Making Investments in Your Team

  • June 23, 2020

One thing I love about coaching is hearing my coachees say powerful things that drive increased insight for them and for me. Recently I was sitting in a coaching session in Chicago with a partner of one of the big professional services firm. We had been talking about his 360-degree assessment and his leadership goals. He said,

“What I’ve learned over the years is this: What you invest in grows. What you don’t invest in atrophies.”

Years later, I’m on the phone in another coaching session with a fairly new CEO who had just received feedback from her board. One of her insights from her assessment was this:

“I’ve come to the realization that my effectiveness will be measured by my team’s effectiveness.”

If we put these two wonderful insights together, we can see that when you spend time investing in your team there is a great return on your investment. The team benefits and so do you.

The importance of investing in a team is also supported by years of research from the Center for Creative Leadership. By studying executives who succeed and those who fall off the tracks, they found that one of the top factors for success is knowing how to build a team. And, conversely being seen as someone who doesn’t build a team greatly increases your odds of derailment.

With so many increasing demands on executives, it’s easy to be spread too thin by trying to focus on too many priorities. Where should I spend my time? That is certainly a question I hear a lot.  For me, you can’t lose when you place bets on team development. In my coaching practice, I am seeing clear evidence that leaders who invested in their teams prior to moving to working remotely are faring better when I compare them to individuals who neglected to address conflicts, silos and individualistic mindsets

So, what does it mean to invest in your team?  Let’s start with the first step; investing in relationships beyond work. Does this mean spending time together after work and being best friends? No. It means knowing your team members as individuals beyond their roles and responsibilities. Do you know your people, do they know each other, and do they know you?

I like how Patrick Lencioni approaches getting to know people with his three simple and yet important questions: Where did you grow up? How many siblings in your family? What was a difficult or important challenge in your childhood?  I am often surprised, yet not surprised, when I lead a group through this exercise. It is almost guaranteed that someone will say to someone else with whom they have worked for years, “ I didn’t know that about you!”

The answers to these simple questions can often provide a useful lens to understand the other person in their work role. How about the supervisor who is one of eleven kids?  He never asks for anything at work.  Or the executive who moved often as a child. She developed great skill in adaptability and isn’t afraid of change. Or the executive who hides her cultural background to fit in and be accepted. At work, conflict is doubly difficult.

Showing an interest and learning about your colleagues has many benefits.  You gain greater insight into who they are and what they see as important.  It can shed a light on the way they interact with you and others. The same is true for the whole team and their insight into you as their team leader. I encourage you to take this first step and see how this investment pays dividends that you didn’t have before.

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