— 44 min read

The qualities of an effective team leader can be broken into 4 big categories – organizational communications, internal processes, productivity, and giving feedback. It's highly important that you approach team leadership as a process and not something you can get done. You, as a leader, can't force people to work harder; to be effective, you can only align your team's efforts and work smarter, together.

Here is a list of the 15 qualities of a team leader who will succeed with his/her team.

  1. Effective team leader takes time with their employees
  2. They recognize failure (acknowledging, not rewarding it)
  3. Encourages debates, but keeps them productive
  4. Make sure everybody knows the "WHY" & sees the bigger picture
  5. Tests their ideas (are they contested, or have you hired a herd of sheep?)
  6. Respects time & privacy
  7. Tracks what really matters
  8. Does NOT micromanage
  9. Shows what productivity level is expected
  10. Build and manage both team & company culture
  11. Has a strict process in place
  12. Leaves room for creativity
  13. Kills off time-wasting tasks/procrastination
  14. Builds trust daily
  15. Gives plenty of feedback
Effective team leader

Effective team leader takes time with their employees

Collaboration makes a great leader. As John Ritchie said in Business Matters: "Effective internal communication helps to ensure that all members of the organization are working collaboratively towards a common goal." The key word is "collaboration." While a lot of team members may know what their job description is, they must also understand why their work matters to the company. That is the reason why they must share their work and ideas with co-workers and managers.

Engagement is more than job satisfaction or happiness at work. An engaged worker has an attachment to his job and that lets him do it a lot better. If we speak about the tough competition in the global market, then this job attachment is what's giving those 30% of companies the winning edge.

There are 3 key factors that drive engagement:

• Relationship with the direct manager

• Belief in senior leadership

• Pride in working for the company

How do you drive engagement?

The first thing to do is to get an overview of what's going on. Talk to everyone directly working for you, find out what they think and want. What troubles them? If you know their problems, you can help them. Make sure you have extra time every week for speaking with them.

Of course, it's not possible to have water-cooler chats with everyone if you have a bigger team. Team leadership, in this case, would be a technological solution to keep track of everyone.

• You can share your ideas for feedback. Everybody knows that "two heads are better than one". When you share your ideas with your team you can get feedback and new ideas. As there is always more than one way to do things, you'll discover that your coworkers and employees can sometimes save you from a dead end.

• You are forced to stop and think about what you're doing. As you have to explain your ideas to others, you must give those ideas a voice.

As the Harvard Business Review has mentioned: "Collaboration doesn't just occur by getting people together. You need to trigger it."

A lot of people don't like to be reviewed. To some participating in internal communications may feel like being judged. Part of team leadership is to create a culture where the constant review is not something to be afraid of but a normal routine that doesn't affect everyday mood or task completion.

Online collaboration tools help to change internal communication from an "annoying review system" into a fun game running in the background. There are many perks you can implement here, like achievements, leaderboards, and point systems.

They recognize failure (acknowledging, not rewarding it)

As a team leader, you should always be on a lookout for why people fail. Failing is natural and many leaders say that it's important to recognize it. How ever you decide to tackle it – don't ever reward inadequacy or failure because of laziness.

Fail Hard. Fail Fast. Fail Often. This is not something that we think about daily. But this methodology provides a gateway to productivity and innovation. Here are 3 main takeaways to improve your leadership skills when it comes to addressing failing.

Deferring Responsibility

The best team leaders are those who accept failure, whether it is their own or the failure of their subordinates. These leaders believe that they have a direct impact on their followers and therefore see any failure on their part as a failure of their own. When people defer responsibility they create anger and resentment in their organization, but when they claim responsibility for failure and own it, they often gain greater loyalty from their followers.

Don't ignore environmental cues

One of the biggest team leadership mistakes is ignoring what they see around them. Team leadership means constantly watching their followers and their organization, making sure everything is on track.  They trust their followers to get tasks done, but also recognize the necessity of verifying that they complete work to the proper standard. They step in when they see a problem and make sure that any issues are dealt with before they become a bigger threat to the organization. By constantly checking on their followers and their organization's goals, great team leaders identify issues before they get out of hand and solve them so that they can continue to make forward progress.

It comes natural if you're ambitious enough

Failure is one of life's greatest enablers.  Think about it. If you never failed at anything, you would never be forced to take action. In the end, it's deal with failure that defines your character as a team leader. For example, do you accept defeat – or will you find a creative way to interpret reality? Do you ask yourself what you learned during the process of failing – or do you hold someone else accountable and blame the circumstances you were faced with to deflect criticism of the failed outcome?

Great leadership (like great management) is about being accountable for your actions. Some of the greatest leaders in history failed at one time or another, a list that includes Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, and many others. Their ability to hold themselves accountable enabled them to persevere, become better leaders, and build their legacies.

Encourage debates, but keep them productive

As an effective team leader, there's nothing more satisfying than seeing your employees wholeheartedly discussing the product or service you provide. The tricky part is to understand whether it will lead to a productive discussion or unnecessary tension in the workforce. Internal communication studies show that most mergers and acquisitions don't fail because of conflict. They fail from the "organizational silence" that stems from the fear of conflict. A team leaders job is to encourage proactive debates, but they need to be kept as professional & productive as possible. Here are 3 tips that help you keep your teams' debates in line.

Set expectations
It's easier to manage good outcomes when you set expectations for the debate. Everyone involved debate agenda should know the goal of the discussion, and how a conclusion will be reached. If the final decision will come down to a single person, everyone involved should be made aware of it immidiately.

Don't let it be personal
We all get sucked into trying to "win"— so we look good or don't make the group we represent look bad — which leads us to ignore logic and evidence that go against our original beliefs. So we agree to fight without making much progress. Just trying to prove our point without emotions and not a rational judgment about what's best for the team. Which leads us to the next section.

Facts over emotions
Data over recommendations. There's nothing worse than an avalanche of "good" ideas that do not have any practical use. Subjective thoughts have a way of being "the right ones" in the proposer's mind. So leave both the ego & profession at the door for a more productive debate.

Good Team Leaders make sure everybody knows the "WHY"

Simon Sinek in his book "Start with the Why" differentiates decision making into 3 main categories: Why, How, and What.

When companies start with "Why", they will tap into our innate drive to include those products as symbols of our values and beliefs. They make us feel special like we belong to something bigger, and we feel a sense of tribe affiliation with all the others buying the same products.

Most team leaders generally start with "What's" and "Hows" because that's what their teams ask for. They ask for specific tasks, tactics & a specific responsibility. But , if they have a vague understanding about the vision of the company without a deeper knowledge of the "Why", then they may start to feel like they don't make an impact or any relevant difference. That they are merely salaried workers, who are doing the "dirty work".

As far as business goes, data-driven, agile processes are important for project management & daily/weekly productivity, but make sure your employees have a good dose of the "Why" in there. We want to be around people and organizations who are like us and share our beliefs. Our brain & primal instincts operate in a certain way. So in order to know how to hack your brain, you'll need to understand what parts of the brain to trigger.

Of course, it's not possible that every person in the company directly aligns with the company's objectives & vision. But it's crucial that the employees know exactly what you as a team leader and the company wants to accomplish in the long run.

Tests their ideas (are they contested, or have you hired a herd of sheep)

We have all heard & implemented the build, measure, learn loop on how to properly hypothesize & test our business ideas. The problem with the build-measure-learn loop, is, that for the majority of team leaders the point zero – test & hypothesize – gets forgotten. Meaning that if your employees are not contesting your ideas, even bad ones get passed straight through, to the building phase.

team leaders build measure learn loop

So test it out: next meeting, have a ridiculous proposition, that is backed by some shady data. If it sticks & people start applauding it – congratulations, you have a room full of people who are willing to do nonsense, just to avoid confronting you. In order to avoid this, you should always lead from the bottom, guiding people, not telling them (exactly) what to do. Leadership in a team must be earned, not gained by a promotion. "A leader is the one that stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind." N.Mandela.

Respect time & privacy

Good team leadership means making sure that you have a complete overview of what people are doing. The best way to do it is to change your company culture to be as transparent as it can be. Doing so requires a change of culture and may even require new software for help.  Here we will go over a few things that you should start doing.

Regular Meetings

Regular meetings may seem helpful, but they can often be a waste of employees' time. While meetings are an important part of any workplace, make sure you're doing them correctly. Here's a quick guide – Effective Meetings and How to Hold Them.

Having regular meetings that are brief is a great way to keep everyone on the same page. Miscommunication is one of the most common causes of dysfunction in the workplace. Having regular meetings helps to ensure that all employees understand what is expected during the week. This can help improve efficiency by reducing possible confusion that results from a lack of communication.

Track what matters

When Measure What Matters was published in 2017, it became an instant bestseller and a true model for the future world of management. Now the OKR methodology is preached in some of the top performing companies in the world.

"I wish I had had this book nineteen years ago when we founded Google. Or even before that, when I was only managing myself!

L.Page from "Measure what matters."

If one of the most influential entrepreneurs in the world preaches this methodology, then there must be something to it. John Doerr the author of "Measure What Matters" is rightfully considered one of the most influential people for the Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) methodology. He is the one who initially introduced the idea to the young founders of Google. And their success story has turned OKRs into a well-known goal setting methodology for both start-ups and traditional businesses.

The five point OKR System:

the five point OKR system

Set Strategic Priorities
Follow your vision or strategy that you have in place. Hopefully looking into 2-5 years.

Assess Processes
Figure out what kind of macro processes do you have to set-up in order manage the communication between divisions or people.

Set OKRs & Key Results
Nowadays, it seems like everyone has their own opinion on how to set  OKRs correctly.

I would recommend this Free Ebook to get you started. If you're just looking for a quick fix – have a look at these OKR Examples.

Share Roles & Team Key Results
While writing good objectives is really important from the company perspective, they still need a good amount of work, so that everybody's key results get aligned with the objectives & every person on the team knows what role they play in the long run.

Build reporting
One of the crucial parts of any business is data & the interpretation of it. So, to get everybody on the same page as soon as possible, you'll have to agree on: reporting cycles, KPI's & analyzing intervals.

Team leaders do NOT micromanage

It's gruesome working under a micromanager. Everybody knows that. But in more cases than not, managers and effective team leaders don't really take note that they are doing it. So if you see any of these 5 common symptoms piling up on your daily routine – change it! They really do more harm than good!

Here are 5 common symptoms to keep an eye out:

Avoid delegation

Delegation is a skill like any other. It demands time and practice to be mastered. Although delegating tasks this way is effortless, it still demands letting go of the control.

What could be the cure? Assigning one full task, not just pits and parts, but the full task. It might be painful, but it's necessary.

Obsessed by control

Constant urge to send countless emails to check employees progress. After delegating a full task to someone, it's natural to feel the need to keep checking on the status. There are smarter ways to keep an eye on the progress. One such clever method is the PPP process – weekly reporting on progress, plans and problems.

Over dictating

It's easier and probably takes as much time to finish the task than write exact directions. According to a survey, 55% admit micromanaging decreases productivity, 68% say it decreases morale. So trust your employees that they know what they're doing.

Reportomania

Habit to request unnecessary and overly detailed reports & plans about the near future/past. Make no mistake, reporting and keeping on top your numbers must be a top priority; but there's a fine line between actionable information and overly detailed reports that show absolutely no relevant data.

Discourages independent decision making

A micromanager is usually irritated when an employee makes a decision without consulting them first. That's true even if the decision is within their level of expertise! A good percentage of employees feel that team leaders don't help them perform at their best. Discouraging people to make decisions and take responsibility is demotivating.

Effective Team Leaders show what productivity level is expected

There's the team leader who tells everyone to stay late and then leaves promptly at 5:00pm to go golfing.

There's the boss who criticizes everyone for scrolling on social media but is discovered buying groceries online in the middle of the afternoon.

And the CFO who recommends layoffs to stop "unnecessary spending," but then buys herself a brand-new car.

Do you know any of these people?

There's hardly anything worse for morale than team leaders who practice the "Do as I say, not as I do" philosophy. When this happens, you can almost feel the motivation sink among the staff. It's like watching the air go out of a balloon – and disappointment & jealousy usually take its place.

If you're in a leadership position, then you know that you have a responsibility to your team. Employees look to team leaders for guidance and strength; that's part of what being a good leader is. And, the most important part of your responsibility is to lead them with your own actions.

Put in the Work

There's an old saying about the difference between a manager and a leader, "Managers do things right. Leaders do the right things."

As a team leader, part of your job is to inspire the people around you to push themselves. And the best way to do it, ist to show them the way by doing it yourself.

When You Don't Lead by Example

We've seen just how powerful it can be to lead by example. But what happens when you don't follow this rule?

When leaders don't "practice what they preach," it can be almost impossible for a team to work together successfully. How can anyone trust a team leader who talks about one thing, but does another?

If you say one thing and do another, your team will likely not follow you enthusiastically. Why should they? Everything you tell them after that may meet with suspicion and doubt.

Good team leaders push their people forward with excitement, inspiration, trust, and vision. If you lead a team that doesn't trust you, productivity will drop. Enthusiasm may disappear. The vision you're trying so hard to make happen may lose its appeal, all because your team doesn't trust you anymore.

Build and manage the team culture

Effective team leaders need to make sure your company has values and principles that motivate your employees. Having a coherent company culture makes it easier to hire the right people and make sure your employees are engaged in their work. Failing to build a positive culture can break apart your team and reduce productivity to a halt. It can make or break your company.

Building a team culture from zero.

Dharmesh Shah, Co-founder, and CTO of the popular marketing software, HubSpot, has said that "The culture of a startup is defined by three things: 1. How the founders behave, 2. Who they recruit, reward and recognize. 3. Who they fire."

If you are building a team from zero, it is a little easier as you can vet everyone during the hiring process. But more often than not, you need to impose your values on a team who has been working with different values for a long time. This requires good communication skills, trust and a clear understanding of how to "get" to those employees.

Keeping your culture alive.

Joel Gascoigne, co-founder, and CEO of Buffer has written about building effective teams in his blog. He writes: "you can't think too much about culture when you're one or two founders, but you naturally need to think about it a lot more once you have a sizeable team. It's certainly an evolutionary process, not something you just put in place once and never change."

Building a team is only the first step. This must be constantly enforced by team leaders and managers to make sure employees don't forget the values. A team leader must always follow the 3 principles to make sure all the effort put into building the culture does not go to waste.

  1. Always be an exemplary worker.
  2. Communicate the company's vision constantly.
  3. Be open to feedback and be ready to change.

Have a strict process in place

Business processes are a frequently used term across industry verticals today, and there's also a lot of confusion regarding them. To provide some clarity in this matter, I would suggest OKR (Objectives and Key Results) methodology in order to measure business success & provide informational clarity throughout your organization.

The core of OKR methodology is measuring what really does matter. In the book, the author, John Doerr, explains that Objectives represent WHAT you want to achieve and Key Results benchmark and monitor HOW you get there. It is as simple as that. The countless examples from successful entrepreneurs all carry the same message: OKR helps effective team leaders focus, keeps your team on the right track, and it lets you see the progress you've made.

Tracking what matters with Objectives and Key Results.

To understand what is happening in your team, you need to keep your eyes on everything every week. This means you must know what tasks everyone in your team accomplishes and how these tasks help you move towards your long term goals.

Plans, Progress, and Problems is a known method for weekly task management for better team leadership. Every employee sets 5 – 7 important tasks (Plans) each week and aligns them to their quarterly goals. When a task gets done, everyone can see how their goals are progressing.

The system starts with you and your team setting inspiring quarterly goals. From there you add Key Results to each goal and measuring the progress of Key Results every week. You can read more about OKRs here.

The best way to keep track of your business processes is to make it visual. In OKR Methodology, this concept is described as alignment – so use hierarchical OKRs to keep track of your companies processes.

hierarchical okrs

Leave room for creativity

Think about a place where creativity is encouraged and nurtured. Did you think of a drama class, a theatre, or maybe the kindergarten? All those places come to mind pretty easily, but I'm willing to bet there's one place that didn't, and that's the workplace. Being creative at work generally means taking risks. Fear of the unknown is a powerful thing, especially when it means you might fail. But here's the thing: creativity in the workplace is absolutely crucial. If you can apply creative thinking to your work, you'll find that not only will the day stop feeling like drudgery, but you'll be unlocking more meaningful results. And this doesn't just go for employees, but for team leaders as well–in fact.

Creative Thinking and Creative Problem Solving

Being creative in the workplace goes far beyond making the prettiest spreadsheet or the most colorful PowerPoint presentation. Instead, there are two main ways that creativity is absolutely needed in the workplace: creative thinking and creative problem solving.

Creative thinking is pretty simple to define, but a bit harder to implement. Basically, if you're a creative thinker, it means that you come up with ideas that are entirely unique.

It's easy to come up with the same rote concepts for a project or a new campaign, especially if you've used them before. But when you start thinking creatively and getting a little daring, you may be surprised at what your brain can come up with. It's this "throw everything to the wall and see what sticks" method that creative thinkers truly shine at.

What Team Leaders Can Do

If you're a team leader and you can't shake the feeling that your staff is uninspired and relying on the same old concepts and solutions, then it's time to start fostering creativity. Those who have the tendency to feel stagnant and bored in their work will benefit deeply from learning how to think creatively.

As the leader of the group, you can foster and nurture creative thinking in your employees, but it's also good to remember to recognize and praise it. It can be all too easy to turn down an idea because you think it won't work, but muffling the creative thinkers in your workplace means that innovation will be stifled, and they'll be less likely to keep coming up with new and smart solutions. It's not just the employees who shouldn't be afraid to try new things and possibly fail–it can be the managers as well.

Productive Team Leaders Kill Off Procrastination

What is the one goal you have in mind when entering the office in the morning? To get things done. What is often the last thing you are able to finish? The things you have planned for the day. If this scenario is something that you have recently encountered, then its time to beat procrastination and look for solutions.

We have all had those down days when you just can't get work done. We can't be at our productivity peak all the time and that's okay. What is not okay, is that these down days are becoming more popular in our modern workplace. No matter how much or even how little is planned for the day, we just don't seem to get work done.

10 things that feed your procrastination monster:

Meetings

1 in 4 employees complain that they spend more time in meetings talking about work than actually doing it. Now, while you might not be able to do teamwork without meetings, it's possible to avoid the unproductive ones or at least save the team meetings by using the right methods.

Office politics

This distraction is one of the top 10 stressors at work. Almost 47% of employees feel that office politics take away from their productivity. Minimize the effect by nurturing an open and trustworthy environment. Share achievements, plans, and goals with everyone and encourage open discussions.

Socializing with coworkers

Everything is good in moderate quantities, even socializing. Unplanned conversations can have a dramatic effect. Turns out 40% of employees feel they'd get a lot more done if co-workers would quit stopping by to chat.

Emails

Reflecting on your last hour, how many times have you checked your email? According to statistics, office workers can check their e-mails up to 30-40 times an hour. Answering an e-mail within 15 seconds is not a talent, it's more like insanity.

Micromanaging bosses

No surprises here. What is surprising, is that 38% would rather do unpleasant activities, like opt for more work or sit next to someone who eats noisily, than sit next to their boss. Perhaps changing your office layout would help to minimize this distraction or going for a vacation – either way is good.

Multi-screen multitasking

Having 10 windows open in 3 different devices is the new norm. Achieving many small goals gives us an illusion of progress. At the same time, multitasking lowers IQ by 10 points and kills productivity by 40%, according to Harvard Business Review.

Wrong room temperature

If the room is too cold, people spend more time staying warm than focusing on the task. If the room is too hot, people spend more time fighting for staying awake. Find the balance and keep it there. Research has shown that the ideal office temperature for maximum productivity is 76 to 77 degrees (that's 24-25 degrees in Celsius).

Internet

The Internet almighty is a blessing and a curse, all at the same time. While it has helped to speed up the information exchange process, it also has taken our concentration ability. 64% of employees admit visiting non-work related websites every day.

Fixing others' mistakes

Did you know that 1 hour of planning could save you 10 hours of doing? It's much easier to get work done if previous steps have been carried through properly. Communicate with your team-mates, share each other's plans and goals to get a better picture of what's going on. This helps to spot the challenges early on.

Conducting personal business

When are you most likely be booking those holiday tickets or reserving a table for dinner? Probably at the office. If there is no other way around, reserve time for personal business during lunch hours.

Take these 10 with a grain of salt, as we all have different procrastination monsters lurking under our beds. Our suggestion of defeating them would be to start your day off with a to-do list that prioritizes your most important tasks. As your day progresses you watch for some tell-tale signs of procrastination.

Build trust

Developing a strong and successful relationship within an organization involves several key qualities. One of these qualities is trust.

Trust is important to your career and your company success, but it's not something that you can gain overnight. It's not something you can, as folks say, "fake it till you make it." It takes time and effort. And once it's gained, you can lose it within a split second.

Understand what drives your employees.

One thing we can virtually guarantee: your team members are all different.

Some are introverts, some are extroverts. Some are adventurous and are energized by the unknown, others prefer the security of the familiar. Some might require extra guidance, others are much more independent workers.

Some are probably fresh out of college. Others might be putting their kids through college.

The point is, your employees have different backgrounds, are at different stages in their lives, and are motivated by very different things. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is trying to force a one-size fits all solution on your diverse workforce.

Here are some examples of cultural differences between millennials & generation Z

how team leaders can build trust between millennials and generation z

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/christinecomaford/2018/01/20/why-leaders-need-to-embrace-employee-motivation/#1acbe6ab1272

Feedback, feedback, feedback – try to be less subjective on how you give it

Employee feedback is a vital tool for anyone who wants to have an engaged and productive workforce.

According to our survey, 53% of team leaders think regular weekly feedback is very important and 33% think it's important. And they are right.

Considering, that only about 30% of employees in the USA are engaged, having a team like that is an enormous advantage over your competitors. You can conquer the tipping point of employee engagement with a little help from our infographic.

Weekdone team leader engagement survey

Employee feedback

Employee feedback progress has 3 important parts that a leader should pay attention to:

  • Understanding what employees are doing – To give honest feedback on work you must have a very clear idea about what your team members are doing. Tools like Weekdone help you with that by using a clear status reporting system. Easy to use status reporting system gives you the basics for giving good feedback.
  • Giving employees feedback – When managing companies or bigger departments, 1-on-1 meeting are just not an option. Luckily, employee feedback can be given with two sentences or with a simple pushing of the "Like" button that lets employees know that you are aware of what they are doing and you approve.
  • Receiving feedback – An important, and often forgotten, part of employee feedback is giving them a chance to weigh in. Employees often have a lot of ideas on how you and your company can help each other to do their work.

Thanks to Weekdone you can give and receive weekly employee feedback with only a couple of minutes. Every week, when employees send in their status report, you can recognize people by liking their items or commenting on them.

In conclusion

Be a team leader who others look up to for guidance. Provide direction & leadership within your team, so everybody can better reach their full potential. Don't forget your teams KPI's, but do not also forget, that the job comes with a soft side. So try to balance your efforts both ways – qualitative & quantitative. We, as a species are social animals, who work best when we have a sense of meaning to our work. All 15 qualities can be summarized in one simple sentence – do more than is expected of you, care about & treat your employees with respect.