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The development of teams and integrating teamwork into the corporate structure is a hugely popular movement for companies across all industries. However, building an effective team that can truly work well together is about more than finding people with complimentary professional skills. Focusing on that is important, without a doubt, and creates a balanced team logically. But human interaction isn’t always based in perfect logic, and people whose skills fit like puzzle pieces on paper may have clashing personalities in person. So, how can we balance a team beyond the hard skills sections of their resumes?
We begin at the best place to begin; the beginning. Who is the leader truly leading this team? What does this person need to create success with their team, regardless of who they are?
- Leaders need to be able to create a plan, deliver it to their team, and be clear about their goals. With this in mind, we can start down the road of working effectively as a team.
- Determining which behaviours will be accepted, encouraged, and lifted up, versus which behaviours will be denied and deterred, is an important baseline to establish with people joining teams. If a new person joins the dynamic and does not respect established norms, that can cause a huge upset in the team, and a leader who can’t un-rock that boat might be at risk of losing trust from their other teammates.
- Creating an environment where each team member feels respected, heard, and valued will encourage the greatest opportunities for success within the team. Listening to different voices from different backgrounds can allow leaders to see opportunities or difficulties from different angles, and open doors they didn’t even know existed. Plus, modelling respectful behaviour as a leader sets a tone and expectation for the other members of that team.
With that in mind, a leader with these soft skills can build a team that excels in both interpersonal and professional environments.
Patrick Lencioni, in his book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable,” outlines five dysfunctions that can directly impact the success of teams: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. An effective leader can mitigate all five of these with their soft skills!
- By creating a sense of trust, and minimizing the fear so many employees feel when going to leadership with any issues, a leader can turn an entire team experience around. Trust is the keystone for building any aspect of teamwork. A leader trusted by their team to lead them into success, support through difficult moments, and encourage when developing ideas, that’s the leader whose team will rally with them. Trust in a leader will drastically reduce the fear of conflict team members have with leadership as well. A trusted leader with an open attitude to the successes and struggles that come with running a team, that supports their team consistently, they can be approached without fear. This leader can be trusted to maintain an environment that competently deals with inter-team conflict, keeping members safe and putting fires out before they truly start to burn. This can also reduce the avoidance of accountability. Without fear of retaliation, team members can own their shortcomings, learn, and grow into new areas.
- Respecting the ideas, input, and generally the hard work put in by team members can deeply affect the level of commitment individuals have to their team. Leaders who strive to develop the ideas given by their teams, encourage and value their input, and give positive responses when people take initiative, these are the leaders that create loyalty. Valuing the input of their team members can also impact attention to results; the devotion to the team and the goals they work on together, fostered by the leader, encourages team members to truly value their own work and take pride in the results their team creates.
Successful teams start with successful leaders, but soft skills are important regardless of whether you’re leading or being led. Managing interpersonal relationships, developing that sense of communication between teammates and leadership, can be essential to the overall success of that team!