Always Stand Up for Your Real Team

As a leader, you have to always stand for your team, right?
Wrong.

Rather, first, you need to make sure you realize which team is “your team.”

That may sound counterintuitive but that’s life. Being a manager (team lead, manager, director, etc.), you are in charge of a unit consisting of several individuals. If you are part of an effective organization, your team consists of a few immediate reports, ideally 5 to 10, that you call “your team.” But whatever your role is, you are part of yet another team – your own boss’ team. Thus, you are a member of two teams at least, usually on two different levels, and your real team is the “upper” team. Your position within the “upper” team is the main driver of everyday actions, and your performance there will determine your career progression and professional success.

As I realized working with senior managers in various environments, the “real team” is not immediately clear to many. But it is very important to understand, visualize and accept. If you disagree with this dual team approach, then maybe you are one of the reasons why your organization is less efficient than it would like to be. This is not politics; this is how truly effective businesses work.

If you disagree with this dual team approach, then maybe you are one of the reasons why your organization is less efficient than it would like to be.

Remember from middle school, a magnet becomes a magnet when all “magnetic domains” are oriented in the same direction? When oriented in random directions, they cancel each other out and produce almost no force. However, when pointed in the same direction, they produce a very strong force. The more domains are oriented in the same direction, the stronger is the magnetic field and the overall force. Your role is to create that strong initial magnetic field that aligns all the individual magnetic domains within your “magnet.” The role of your manager is to align the magnets so that the business maintains its utmost overall structural strength.

The reality is that the perceived goals of your team members may differ, and the general “vector” of your team is misaligned. It is the role of your leader to make the Goal clear to you. Then your job is to align your team and make sure that you lead them to that clear Goal, even if at times this direction may appear wrong to some team members. Coach, educate and motivate your team: you are a leader, not a people’s representative.

So what do I do if the “field lines” within my team are not aligned?

Depending on your team’s maturity, there may be several reasons behind that, and they are history now. We need to look forward. One of the ways to get an idea of the team alignment is to make your team pass the Q7 test. The result will give you an instant indication of your team’s potential. Most probably, not all “domains” within your team will be aligned. The good news is that the values do not change overnight. If they are aligned with the accepted goals, the team may remain effective, efficient and stable for quite some time.

In real life, as you do not have the luxury to build your team from the ground up, the misaligned “domains” may need to be replaced, and never the goals. That’s not a fun task but it comes with your job.

Of course, that’s not all of it. Here’s what you need to do in order to be respected and accepted as a leader:

  • make sure that all your reports have access to the necessary tools and continue developing their skills
  • be available to the members of the team reporting to you whenever they need direction and support
  • provide honest and immediate feedback, positive as well as negative

Above all, set the right standard of teamwork: always do your best job while remaining aligned with the goals set by your team leader.