Title: Part 6: What Makes A Successful Team: Leadership

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Is the leader of your senior team not performing to their true potential?

Senior leaders set the culture and tone of the team and organisation as a whole, which is why it’s vital for them to be performing to a world-class level, consistently. In this blog we look at the importance of leadership development and provide practical advice on how to enhance the performance of your senior leaders and team.

What makes a successful senior leader?

Teams and organisations need strong senior leaders who provide a clear vision for the organisation and team, as well as giving a sense of purpose - not just what they’re trying to do, but why they’re trying to do it. It’s therefore the leader’s job to provide meaning for the organisation and blend support and challenge at a team and individual level, to ensure the best sustainable performance.

Successful senior teams with strong senior leadership experience the following:

• Senior leader provides clear direction to achieving their team’s ultimate goal.

• The team has a clearly defined purpose: it knows why it exists and the impact it is striving to make.

• Senior leader blends the appropriate mixture of support and challenge at a team and individual level, to continually get the best out of both.

• Senior leader shares leadership across the team to maximise the response when the situation and context requires it.

• Senior leader places the needs of their team and organisation before their own personal needs.

Senior teams with poor leadership experience:

• Senior leader and team members are unclear about their ultimate goal and purpose.

• Leadership isn’t shared amongst the team effectively, leading to individual strengths and weaknesses being ignored and not leveraged.

• Team members are not supported and challenged as required, resulting in low performance and targets missed.

So what makes a strong senior leader? We believe senior leadership is made up of the following four aspects…

1. Provides a clear direction

As we’ve already mentioned, one of the most important elements of the senior leader’s role is providing a clear vision for the organisation and their team.

They help the team define a clear purpose: they know why the team exists and the impact they are aiming to make.

To find out if the senior team is all on the same page, ask each member to write down the direction and vision of the for the next three months, six months and/or one year. This will help you to identify if everyone is clear on the direction of the team and its vision, and are working towards the same things.

2. Blends support and challenge for individual team members

Successful senior leaders have the ability to blend the appropriate mixture of support and challenge on a team and at an individual level to increase performance and achieve targets.

Senior leaders will poke a team member when they need to be poked and offer an arm around them when they need an arm.

To uncover if this is happening within the team, and how effectively it’s happening, we ask members: Is your leader supporting and challenging you in the right way?

Our aim here is to raise awareness of where support and challenge is and is not occurring and where it can happen more.

We often find that senior leaders focus on some more than others, whether it’s pushing harder, celebrating successes more or recognising that they’ve done a good job - which is crucial for motivating team members.

3. Share leadership effectively

It’s important that leadership is shared effectively across the team in order to leverage specific strengths, experiences and competencies to increase performance and reach business goals. It might be that the individual is best suited to lead at the time or the senior leader is away.

When we look at how effectively leadership is being shared, we start by asking two questions:

1. Are people stepping up to lead?

2. If not, why not?

The most common reasons for member’s not stepping up to lead are:

• Not given the space to do so - to solve this, senior leaders can delegate more responsibility, use coaching skills to help individuals, or speak last during meetings.

• Members are too worried about the team’s hierarchy.

• Members have not thought about what they should be stepping up to.

Once again, our aim here is to help senior leaders realise the impact they are and are not having, because from here we can support and guide them in having the difficult conversations with team members, such as discovering what fears are stopping them from stepping up, why they may feel the senior leader is blocking them from stepping up and helping them realise their strengths.

4. Team maintenance

Team maintenance looks at how well the senior leader guides the team in checking how they’re doing. To monitor the team’s progress and optimise their performance, it’s important that the senior leader and team touch base, provide feedback and correct course at least every quarter. However, this does depend on the team’s rhythm, some find it works for them to meet more frequently.

We recommend that the senior leader and team use the framework of our diagnostic tool to keep themselves on track. This means going through each of the six elements (which you can read about here: How To Increase The Performance Of Your Senior Teams) and scoring themselves on how well they’re doing in each area. However, if you have yet to work with us, we recommend identifying some reference points as a team and using these to track your team’s progress.

Team maintenance can take as little as ten minutes at the end of the meeting by asking:

• How well are we doing in this area?

• What shall we do to correct ourselves?

• What can we do differently?

• Do we need to take a day out and go into more depth?

It’s important that the senior leader and team unlock and uncover how they feel about the team’s direction and understand why they feel that way, and use this to navigate their course.

They must back this up with external data, whether it’s from focus groups, the chairman, board members and/or external stakeholders to get external perspectives on how well you rank in the relevant areas.

Every team’s content and make up is different, from individual personalities to challenges they face. With our help, our successful team’s diagnostic tool allows you to tailor development for your team. Empowering you to increase performance and achieve your business goals. Email Christina.Grieve@ascend.world to find out more.