7 Skills Required For Exceptional Team Teadership

StrategyDriven Management and Leadership Article |Leadership Skills|7 Skills Required for Exceptional Team LeadershipThere are many types of managers but it takes a certain skill set for a manager to consistently lead their team to long-term success. While skills can definitely be taught (growth mindset), exceptional team leadership requires abilities and characteristics that do not come naturally to everyone.

Why are leadership skills so important? Quite simply, they set the mold for ‘the way we do things around here’, which has a huge impact on the culture and success of an organisation.

Think you have what it takes? Want to know what distinguishes great team leaders from mediocre ones? Here are 7 skills all exceptional team leaders naturally possess.

Effective communication

To be an effective team leader, communication is key. Good communication is an essential component of achieving goals and contributes hugely to positive working relationships. Conflict at some point in any team is inevitable, but an exceptional leader has the expertise to ensure everybody has a voice and feels heard. They are able to quickly diffuse any conflict.

Good communication skills involve really listening, keeping it short, asking questions, noticing body language and repeating back a summary of what has been discussed. Active listening is often seen as a soft skill, but it is fundamental to being a great leader and drives employee engagement.

Communication is becoming increasingly difficult when it comes to managing remote workers in the digital age. But great leaders always make time for small talk with everyone and use video technology to communicate with the remote members of their team.

Transparent and trustworthy

Good leadership is built on a foundation of trust, which requires a certain level of transparency. Being transparent doesn’t mean sharing everything on the google drive or divulging everyone’s salary (though some businesses operate with more openness than others).
Broadly speaking, good leaders will share information and not keep facts secret to build up their own sense of power. There are many good reasons team leaders should practise transparency, but most importantly it helps to foster better relationships with staff. Along with effective communication it encourages employees to share their ideas too and this is essential for innovation.
Ultimately, the sharing of information is essential for employees to make better informed decisions.

Knowledgeable and confident

To be a credible leader you have to be able to support your team and problem-solve. Knowledge and confidence are just two of the attributes required to foster respect from your employees. People like to work with leaders who are confident and know what they are talking about.

Effective delegating

Great leaders know they need to delegate in order to get work done, but also understand the importance of delegation in relation to improving opportunities and staff development. Delegating isn’t about dumping the work you don’t fancy doing onto someone else.
To be an effective leader you’ll need to demonstrate your ability to roll up your sleeves and pitch in with the workload. You also need to be mindful not to hold onto your work. Motivating and inspiring team members relies on effective delegation and this means delegating authority, as well as tasks.

Exceptional team leaders aren’t afraid of succession planning and will delegate responsibilities to help build the careers of their team members. Great managers surround themselves with highly successful people.

Energise employees to achieve

One of the key skills and competencies requested by those recruiting for team leaders is the ability to motivate themselves and members of their team. Employees can have all the expertise in the world, but if they’re not motivated, then productivity and business success won’t come easily and employees won’t achieve their potential.

Every team member will have different motivators. A great team leader knows this and works with individuals to understand what these are and successfully motivate them.

Give continuous feedback

Giving and receiving feedback on a continuous basis is key to engaging people and keeping them on track. The annual appraisal is an outdated management tool and by its nature is often an event dreaded by employees who feel a whole year of ‘constructive criticism’ is about to be dumped upon them.

Great leaders give feedback on a continuous basis to address issues and guide employees, as well as to give positive feedback which helps to boost confidence and ability. Good leaders are able to deliver difficult feedback constructively and effectively with the right intention (to help employees improve what they aren’t doing so well). For employees to be receptive to feedback it needs to be delivered frequently with care.

Fair, ethical and honest

Being honest, fair and ethical are crucial character traits of an exceptional team leader. Acting with integrity and not engaging in behaviour in the workplace that is toxic will impact positively on how you are regarded by employees in your team and across the entire organisation.

Being fair, you don’t have favourites and you abide by the same rules you impose upon your team. Importantly, exceptional leaders will always question whether they have personal bias to ensure that they don’t subconsciously develop any.
While these are all management skills that can be learned, the truly best leaders will find all of this comes naturally.

Engagement in the Implementation of Strategic Intent

The Opportunity

Every day, I see businesses struggling to achieve high levels of long-term performance. Upon scrutiny I often find that they have – on paper – excellent and well thought out strategic plans. Their shortcomings are normally in the applications of the strategic plan and I find they usually fall into one of three areas; I call them gaps:

StrategyDriven Management and Leadership Article | Engagement in the Implementation of Strategic Intent

As they seek to improve on their year to year performance, I find many firms ardently working on the focus and alignment gap. Yet the improvement in their results do not seem to mirror their efforts – not at all. First, since the advent of Hoshin Kanri (HK) planning firms have found an excellent model to achieve focus and alignment both vertically and horizontally, throughout their entire firm. HK planning can be a very effective technique, even if not practiced fully as taught by Yoji Akao. Second, by any objective measure, the greatest opportunity to improve results is achieved by closing the Engagement Gap. Typical engagement levels across the US are in the 30% range and for manufacturing they are even lower, around 25%. Since most firms are in the 25-30% range and world class is 75% engagement, the gulf between what is typical and what is attainable is huge. The engagement gap is the target rich environment for improvement that firms need to exploit if they wish to attain long-term, strong performance.

StrategyDriven Management and Leadership Article | Engagement in the Implementation of Strategic Intent | Sustaining Workforce EngagementWhat Is The Engagement Profile?

Gallup has defined 3 categories of engagement: the “engaged”; the “not-engaged”; and the “actively disengaged”. The engaged are those people who are moving & shaking, making improvements, and genuinely care about what goes on at the business. This is around 30% of the entire work population. The “not-engaged” are doing what is necessary, they follow all the rules – but not much else. They are often working in a fog and seem to be sleep-walking their way through the day. They comprise around 52% of the work population. Then there are the “actively disengaged”. These are the people who might be fighting to stay on the payroll – or not. Regardless they are resistive, contrary and fighting the system at every turn in the road. They comprise 18% of the workforce.

Just What Is Engagement?

There are two commonly held management paradigms about engagement which are widely held, but unfortunately, they are both wrong:

  • Engagement is equal to hard working and
  • Engagement is a “worker thing”

Engaged workers have three very salient qualities. First, they are physically committed, so they are hard working. They have body commitment. Second, they are intellectually committed so they are actively working to make improvements to the process and the product. They have head commitment. Third, they are interested in the business and care that it succeeds. They have heart commitment. Being engaged in the workplace encompasses hard work but it goes well beyond that.

As for engagement being only a worker thing – as if the supervisors, managers and denizens of the C-suite were naturally engaged – is a myth. Although management engagement is somewhat higher, at 35% it is nowhere near world class levels. In most firms, there is ample improvement room for everyone.

What’s The Appropriate Response?

With your business in need of an infusion of “whatever it takes to succeed” you need look no further than improving your engagement. With 70% either not-engaged or actively disengaged, you clearly have a target rich environment. And just how do you capture that? The answer is technically simple but operationally has proven to be a major problem to many. To get employees engaged it is as simple as management making sure that all people:

1. Know what to do
2. Know how to do it
3. Have the resources to do it
And 4, that management focus on creating an environment where it is possible for people to perform.

Sounds Simple? Think You Are Already Doing This?

If you believe you and your firm are accomplishing this simple list of 4 items above, then why is your firm not attaining long-term, strong performance? If you take a cold, hard, dispassionate and introspective look at that deficiency, it is virtually impossible to not find needed improvement in one or more of the categories above.
Give the 4 items above your management attention and you’ll have not only a healthy, happy and productive workforce, but strong long-term performance as well.


About the Author

Lonnie Wilson is the author of Sustaining Workforce Engagement: How To Ensure Your Employees Are Healthy, Happy, And Productive and founder of Quality Consultants where clients include firms in manufacturing as well as the fields of education, healthcare and other service sectors. Quality Consultants serves small firms as well as Fortune 500 firms in North, South, Central America, and China.

For more information, please visit www.qc-ep.com.

Following Leadership’s Qs

StrategyDriven Management and Leadership Article | Following Leadership’s Qs | Business Leadership | Steve CoughranWhat makes a good leader? If tasked with answering this question, some might devise a 10-page list of traits. Leaders need to be visionaries. They must be genuine, hardworking, respectful, and pragmatic. They should connect with employees. They should be story-tellers.

We hold leaders to a high standard, attaching a lengthy list of prerequisites to any governing role. Before starting as CFO, I repeatedly scanned through my leadership qualities, considering how I would present myself to my new colleagues. The night before my first day, a jumble of questions raced around my sleepless mind: “How will I balance openness with authority?” “How do I provide the appropriate amount of guidance to my team?” “How will I know if I am being effective?”

After serving in a variety of leadership roles over the last two decades, I still have a lot to learn. I have, however, worked to chip away at the long list of leadership traits by understanding the key areas where leaders must succeed. In my experience, the myriad of leadership characteristics can be boiled down to the Qs.

IQ (Intellectual Quotient): The first focus area is the most straight-forward. Of course, ascending the organizational ladder requires intellectual horsepower. Most leadership positions demand foresight, complex problem solving, and creativity, that of which requires sharp mental faculty.

Most leaders fulfill this first criterion. Unsurprisingly, cognitive ability is directly linked to job performance. Those with high IQs have dazzled their superiors with high-quality work and valuable insights, using brainpower as jet fuel to soar into top leadership spots. IQ is the first Q of leadership, as it gets your foot in the door.

EQ (Emotional Quotient): While earning my Master of Accounting, one of my colleagues shined as the star of our cohort. She was incredibly gifted with numbers. Following graduation, we both eagerly accepted offers to work in public accounting for Ernst and Young. After a short six months, however, she had moved on to another opportunity. Apparently, after bouncing around due to team conflicts, she had been asked to leave. Neither expertise nor credentials could outweigh the importance of EQ in a team environment.

IQ in isolation does not indicate strong leadership potential. In recent years, the power of EQ, the ability to read others’ emotions (including your own), has been exalted as a key trait in successful leaders. A study of UC Berkeley PhDs discovered that EQ was 40 times more powerful in predicting who achieved success in their fields than IQ (Developing Management Skills). Emotional competencies combined with strong cognitive abilities lays the foundation for an effective leader.

FQ (Financial Quotient): One of the most frequently overlooked requirements of a strong leader is financial intelligence. In a national Harvard study of U.S. managers, the average score on a simple financial literacy test was 38% (Harvard Business Review).

When elevated into leadership positions, it’s often assumed that people understand finance. However, I have encountered even senior leaders who have muddled along with very little knowledge of how to enact and measure value creation activities.

A company is a financial machine created to produce profit and cash flow, therefore leaders with decision-authority (and especially those with P&L responsibility) must understand how they make an impact on the bottom line. For today’s leaders, financial literacy is not an option. Strategy without finance is dead.

SQ (Strategy Quotient): Finally, even the brightest, most emotionally and financially-gifted leaders flounder without strategic direction. SQ is the bow that ties all the other leadership skills together. It puts the other Qs to work. Strategic leaders carve out structure without being rigid. They extend the abilities of the team and lead them into new, unpredictable territories by taking calculated risks. They’re aware of internal and external happenings. Overall, they see the big picture, and guide their team by sharing an inspired vision.

Follow the Qs of leadership to unlock the potential of your talent, maximize the impact of your organization, and escalate your bottom line.


About the Author

Steve Coughran is author of Outsizing: Strategies to Grow your Business, Profits, and Potential, CFO of an international billion-dollar company, and a management consultant. Steve has over two decades of experience driving business excellence. Known for his extensive research and writing on strategic growth and corporate financial management, he challenges conventional wisdom, earning the reputation of an “energetic trailblazer.” He is an expert on strategy and an acclaimed keynote speaker with over twenty years of experience driving corporate excellence.

For more information, please visit www.SteveCoughran.com.

What Does Your Email Reveal About Your Leadership Style?

StrategyDriven Management and Leadership Article | Fewer, Faster, Better Emails | What Does Your Email Reveal About Your Leadership Style?“I don’t know that there’s necessarily a correlation between leadership style and their email writing. I’ve never researched that specific connection.”

“Understood,” my CEO client responded. “Just review what my admin sends you and give me a one-page opinion on each of the four VPs. That’s all I ask.”

This conversation happened early in my career, and frankly, I feared that I might disappoint him in not being able to draw conclusions.

Within a few days, the CEO’s bundle of emails arrived, basically restating what he’d said on the phone. His executive assistant had collected emails from four of his VPs. Specifically, the emails were representative of those the four VPs had sent to 1) peers 2) their direct reports and 3) those higher-ups in the chain (the CEO himself or EVPs).

My mission: To describe their leadership style and general attitudes about their work as reflected in their emails. So I pushed through the pile of VP documents carefully labeled by his assistant.

After submitting my one-page opinions on each, the CEO phoned again. “You’ve pegged them exactly! … Now, I want you to meet with them one on one to debrief them. Tell them what’s apparent in their writing. Give them the details about what you found. See what they might want to change.”

The first three meetings went well. The VPs seemed quite shocked that their writing revealed so much about their personalities, attitudes, and leadership style. But basically, they agreed with my evaluations and the emails discussed as examples.

But the fourth meeting (scheduled last because I dreaded it) didn’t go so smoothly. As I suspected, the SVP reacted quite differently. Mac listened in almost total silence as I delivered my conclusions.

As tactfully as possible, I pointed out that his emails to the executive team sounded friendly, but vague and cavalier. On the other hand, emails to his staff sounded indifferent at best and harsh and dictatorial at worst.

His general response that day: “Not interested in making changes.”

A few months later, I learned that Mac was no longer with the organization. Although I don’t know all that contributed to his termination, I do know that his writing did not add to his credibility, influence, or results with clients, coworkers, or higher-ups.

4 Ways Your Leadership Style Is on Display in Your Email

What can you apply to your own situation?

Unwillingness to Share Reasoning

When Mac presented a recommendation to higher-ups, he supported it with data or at least his reasoning. Not so, with staff. With them, he simply announced his decisions and expected compliance.

An Attempt to Bluff

When answering questions from higher executives about projects, budgets, or problems, Mac often responded with sketchy details. The tone was, “All is well, just trust me, and don’t probe.” A reader easily got the feeling that Mac took offense if the boss asked about any skeletons in the closet.

No Requests for Input

Mac wrote to his staff almost entirely in directives. He requested no opinions or ideas from them. When he informed them of a decision and upcoming action, the tone was, “Make it happen and don’t bother me with questions.” The difference between Mac and a mafia boss? Mac dealt in mortgages. Mafia bosses deal in murder and other mayhem.

Lack of Personal Accountability

Even though I analyzed more than a hundred of Mac’s emails, none contained an “accountability” statement – not even close.

  • No statements of goals (specific goals would have set him up to explain any shortfall)
  • No acknowledgement or apology for a mistake or misunderstanding
  • No ownership for poor outcomes – his or those related to his team’s performance
  • No feedback or praise to his team or colleagues

Granted, Mac didn’t send his entire email stash for the CEO’s evaluation. But reason would suggest that he’d sent his best – a collection aptly reflecting his leadership style.
Just as Mac’s writing did, your email can alter the trajectory of your career. Leaders master strategies to improve what they say, how they say it, and what NOT to say in email. And in my three decades of experience, I’ve observed that clear communicators become leaders in every industry.

Find out what secrets your own emails reveal about your leadership.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Dianna BooherDianna Booher’s latest books include Faster, Fewer, Better Emails; Communicate Like a Leader; What MORE Can I Say?; and Creating Personal Presence. She’s the bestselling author of 48 books, published in 61 foreign editions. Dianna helps organizations communicate clearly and leaders to expand their influence by a strong executive presence.

How to Avoid Common Mistakes as a New Manager

StrategyDriven Business Management and Leadership Article|Leadership|How to Avoid Common Mistakes as a New ManagerWhen you find a job that you love, it is only natural to want to progress through its ranks as fast as you can. If you are willing and able to put in the hours, you can one day make it to the level of manager. This will give you an opportunity to oversee a new generation of workers in your industry and pass on the skills and experience that you have developed over the years.

But no matter how good you are at your job, and how naturally-suited you might be to the role of manager, managing a business for the first time is always going to present a significant challenge. Of course, you won’t be the first manager to find themselves thrown in at the deep end when they first take on the role. Even with preparation, you will inevitably make some mistakes during the early days of your tenure as manager.

By preparing adequately beforehand, you can significantly reduce the chances of you running into unexpected but avoidable problems. Avoiding these common mistakes will make it easier for you to establish your authority and your management style as soon as possible after you take over. They will also help you to bond with your team and foster a mutual respect, something that will make your life as a manager much easier.

Don’t Feel Pressured to Know Everything

Many managers hold themselves up to very high standards. This can include feeling as if they should be able to handle every single issue that comes their way with barely a second’s thought. However, this is an impossible standard to try and reach. Even if you are being promoted within a business that you already have plenty of experience with, that doesn’t mean that you will know everything there is to know about being a manager.

You should never be afraid to admit when you don’t know something. Instead, you should focus on showing your employees that you can still effectively solve any issues that do crop up. When you encounter issues that you don’t know how to solve, working out solutions will be a valuable learning experience. It is also important to show your employees that it is ok to not know things.

An important part of your role as manager will be nurturing the efforts of those that work beneath you. Some of this will come from your own past work experience, but as with any role, you will also need to do a fair amount of learning while on the job. When you encounter things you don’t know, use them as learning opportunities and encourage your workers to do the same.

Foster Initiative

The best leaders are those that others would follow even if they didn’t hold a more senior position than them professionally. An important part of nurturing this kind of relationship is showing your workers that you value their opinions, skills and experience. Encouraging them to think for themselves as much as possible is an effective way of doing this.

You shouldn’t be looking to stamp on everyone with your newfound authority; if you set up a hostile atmosphere from the beginning, you will never be able to win them back around. One of the most common mistakes that new managers often make is in trying to control every aspect of what goes on during their watch. If your workers find you overbearing, they will be less likely to respond to your demands.
It is much better to gently guide your team, while encouraging their natural talents to shine through. What matters is that your team are able to navigate through most challenges on their own. Again, remember that when you don’t know how to do something, it is an opportunity to learn it. When your team don’t know what to do, encourage them to formulate and evaluate their own solutions to problems.

Don’t Change Everything Overnight

If you come into a new role with the attitude that everything that was done before you arrived was wrong, you will be instantly setting yourself up for confrontation. Instead, you should show respect for the existing procedures and techniques that those working under you have grown accustomed to. It is likely that some of those who now work beneath you will have been involved in formulating the processes that are in place when you arrive.

If you arrive and instantly dismiss everything that was done before, this is unlikely to win you respect. Instead, look for existing processes and procedures that you can get behind. Instead of aiming to make your mark by changing as many things as possible, look to make the most difference with the least amount of changes.

Don’t be Indecisive

In business, decisions often need to be made relatively quickly. A quick decision in business isn’t necessarily one that has to be made right now. In some cases, a quick decision for your business will be a decision that needs to be made in a few days, but requires back and forth communications within the business. If this is the case, there may be very little time to spare.

Similarly, when you are looking for ways to improve efficiency and save money in your new role, show that you are able to make and execute solid plans. For example, if your business needs to ship goods to consumers, don’t be afraid to ask what does it cost to ship each item. There is a plethora of different shipping types out there, each best suited to different cargo. Identifying the right service providers for your business is essential to its long-term success.

Taking on a managerial role is a big responsibility. However, for the most ambitious members of the workforce, rising up to the level of manager is a natural progression. As a new manager, you will face some significant challenges but, with the right preparation, these can be mitigated or overcome. Do everything you can to avoid making any of the above mistakes.