Roger and I used to be best friends. It was a friendship that grew from a pen-pal sort of thing to a bond between brothers. Our friendship only strengthened when he told me that he had made a career of his own, with a brand new business and a skillful team behind him, he felt invincible. We felt as if we were leading parallel lives, I found his everyday stories more than relatable. However, we both got busy with work and drifted apart with time.
Years later, we connected through social media where I found that he had recently experienced some ups and downs on the financial front and the quality aspects of his business. That is when I offered to help him.
The whole situation was bitter-sweet. Bitter because my friend’s business seemed to be going under but sweet because he trusted me enough to pull him out of the hole he had dug himself into.
When I reached his offices, I saw that there was a lot going on. Every employee was all hands on deck for much-needed damage control. However, I noticed, the people couldn’t wait for their shift to be over, they could not be more willing to leave the building if it had caught on fire. It seemed like his workforce had been slacking off for a long time now. I became concerned that maybe the team of demotivated employees was the reason Roger’s business had been failing.
After some time I caught up with Roger. He had always been curious, not to mention, a tenacious person, but what I saw was a different shade of him. He was restless, controlling, peering into the personal lives of his employees, and, above that, he seemed more than comfortable with calling them out for their mistakes.
The pressure of carrying the whole organization on his shoulders had definitely taken a toll on him. Now the story of the demotivated team made much more sense. You see, the effect of leadership can be seen clear as crystal from the state of the employees.
I’ll be honest, I’ve known more than one Rogers in my life. And, the lesson I take away from their stories is to always lean more on being a team leader than a project leader. It is ALWAYS about the people of your team.
If one were to go looking for signs of great leadership, one would find that it can be seen as clear as day from the attitude of the team. There are 9 very clear-cut signs that indicate a very healthy and amazing leadership which are:
#1 A Team That Is Dedicated To The Cause
“When a team of dedicated individuals makes a commitment to act as one…the sky’s the limit.” — Unknown
Roger’s team had a problem and it was more than just about slacking off. It was about them acting like they were untethered from the very organization they work for. And that, my friends, is a blaring signal for bad leadership.
If you want to know what a team under great leadership looks like, you must look for a team that is dedicated to working for their organization.
- They would be more accountable for their tasks.
- They would feel more connected to the outcomes produced by the whole team.
- They would show concern about errors in production, delays, and setbacks.
- They would feel obligated to come up with new ideas and solutions.
#2 A Team That Learns From Feedback
“Mistakes should be examined, learned from, and discarded; not dwelled upon and stored.” — Tim Fargo
Feedback received is a milestone achieved, but there is one scenario where feedback doesn’t work — and you can see it from the attitude of the team. Feedback works best when the feedback giver gives actionable feedback and the receiver has an actionable takeaway that they later implement.
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You can see the effectiveness of great leadership from the way the team reacts to feedback and how comfortable they are in following through with it.
- They would take account of every aspect that needs improvement.
- They would ask for guidance and come through their own version of solutions.
- They would record and document everything they do differently post feedback.
- They would value every point brought up in the feedback and be a good sport about constructive criticism.
Of course, this goes hand in hand with how the feedback is being given. To find out how to give the most effective feedback follow my article on what good feedback really looks like.
#3 A Team That Is Cross-functional
“My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum of its parts. That’s how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” — Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs rightly stated the state of modern teams. This is how productive teams are. In fact, I would go ahead and say that this is what productivity, efficiency, and accountability would do to your team — it would make them cross-functional. Now, the idea behind cross-functional is that your team is able to take up responsibilities on their own and complete them to the state of fruition.
This requires very high levels of collaboration in the team and it stems from the team culture, or rather the work culture as a whole. It requires for team members to be able to:
- Trust one other’s instincts.
- Believe in one another’s ideas.
- Have no problem exchanging information and sharing credit.
- Do not need a supervisor to help them get along and work in harmony.
#4 A Team That Can Keep Up With The Fluidity Of Ideas
“Creativity is not the domain of one single person. Through free-association of thoughts and brainstorming, an accidental suggestion can be the best solution.” — Joshua Fernandez
In a team of numerous people, there are going to be a number of go-getters, and similarly, there are going to be some well-meaning pencil-pushers. However, a team under great leadership will work as an engine constantly producing ideas. And, even though all of the team members won’t seem to be coming up with ideas every single day, they would definitely be open to ideas, open to suggestions, and, overall, open to the idea of change.
#5 A Team That Contributes To The Work Culture
“Being a great place to work is the difference between being a good company and a great company.” — Brian Kristofek
Like I said before, with a whole team of people, you are going to have a diverse workforce on your hands. Diverse not just in terms of who they are and where they come from, but diverse in terms of ideals, opinions, and beliefs. If a team comes together to accomplish great things together, they are definitively thriving under great leadership.
You would observe the following about this team:
- They are humble towards one another.
- They are always willing to listen to new ideas.
- They acknowledge and appreciate the people around them.
- They always help one another up the ladder of career growth.
- They like to mingle in cultural events and partake in various collaborative activities.
#6 A Team That Appreciates The Clarity of Assignments
“Perfect sincerity and transparency make a great part of beauty, as in dewdrops, lakes, and diamonds.” — Henry David Thoreau
A team that has clarity is a team that can collaborate. And teams that collaborate well can achieve practically anything. These teams are led under great leadership and appreciate the value of free-to-use information. This free flow of information can only originate from inherent seeds of transparency that are sown by an amazing leader.
You would find that this team is:
- Upfront about highs and lows in the projects.
- Ready to share information.
- Open to the idea of being on the same page.
- Conducts constructive meetings that have a definite takeaway.
- Can take and give actionable, not to mention, helpful feedback.
#7 A Team Cultured To Acceptance Of Diversity
“Diversity and inclusion, which are the real grounds for creativity, must remain at the center of what we do.” — Marco Bizzarri
Diversity and acceptance are the founding elements of a great organization. The one clear-cut sign of great leadership is that the people led under it are welcoming, indulging, curious people who know exactly how to look past differences and accept one another for who they are.
These people would be a set of cross-functional individuals who come together to achieve a collective goal.
#8 Teams That Receive Uniformly Delegated Tasks
“The really expert riders of horses let the horse know immediately who is in control, but then guide the horse with loose reins and seldom use the spurs.” — Sandra Day O’Connor
Another quality of a team led under great leadership is that they are not micromanaged. Simply put, a good leader knows how to let go of control and distribute tasks along with the optimum intel to accomplish them.
Micromanagement is an ugly shade for a leader. It drains the confidence of your team, it brings down morale, and it adds to the reasons for plummeting productivity. As if all of those things weren’t bad enough, micromanagement also brings down the quality and number of deliverable outcomes.
Therefore, another sign of healthy leadership is that:
- Every member of the team is aware of the part they play in the growth of the organization.
- Everyone works towards their own goals.
- Every member has their own list of responsibilities towards which they feel accountable and motivated.
- Every teammate has apt amounts of data to help them go about their tasks fruitfully.
#9 A Team That Looks for Solutions
“Some days, the best thing about the job is that the chair spins.” — Unknown
The quote above is a fairly good example of what a team under great leadership will never say, well, maybe except on Mondays. Jokes apart, the last tell-tale sign of a team led under great leadership is that this team is more interested in looking for solutions rather than dwelling in disruptions and adversities.
Not that these teams will be unstoppable, they would just never give up. They won’t give up on their goals, on the big-picture, and on one another. Additionally, this is a team that analyzes everything and then works on everything that is disrupting the path of progress. A reason for this happening is that great leaders can sense when and if their employees are feeling overworked.
You would find that this team is never stressed out about deadlines or impressing the boss, they simply want to find solutions and be the best version of themselves.
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There are going to be a lot of challenges in your way as a people manager which is why keeping consistent is going to be a really hard thing to do. But now that you have the parameters to judge your leadership health, you will definitely be able to avoid the mistakes that Roger made.
Let’s all take a vow right here to keep a check on your team and your attitude towards it because all of that is going to have a real impact.
Good luck out there!
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Sandeep Kashyap is the Founder and CEO of ProofHub — leading project management and collaboration software. He’s one person always on the lookout for innovative ideas about filling the communication gap between groups, teams, and organizations. You’ll find him saying, “Let’s go!” instead of “Go!” many times a day. That’s what makes him write about leadership in a way people are inspired to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.