Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


Creating a Team versus Managing a Group

Volume: May 2011

By Doug Van Dyke, Leadership Simplified, www.leadershipsimplified.com


Ralph was perplexed. He was technically excellent at his job, and he felt that fact alone should earn him high praise at work. Ralph led a group of seven people. They operated more like seven independent contractors, as opposed to a team. When it came annual review time, Ralph got bludgeoned – this surprised and perplexed him. Sidebar: the fact that annual reviews should never be surprising is an entirely different topic. In any case, Ralph was admonished for not coaching and mentoring his people. Low team morale was also highlighted. Ralph was not fearful for his job, but he was definitely scratching his head. He sought out a long-time friend at work, Sue, and asked her about his predicament. Sue shared four areas for Ralph to ponder.


First of all, Sue said, “realize that leadership is a team game.” Ralph loved the tasks involved in what he perceived to be his core job. That is why he was technically excellent. Sue highlighted that Ralph’s core job was actually to lead. She quoted her favorite leadership consultant when she told him: “Leaders impact culture! ®” As such, it was time he focused on the culture of his group and molded them into a collaborative team.


The second area Sue touched on was “to lead a team you have to know your players.” Ralph hung his head as Sue spoke these words. He knew what his people were capable of at work, but he really did not know them as people. He did not know what moved them. He did not know about their vision, dreams, and goals. He did not understand their true potential. Sue asked Ralph a pointed question: “How can you have positive team morale if you do not really know your team?” She also asked Ralph if was sincerely interested in knowing his players better. Ralph stated that he was. Sue then said, “Utilize ‘small talk is big talk’ and connect with your people.” As he looked up, Ralph smiled. He knew just what Sue was referring to – he needed to carve out times during the day to proactively check in with his team members and get his fingers on the pulse of his workgroup first hand.


The third area that Sue highlighted was to build trust by consistent action. Sue asked Ralph, “Do your people trust you?” Ralph’s sheepish reply was, “I don’t know.” Sue’s response was blunt, “Then they probably don’t.” The words stung Ralph, but he knew they were true. Sue continued, “Your team members probably do not mistrust you, they just do not know you very well. So win them over! You are a great guy. Show your people that you care about them. Learn about them. Support them more. Once you start behaving in this manner though, you cannot stop. Your actions must be sincere, and they must consistently carry on – or they will mistrust you.” Ralph smiled, he could feel the leadership energy building inside of him. Ralph asked Sue a question, “You do these things, don’t you Sue?” She smiled and laughed, “Of course I do…..because I want to, and because I believe it is the right way to lead.” With that she added, “It also gives me the cache I need with my people when I need to have tough conversations with them.”


The final area Sue touched on was to coach and develop team members. She implored Ralph to create a coaching plan of action for each of his team members. “Sometimes I do the coaching myself, and sometimes I bring in outside coaches,” Sue said. As she finished, Sue stated with confidence, “What matters is that I enable coaching actions that help my people grow and learn.” Ralph added, “With the pace and frequent changes in our workplace, coaching would help people be better positioned for the future.” Sue nodded and added, “And it will continually build trust because your people know you are looking out for their best interests.” Ralph nodded in agreement.


After their conversation, do you think Ralph hugged Sue? You betcha. A big ‘ole bear hug, I might add. As Ralph executed Sue’s sage advice, he realized that she effectively saved his leadership career. Eighteen months later, Ralph leads a real team. He is still technically excellent, and also receives darn good performance reviews. It goes without saying that he treats Sue to lunch on a regular basis.


Until next time my friends, be well.


Doug Van Dyke is a leadership and collaboration consultant, executive coach, and strategic planner. He is also the author of Leadership Simplified – THE Field Guide for Savvy Leaders.  Doug’s audios and videos are also available atwww.leadershipsimplified.com. To learn more about consulting services, coaching, and training, or to have Doug help your team work together better, contact him today at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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