Monday, May 07, 2007

Leadership #7 - Promote Cooperation and Trust in Your Team

Leaders have a problem - is the team really following you? Just because everyone seems to be moving in the same direction does not mean that everyone is on the same team! The Chinese has a very nice saying for this "Same bed, different dreams"

Of course, that saying originally pointed at broken marriages, but think of it in the context of your team. While not as tightly knit as a marriage, a team is nonetheless comprised of many individuals with their objectives and efforts intertwined.

As a leader, you need to build a high level of cooperation. The team must learn to work together. Most people are aware of this. Traditionally, when you work together, you do your work, and I do mine. You do your work well, and I do mine to perfection. Job well done. You, as a leader, do you think that everyone is working together in this scenario?

I would like to introduce another aspect to "working together" which is often ignored. When you are working together, you need to not only perform your tasks and execute your plans, but you should also keep an eye out for your team mates. See and call out if they make mistakes, extend a helping hand if they seem to have too full a plate; really, work TOGETHER. There is no better illustration of this than a team of climbers scaling a 100 feet rock wall. Sure, there is a leader. Of course each climber needs to be skilled and competent. Yet, at the core of it all, they make it up as a team. Can you do it solo? Most certainly, but then, you would not be much of a leader if no one can follow!

Cooperation, no matter how difficult it might appear to be, with varied personalities and conflicting objectives, is still easier to achieve than trust. The leader, to be a good leader, must understand this. One of the surest sign of good leadership is when team members trust you. But the sign of excellent leadership is when team members trust you AND each other. When you build a network of trust within the team, the entire team is all the stronger because of that.

As more support and cooperation comes into play, as more trust is built, a once mediocre team can soar to heights of excellence that would baffle more competent competitors. It is not how good you are, but how good the team is. Team performance rests a lot on good leadership. If nothing else, promote cooperation and trust in your team; it is more than half the way towards becoming a good leader.

In our next installment, we will be looking at how leaders can Share Power.

To catch up, here are my previous posts:

- Leadership #1: Articulate Your Personal Vision As a Leader

- Leadership #2: Putting Action To Your Words

- Leadership #3: Have a Vision

- Leadership #4: Share the Vision

- Leadership #5: Learn and Grow

- Leadership #6: Take Risks

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