The Key to Team Development – Lead!!

How did you feel when you first assumed a management position? Elated, euphoric probably but after that initial ‘high’ the work somehow doesn’t feel as productive (or as much fun) as the tasks we used to undertake in our previous role. As a result we are easily drawn back into doing exactly the same work as we did historically and simply adding more meetings and administrative tasks to our daily workload.

The other issue from our experience in working with many businesses is that, very often, those who are promoted don’t get adequate guidance on how their role has changed and just what success looks like and means in a managerial position – how their performance will now be measured. Instincts help but they are not enough.

Instincts can also let you down – your first instinct as a new manager might be to make sure that you are popular – liked. You might feel pressure to show your team why you deserve their respect and attention. Then, as you begin to understand their capabilities and performance ‘holes’ you may even feel compelled to fill them yourself. ‘It’s a heck of a lot quicker than trying to train someone else to do it’ you might say. The other justifying phrase is “I’d never ask anyone to do something I’m not prepared to do myself” or “I’m leading by example.” These sound like very honourable sentients but thinking this way is equally short-sighted and destructive.

Managing and developing people is not about you doing the team’s work for them. Leadership is all about allowing them to grow and without this no one wins. The team’s capability will remain weak as people realise that you don’t measure them by standards set. They don’t get the lessons they need to improve. As a result, their performance will continue to be mediocre, and eventually, you will be left with a group of people who can’t function at all without your intervention.

This sets the team up for failure. For you, as a manager, the outcome isn’t much better.

You will likely be trapped in a spiral of high workload and diminishing returns. Every minute you spend doing someone else’s job is a minute you spend not doing your own. That’s why gaining the self-control to lead rather than to do is essential for anyone who aspires to be a strong and capable manager.

When someone on your team isn’t delivering the results that you want to see, your role is to support, encourage, and motivate them to do their job — to ensure they have adequate resources, sufficient training, and that they’re protected from the vagaries of business politics that often derail good people. This work involves spending a significant amount of one-on-one time with each of your direct reports, teaching them, and reinforcing your expectations around behaviour and performance standards.

The big challenge for you is in letting go of control and in setting clear expectations with your people around the results they need to deliver. Initially working this way will seem slow and frustrating. But for the mid – long term it is the only way to go.

Stretch your team to find out what they ARE capable of. Over time, this approach will not only improve your team’s capability, it will also develop them in ways that enhance their career prospects.
Your primary task as a leader is to build the capability below you because your success is ultimately determined by your team. This is as true for a first-time manager as it is for a CEO. Identifying potential talent, nurturing that talent, and building a pipeline of future leaders is a prerequisite for business performance.

Here are three tips that will help you hone this skill and set yourself, and your team, up for success

As a new manager you may feel like a team captain striving to be the best player on the field. But remember, you’re not the playing the game alongside team mates – you’re the coach. Your job isn’t to get on the field and play the game, it’s to observe the game, devise a winning strategy, and then give your team the guidance, direction, and motivation they need to play at their peak.

You need to make the scoreboard clearly visible, communicate what it takes to make the score move, and help them figure out what to do when it doesn’t. You accomplish this by setting clear expectations, communicating who is accountable for which outcomes, and bringing everyone into the ‘huddle’ when things don’t turn out.

When someone comes to you with an issue, you’ll often know the answer — and it can be very tempting to just solve the problem for them. But a skilled leader will instead ask searching questions, the most important of which is the one you ask yourself: What’s the best thing I can do right now to help this person succeed? From there, it becomes much easier to ask the right questions of your people:

  • What do you think is at the core of this issue?
  • Have you thought about alternative approaches?
  • What can we sacrifice without detracting from the overall value of the project?
  • Who can you share the problem with to seek a different perspective?

Questions like these can unlock new sources of creativity, and help your people to dig deeper within themselves, rather than relying on you to be the font of all wisdom. You’ll also learn something about their capacity and capability, while giving them the opportunity to grow.

Solving a problem quickly by doing it yourself creates the proverbial ‘rod for your own back’. You very quickly become a workhorse, forever bonded to the work of your people. This may give you a comfortable feeling of indispensability, but that isn’t what the people above you were looking for when they identified you as a potential leader. They wanted you to excel at the next level, to hone new skills in the people that work for you.

If you have the ambition to grow, develop, and progress in your career, your goal shouldn’t be to make yourself indispensable to your team, it should be to make yourself redundant. Build a team that can function without you, and then go to the next level and build another one. This is what will ultimately set you apart as a leader, not just a doer.

Finally, keep in mind that placing performance pressure on your team isn’t cruel. It’s actually one of the most selfless acts a leader can undertake. A leader who stretches their people risks the possibility of not being liked in order to give others the opportunity to thrive. That’s why your mindset should be to focus on getting the best outcomes you possibly can with the resources that your company has entrusted to you.

Being a hero by giving an extra 10% of your own effort is noble, but nowhere near as effective as working out how to get an extra 10% out of every individual you lead.

If you are looking for more help with leadership, get in touch with us at or call us on 01162325231 for a free/ no obligation discussion.

The Tinderbox Team