Do you too find yourself managing colleagues?  It’s not just the boss who is the one to redirect a team member and give feedback on the quality of work.  It’s also you!

You might be working in an Agile team, or you have several bosses, or you are recently (or hope to be) promoted.  You were hired for your specific expertise and discover that managing people and their performance is expected from you…and it feels overwhelming, especially since you did not have the training!

If this resonates with you, read to the end of this (long !) post.

Loving work and life

“Denise, how do you simultaneously tell people they are doing the wrong thing and get them motivated to perform positively instead?

It’s novel, and I want to do it too.”

Comments like these help me realize how far I have come…and the (long and lonely)  journey traveled to become a “go-to person” to resolve relationship conflicts and to work effectively as a team leader.

What makes a great team leader?

What would it take to be your team’s most valuable player?  What does it look and sound like to be the person that bosses and colleagues WANT to work with?!

Is she/he the Superstar?

Many professionals enter the workforce wanting to prove their value.  (Who doesn’t?) It often translates into showing cohorts who is “better.”  Who works harder, longer, and attends more meetings.  

It’s a game of comparison and one-upmanship.  Not to one’s best potential self, but to others in the team.

Superstar Motto:
I am great by being better than you.
Admit my superiority.

As stellar celebrity, it is hard to celebrate colleagues’ contribution to the group’s performance.  Their success diminishes our stardom.

Yet star players still need to progress or be replaced.  To whom do they turn to grow and improve?

Not many folks.

Who sticks around to be reminded of their “lesser” status?

It’s exhausting, lonely, and, in our fast-paced world, vowed for failure.

When I graduated from Harvard Business School, I did not know of any other option than competition.  Of course, I had heard of win-win solutions but, in my entourage, where there was a winner, one would also find a loser.

Seeking superstardom often harms the team.  We talked about teamwork, yet we performed as individuals.

Are they born leaders?

Students I teach in business school ask me whether leaders are born or made.

by Dr Seuss
The superior Sneetches are born with stars on their bellies. Woe to the plain-bellied Sneetches! from “Sneetches on the Beaches” by Dr. Seuss

You have surely heard it said, “He’s a born leader.” (Hopefully you also heard, “SHE is a born leader” too!)

That is relegating people-management skills to characteristics like height or hair color.  You or I cannot change them.  We have them or we don’t.  Period.

Born Leader Motto:
I am a leader for life. Not you…ever.

But how does that function in our complex world and global economy?  How does it work for the American or French “born leader” when integrating Indians, Chinese, and Nigerians in her team?

Humm.  Awkward.

Our definition of “valuable team member” has evolved as technology rendered borders fluid.  When working with similar folk (all engineers, all of the same nationality or race…) we could imagine “one best process.”

Today, we face diversity and the most valuable employees are those that can connect with a wide variety of people, bring out the best in each, and integrate these differences into building ONE. TOP. PERFORMING. RESULT.

Team Leaders Build Strength
– theirs & others’

Studies now show that teamwork is like a muscle.  The more you use it, the stronger your collaboration skills.

Muscle Builder Motto:
What does not kill you or me
makes US stronger.

It sounds sooooo easy, yet this kind of teamwork requires humility, courage … over and over again.

Humility to admit a relationship challenge exists.  Courage to bring up and resolve the sensitive issue with the other person. Belief in the other person’s positive intent and in the possibility of an alternative outcome.

Here is an example.  A mentor of mine was honored to introduce a prominent female politician for a speech on gender equality.  After exposing her credentials, he closed his presentation saying, “She is with us today speaking about a subject close to her heart: opportunities for women.”

“If it is a worthy topic, should it not be close to men’s hearts too?” I wondered.

This one comment is no big deal.  Why not let it slide.

And yet…many such comments over days and months become demotivating.  Additionally, if I was bothered by the remark, others probably reacted to it as well.

Teamwork muscle-builders nip relationship challenges in the bud. (Scroll to the end of this post to find out what I did 😊)  They respectfully address vulnerable topics to gain clarity for all to move ahead.

How to become a TEAM LEADER?
Be the Most Valuable TEAM Player

Today, to get promoted, you need to know your expertise AND master teamwork skills (often called soft skills).

That’s quite a challenge when many of us face some these obstacles at work:

  • When a colleagues does not complete his work and it negatively impacts our performance
  • When we question our boss’s support. When you or I take initiatives (and therefore risks), would the boss have our back, or will we get the blame?
  • When we receive negative retributions (condescending comments during a meeting or being removed from the interesting projects)
  • When we have to sit through ineffective meetings where too many people attend, and previous decisions are called into question
  • When we walk on eggshells in anticipation of colleague’s or bosses’ rampant emotions
  • When our work is not recognized…or when someone else takes the recognition for our work

These situations invite competition, not collaboration.

Today, because of the fast-changing business climate facilitated by the Internet, organizations succeed by their capacity to learn and adapt quickly.  The most valued employees are those who can transform challenging situations into opportunities for teamwork.

M.V.P. (Most Valuable Player) Motto:
Transform challenges into opportunities
to learn & grow.

And it is transformative for oneself and for the team.  Wouldn’t you want these?

  • To give and get helpful and constructive feedback
  • To know where you stand and to ask for support
  • To be a contributor, not an order-taker
  • To have work recognized…and be motivated to take more initiatives
  • To manage emotions instead of being controlled by them
  • To have your time respected

When we can turn around a tense situation and bring collaboration and solutions as a team, it’s ENEGIZING for all.

It’s the thrill of leading a life of impact.  It’s the satisfaction of making a positive difference and creating a virtuous circle of enthusiasm among colleagues.

 

HOW to be a team player in a competitive work?

Yes, it is possible.  Yes, it is transformative.

Yes, there are skills to learn.  Yes, it’s confusing at the start.

Yes, it takes practice.  Yes, it takes getting back up after we fail.

And yes, it can be lonely.

What makes it soooooo hard to be a Most Valuable Team Leader at work?

Let’s look at how skills are built.

The Traditional (and less effective) Approach

Here is what often happens:

An employee with high-potential is sent off-campus for training in teamwork and leadership skills.  They learn about positive mindset, emotions management, active listening, delegation, connecting before correcting, effective meeting management, and more.   They leave the training INVIGORATED and ready to apply new communication tools.

Back in the office, reality hits.

She needs a colleague’s input in order to finish a project on time.  He gives her five reasons why he was not able to execute the task. She responds by countering each of the excuses.  The discussion focuses on the past.  She is frustrated because she cannot advance on the project because of another person’s fault.  He feels judged and not appreciated.

Wait!  What happened to the skills learned during the training?  Was there “connection before correction”?  Who practiced active listening?!

An opportunity to strengthen teamwork muscle just passed by…and no one noticed!!!  Everyone fell into habitual behaviors.

The Novel & Impactful Way

Learn 🤔🤓

Practice 😨🙃🙂

Grow 😃😍

As I look back on my career, I noted the turning points in becoming proficient in team building, overcoming conflicts, and developing mutually positive relationships.

  1. To realize I did not know how to motivate others

I began noticing moments when I was annoyed at others or myself, or when I was in the middle of a power play.  When I began naming these feelings, I realized there must be ways to prosper at work.  But how?

  1. To discover constructive communication tools

As I became interested in working more effectively and enjoyably with my colleagues, I became attentive to how we communicated.  I realized we used tools…like impatience, critique, or questions.  Some of these create connection while others result in distance and misunderstanding.

Learning constructive communication tools is foundational in building mutually respectful and fulfilling professional relations.

  1. To test and try the tools at work

The biggest step in the journey to a positive work environment is taking that first step of trying out a different approach to a recurring challenge.

That too was a process.  At first, I recognized missed opportunities.  “I could have managed that situation differently!”  It took weeks before I could recognize a negative relationship pattern and plan an alternative strategy.

I was alone trying to identify unhelpful habits and what triggered my responses.

It took stepping back from the day-to-day and a full agenda!  Introspection is WORK!  It is what Steven Covey describes as vitally important but not urgent.

Ah! I wished for a colleague with whom to review my actions and others’ reactions.  Even more, I wished for a sparring partner:  someone who could share a fresh perspective with me and that I could help too.

  1. To try again when the first attempt did not work

People are humans, not robots.  We do not have an “off/on” button for bad humor or for trust-building.  In other words, the same approach might not work at every time.

Abraham Maslow said,
“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”

Creating a virtuous relationship cycle does not mean picking up a velvet cloth (in place of Maslow’s hammer) and treating every challenge as if it needed a good rub.

Not quite.

We each go through a process of trying to connect in a situation which had previously created stress.  And we use different tools according to the situation and the people involved.

Sometimes we recognize their emotions and manage ours.  Other times we listen and ask questions with a goal for understanding.  Some moments we might even admit that we may have contributed to a misunderstanding.

With practice we learn how to handle various instances.  Until then, we test and try.

When we resolve an issue, it feels AWESOME.  When our attempt failed to get the desired result, we feel discouraged…and even vulnerable.

  1. To get support…to keep on trying again & again

Don’t follow the Lone Ranger.  Be a Beatles groupie instead.

“Get by with a little help from my friends.” – The Beatles

I love this video of the beginner martial artist.  He made it, thanks to the insistence of his coach and the encouragement of his buddies!!!

We need that too.  Folk who tell us we can do it when we barely believe in ourselves and fall back into critique or judgement.  A team to celebrate with us when we succeed in being the team leader we want to be.

Become Your Team’s Most Valuable Player

This is the program I am now developing.

Learn

Online Training – 24/7 access

The online training modules (24/7 access) teach you the mindset, self-awareness, communication & soft skills, and insights to become your team’s Most Valuable Player.

Practice 

Weekly Group Coachings

Every week, we gather online for a group coaching to resolve together a workplace challenge:

  • A colleague who lags behind on his commitments
  • A person to whom we repeat, repeat, and repeat the same request
  • Someone who makes demotivating comments…maybe without even realizing it
  • A request for a raise

It’s a collective intelligence activity that boosts novel thinking and results in creative solutions.  We all gain in confidence and energy!

Grow

1-on-1 Progress check up – every 2 months

We’ll set YOUR own growth objectives to be the leader YOU want to be in YOUR organization.

Secret Facebook Group – 24/7 access

We are an online community meeting through a secret Facebook group.  You can join anonymously.  This is a safe space to talk about work.  (Your “toxic” colleagues won’t know what you think of them!)

It’s our space to ask questions, share insights, and get encouragement as we test, try, and grow.

Wanted: Super-motivated pilot testers

The program is still in finalization stage of the personalized follow-through and coaching program.  As a believer in collective intelligence, I want to build with pilot users.

If this is your situation:

  1. You were recently promoted and realize the need for leadership skills
  2. You have a new boss and are trying to find your place
  3. You are working in an Agile team and want to collaborate better
  4. You have been in the same position for several years and seek a promotion

…AND:

  1. You are super motivated
  2. You are ready to make changes in your life within the next 4 months (or now)
  3. You would like to be coached as you as you apply new skills and turn them into positive habits

Please connect by filling out the form below.

I look forward to speaking together (and if you are in Paris to even meeting in person).

Si vous êtes francophone, SVP écrivez-moi en français.  Je le considérerais comme un signe de respect.  Vous me respectez en m’accordant la liberté d’écrire dans ma langue natale … et je souhaite vous rendre la même considération.

Maybe this program is not for you but you have someone with high potential in mind.  Please forward them this email!

P.S. How did I respond to the presenter who introduced the woman speaker talking about gender initiatives?

I SHOT UP my arm during the Q & A period and asked, “You introduced our speaker by saying that gender intiatives are an issue close to her heart.  She has devoted much of her talk to the proven benefits of diversity in the workforce.  Shouldn’t this be a topic on the hearts of men too?!”

He smiled and responded, “Point well taken.  Thank you.”

2 comments

    1. Thanks Chandra. It’s good to know when we invest time and effort into writing posts (and wondering if it is toooooo long!) that they are appreciated.

      If you have someone in your entourage who might be interested in being a pilot tester, please do forward this. Thanks again.

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