Lessons Leaders Can Learn From Their Teams

fortunate failure series

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” — Jack Welch

How Trusted Relationships with Employees Benefit Your Customers Too

From gaining the trust and respect of their teams to meeting their company’s goals, new leaders face many challenges. A fortunate leader has experienced good leadership as an employee and uses those experiences to draw from. More likely, they’ve had some ineffective bosses and toxic team members and have learned even more from those poor leadership examples.

 In her SXSW talk, Psychotherapist Esther Perel discusses Workplace Dynamics, “No amount of money, purpose or free food can compensate for a poisonous relationship at work…The quality of our relationships at work determines the quality of our work and our ability to succeed.”

A new leader’s relationship with the team is critically important. And perhaps the best and most immediate leadership lessons come from the very team you’re managing.

Observe Your Team’s Reaction to Your Leadership Style

You can learn a lot from your team by how they react to your leadership. Do they suddenly depart for a coffee or bathroom break when they see you approaching? Do they avoid eye contact in meetings? Do they deliver more than what was specifically asked of them? Do they freely offer up feedback, ideas, and alternative approaches?

Observing your team and their reactions to you as a new leader will tell you a lot about your leadership style, whether or not it’s working, and when you might need to employ an alternate approach.

Learn Your Employees’ Goals

Former GE Chairman and CEO Jack Welch offered up this take on leadership: “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

Yes, there is no I in team. But neither is there an I in leader or coach either—a lesson Art Taylor, senior director of compliance investigations at PayPal, shared with STN for our Fortunate Failures series.

Taylor shares what he learned almost immediately as a new leader when his team noticed he was interested more in his own goals than theirs. Getting to know his team, listening to their feedback, and having the humility to adapt his leadership style got Taylor back on track and taught him a valuable lesson he applies to his career regularly.

"I approach leadership as an opportunity to support an entire team."

Be Malleable and Flexible

Taylor’s experience aligns well with Business Insider’s article on ways you can demonstrate your desire to be a great boss. For example, ask for insights rather than providing all the answers. And be flexible and allow employees to decide how best to get the job done. New leaders can employ these and a variety of other techniques to develop rapport with their teams and become not just a great boss but a great leader.

Taylor also speaks of the importance of  allowing “your definition of leadership to be malleable.” Your leadership style needs to change with each employee you manage, their comfort level with their assignments, personal circumstances, and, especially now, current events. Checking in with your employees and asking for specific feedback can change the trajectory of your team’s dynamic from negative to positive and build trust and respect.

Build Trust and Get Higher Engagement

Building trust with a team creates a higher level of engagement, and this engagement leads to success not just for leaders and employees but also for customers.

In this video, author and notable speaker Simon Sinek shares a real-life example of how trust and respect among employees and leaders create a great customer experience. He describes his interaction with a barista at a hotel. What’s unique is that the barista works at two hotels and has two very different experiences—and service styles— based on different leadership.

One leadership style creates a positive, trusting relationship between employees and leaders and one fosters a cycle of distrust and disengaged employees. New leaders should invest the time and effort in building trusting, professional relationships with their teams.

And keeping another of Jack Welch’s tenets in mind can energize and motivate you as a leader even after you inevitably stumble, “Mistakes can often be as good a teacher as success.” After all, many leaders have learned how not to lead from a previous boss or two.

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