One of the most challenging leadership challenges is building a high performing team from scratch. Invariably in a start up or rebuild this has to be accomplished with a team of rookies who don’t initially possess the technical expertise, sector experience or commercial acumen required to be immediately productive at the level you may want or need.
However, in my leadership experience, leadership challenges and this particular challenge can be one of the most rewarding as you help your team of rookies to achieve an uplift in self-belief and performance.
Here are five steps to manage leadership challenges:
1. Reset your own expectations and those of your stakeholders
The first step is to accept that “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and to reset your own expectations of short-term success sharply downwards, whilst maintaining your long-term high performance goal. In the early days the only thing your team of rookies will have going for them will be their positive attitude and endeavour. Inevitably there will be low levels of output and productivity. Mistakes will be made and there will be days when targets are not reached as the new team struggle to learn how to use their new skills.
There will be pressure from all quarters and you will need to manage your stakeholders carefully as any early success is likely to be intermittent. However, the goal will be to improve the team every day in some way, step by step. Ensure that you stay 100% positive throughout by finding qualities in your team members that you like and admire and can praise. Everyone will be watching you.
2. Set clear expectations and rules
One of the benefits of a new team of rookies is that they are new! This is a perfect opportunity to paint the vision and values very clearly and explain the rules and boundaries ie what is acceptable and not acceptable within the team culture. This gives the young team of rookies’ clarity about their responsibilities, which helps to quickly build their confidence and team unity. You will however need to keep them accountable to your expectations and rules and bring them back into line as they test and cross the boundaries.
Task them to improve their effort and activity every day. Once the team is building momentum and confidence then you can gradually increase your expectations.
3. Create a safe and supportive learning culture and accept that failure is part of the adventure
You can have a positive impact on the rookies progress by creating a learning culture that supports them being the best they can be. If your team knows that it is okay to make mistakes and fail so long as they can learn from their experience, then they will keep pushing and keep learning.
However, if the culture doesn’t allow them to fail then they cannot learn and grow. The balance comes from supporting those that try and fail but confronting those that fail because they didn’t try. Their continued development requires them to keep trying after falling short and then learning from their failure. The quote from the basketball great, Michael Jordan is relevant here.
“I can accept failure but I cant accept not trying”
4. Believe in your people and and coach them to become better
Your coaching can be the difference between your team of rookies becoming good or great in the short term and you need to first become comfortable yourself in pushing them to become comfortable in being uncomfortable.
You will see their potential more than they can and so you should listen and connect with their dreams and ambitions and explore with them ways that they can succeed. Help them believe they can grow and that they can make a difference to themselves and to their colleagues. Coach them to learn by succeeding and failing and following your vision and values. Provide constant, honest and specific feedback, both celebrating and confronting their efforts (or lack of). You need to have unwavering belief in them even if they are not “your kind of person”. Find things to like about them and their potential – don’t let yourself become too distracted or negative about them. They will have abilities and skills and it is your role to promote and encourage these.
5. Tips help your team of rookies improve
- Watch it. What did you see happening?
- Explain it. Rookies don’t know what they don’t know and so they don’t see the nuances of high performance. Once they have explained what they saw you can add the secret sauce
- Try it. Provide a safety net for them to try new things.
- Learn it. What skills are you learning, when you try it?
- Repeat it. What do you want to do next time to improve?
- Confront it. Talk about falling short and how to avoid this.
- Repeat it. And again. And again.
For more on overcoming leadership challenges contact Mental Toughness Partners.