This summer our family made a conscious choice to embrace change. We moved to a new recreational swim team for the kids. Our swimmers were very happy with the previous team, but as parents, we were seeking stronger coaching for our athletes at this point in their development.
Now that swim season is over, I can report a mixed experience. Some things went well, while others did not. As I’ve reflected on what we learned from the summer swim season of 2015, I’ve distilled it down to four lessons. I believe these take-aways apply to leaders of all kinds of teams – including ones in which YOU take part, perhaps even lead.
Technical competence will only get you so far.
The coaching was definitely improved on this new team. It showed in better times for my swimmers. But that is only part of the equation.
At work, the same applies. Knowing your function (like IT, finance or supply chain) inside and out will only take you to a certain point in your career. In the management and executive ranks, your leadership skills become even more important. To continue to rise, you must not only balance the two (functional knowledge and leadership skills), but also learn to understand the big picture and the intersections across all of the functions together.
Know who your stakeholders are and manage to them.
Anyone who has ever had a child in sports (or coached a children’s sports team of any type) knows that the players are important stakeholders AND their parents are critical as well. You cannot focus on one to the exclusion of the other. All must work together toward common goals.
At work, approach projects and initiatives the same way. Up front, identify all of the individuals, departments and parties who have “a stake” or “a care-about” related to what you have underway. Determine how you can work together to accomplish mutual benefit. That way everyone can share together in outcomes and resolve issues when they arise.
The need for effective communications is universal.
You cannot assume something is posted on a website because “it used to be there.” When “you’ve always done it that way,” you cannot expect those who are new to know it works that way. When something changes at the last minute, go out of your way to share the information through a variety of channels.
Everyone is busy. Not everyone relies on the same communication channels. To reach all of your audiences, you have to share the same information multiple times through multiple channels. Find the balance that works best for your content and the culture in which you operate.
Do not discount the value of a high-touch approach and making time for face to face interaction. Depending upon the topic (such as career development or career progression) if you don’t take a more personalized approach, your communications could completely backfire and you could receive feedback that they came across as “too cold and impersonal.”
When someone makes a public commitment, ensure they follow through. If they don’t follow through, there should be consequences. (Of course, as the leader, you must factor in the circumstances involved.)
People depend on each other. Teams depend on each other. Departments depend on each other. Business partnerships grow interdependent to serve customers and clients. Goals and metrics measure such dependencies every day/week/month/quarter/year. As the leader, you want to build a culture of team that embraces accountability – not one that facilitates “every man for himself.”
Personally, I am thankful we had these experiences as a family in the summer of 2015. It is giving us the opportunity to embrace more change next year and swim for yet another team in 2016!
Betsy Winkler is a Partner at PeopleResults. She can be reached on Twitter @BetsyWinkler1 or on email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She would love to talk about swim team OR effective team management. Sign up to receive her and her colleagues’ blog at Current.