Team Hack #10: Four Danger Zones of Team Leaders

Every team has struggles synchronizing to each other and learning to be consistently effective in producing predictable and desired outcomes. It isn’t always smooth sailing, but we need not be hung up on the rocks of the shallows either. The first step to avoiding the danger zones is recognizing them. You cannot fight what you cannot see. Here are a few practical “danger zone” issues you want to pay attention to!

1. Assumptions: Be careful about assuming you know all the facts based on any report. Everyone sees from their perspective, and it may not be the right one. I am reminded of General George S. Patton’s book War as I Knew It . I read the book years ago. What stuck out in my mind was the statement, “Never ask a wounded soldier how the battle is going!” That’s a great reminder, because it helps us identify that the reporter cannot be separated from the report.

2. Boredom: Periodically get a new look at your team. Go to a baseball game together. Force them to play a board game together. DO something that will shake them from their normal roles and allow them to show a different side of themselves. What? Play a game? How will that help us with productivity? It will! Your team is made of people, and your success is derived from their productivity. Understanding them is paramount to success. Shaking up the office and helping them to see each other in a different role can be very helpful. In addition to taking a new look at them, have some sessions with the whole team to take a new look at the task that everyone is working. Ask serious questions about whether the process is going as well as it could. Let them be a part of the shaping of the work.

3. Fear: Pick members that have great potential and remind them often that you see it in them. They need to believe they CAN do great work. Years ago I read of a teacher who got assigned a class list of students with numbers beside their names. After the first grading period, the Principal came to the teacher and remarked: “You have done great things with these students!” The teacher replied with surprise in his voice, “Well, thank you, but after all you gave me such bright students! Look at the I.Q. list!” The Principal smiled and said, “That isn’t their IQ, it is their locker number!” Because the teacher believed they were capable, he taught as though they were capable. He expected more and got more.

4. Blindness: In a seminar recently, the presenter said something that I believe should be attributed to John Maxwell, the leadership guru. The presenter said, “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people past where they want to go to where they ought to go!” To get people motivated, we must know where we are trying to lead them. Hellen Keller was quoted as saying: “What is worse than being blind, you ask? The answer is simple: having sight but having no vision!”