I always find it interesting to watch post-match sports interviews of teams’ coaches, particularly those on the losing end of things. This is when their emotions are raw and opinions unfiltered, often revealing the best and worst in them. You may hear them shielding their players and shouldering responsibility for defeat. You may hear them blaming the officials for making wrong refereeing decisions. You may also hear them criticising their players and throwing them under the bus, which of course makes for the juiciest news material.
Outside of the sporting arena, the same thing happens at the workplace, thankfully away from the media spotlight most of the time. How often do you hear leaders bemoaning that their team aren’t proactive enough, not competent enough, or not committed enough in their work? Perhaps some questions can be asked back of these leaders: Who hired the team? Who trained them? Who is leading them?
Do you tend to blame your team or others when something goes awry? Someone once told me that a good way to evaluate your leadership is to review your email outbox. In all those mails that you sent out, do they show you taking responsibility for matters? Or do they show you arguing, politicking and pointing fingers elsewhere? If it’s the latter, is it a wonder why your team shirks accountability in similar fashion?
A team is a reflection of its leader. As leaders, we need to remind ourselves that we are only as strong as our team. If you find your team’s standards lacking, it says as much about yourself as it does them, and it is up to you to put things right.
And to raise their standards, what you need is not to push them from the back as slave-drivers might do, but to lead them by example. This is one of the key differences between a manager and a leader. As the Dwight D. Eisenhower-inspired saying goes, you can’t push a string to go anywhere, but pull it and it will follow wherever you wish.
Each day as you step into work, resolve to take full responsibility for your team. Ensure whatever you write, say or do sends out the right message and sets the correct example for them. Few things can be more satisfying for a leader than to progressively see a bit of yourself in each of your members as the team moves together towards excellence.