Team leadership requires keen self-awareness of the impact of behavior on a team’s performance. Often leaders inadvertently stunt the growth of their teams by exhibiting meeting conduct that is ineffective and even harmful. Here are some signs that your approach might be suboptimal.
Communication is funneled to you. Think about the way communication flows around the team table. Who talks to whom? If most of the comments are directed to you, your team has become leader centric. In a high performing group, members address the whole group or communicate with each other, engaging everyone. Change the pattern by deflecting communication that comes your way, drawing in others. Talk less and listen more. Consider identifying times when the team can meet without you to find their own pace.
Minimal learning occurs. When you leave a team meeting, can you say that new perspectives were gained? When leaders lack curiosity about each members’ point of view, especially when different than theirs, no new knowledge is generated. If team members leave a meeting with the same perspectives they had when they arrived, much potential learning was lost. To change this outcome, assume a learning attitude when your team is discussing an array of ideas. Ask lots of questions, exploring how each idea might work. Model openness.
Conflict is suppressed. If your response to ideas different than yours is critical or defensive, the team environment may not feel safe. Only the most courageous will want to risk your negative response by speaking up. Show appreciation for and interest in ideas that don’t mirror your own. The value of teamwork is in the differences of opinion from which mutual learning can occur. If the conflict is more personal, be open to addressing issues among team members, modeling a problem-solving approach.
Your timing is off. When asking for team members’ opinions, consider when you add your point of view. If you speak early in the conversation, and others have different opinions, you may inhibit their contributions. They may not want to challenge you. If you speak last, you are less likely to inhibit team members’ speaking out. When you do speak, make sure your transition is diplomatic, i.e. I think all of your comments are insightful. I have a slightly different way of looking at this.
Success isn’t celebrated. Leaders who focus on a task-oriented agenda alone, often lose some of the motivational energy necessary to propel team development. The intensity or drudgery may cause some or all team members to check out. Consider spending time at meetings telling stories and giving examples of group and individual achievements. Nurture your ability to be a cheerleader.
Learning to read team dynamics is a complex activity. Pay attention to the response you get to what you say and do. Carefully watch the communication dynamics. Adapt your leadership approach to ensure you promote, not inhibit, team development.