject:

“humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

In all my work helping professionals become leaders, there is no doubt the top leaders from the BTB Leader Assessment, are confident in themselves but put their people ahead of themselves.

The Value of a Humble Outlook at Work

When you’ve already found success in the business world, it can be tempting to dismiss feedback or criticism from others. But this leads to stagnation and pride. While it’s true that not all criticism is valid. Leaders who don’t have much humility have a tendency to dismiss all criticism or worse blame others for their own mistakes.

“Humble leaders must be willing to evaluate criticism to determine if it’s valid or not,” explained Christopher Ferry, founder of Boca Recovery Center, in a recent text message. Together, we’d been discussing the value of humility in leadership. Continued Ferry, “The best leaders are willing to admit when they are wrong and view mistakes as learning opportunities, so they can turn them into something positive — something transformative.”

When I asked Dustin Kaehr on the Follow My Lead Podcast what the most important characteristic for a leader to embody today he said, “There are many things, but humility is at the top.” In other words, a humble leader sounds like the type of person that most of us would prefer to interact with on a daily basis. It is the type of person that can become a truly effective leader.

Strengthening the Team

A study published in the Journal of Management highlighted just how far-reaching the effects of humble leadership can be. The study concluded that leaders who were humble were far more likely to delegate and innovate. As a result, company performance and employee satisfaction improved, while turnover fell.

In other words, humble leadership essentially empowers employees. They become more willing to speak their mind and offer suggestions because they know that their leaders are going to listen.

This culture results in high engagement and innovation — and if there’s one lesson that has been consistent in the business world, it’s that innovation is crucial if you want your success to be sustainable in the long run.

Though humility is often underrated by the world at large, it’s essential if you want to be successful as a leader not just at work, but in life. Reject your notion to boast or lift yourself above anyone and decide to be at the service of others.

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn professionals into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author the upcoming book Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.