HAVE THEIR BACK
Todd Dewett | July 29, 2020
Leadership is about them, not you. If you want to maximize their productivity, you have to value the team, not just drive the team. That means seeing them in a more holistic sense – even in the face of their imperfections and mistakes. It’s easy if you begin by realizing that you’re imperfect, and yet they still accept you. Then you’ll feel ready to cover for them in a way that preserves a sense of team.
It’s a given that you won’t always love every member of the team. However, you should always have their back. Your team is your family at work. You help your family. You nurture your family. You protect your family from threats and outsiders. Your team deserves something similar.
Sometimes they will excel. Other times, they will come up short. Like your family, they represent you – so make your reactions thoughtful when they come up short. You can have their back, or talk poorly about them and neglect them. Either way, you’re going to leave a mark. What will it say about you? Will they remember a real leader, or merely a person with power?
Let’s think about what it means to have their back.
First, it means that you help them. Yes, you should coach and push and insist on challenging goals and accountability. Yet along the way, your job is to be useful. There are many ways to do this. You can be encouraging, help solve a problem, share an idea, resolve conflict, find them a needed resource, or simply roll up your sleeves and lend a hand.
Next, it means that, when possible, you keep things inside the team. Others don’t need to know about your dirty laundry. Mistakes will be made, arguments happen, etc. Great – address them and create learning moments, but don’t tell everyone else about it. Next, when a customer is upset or some other outsider is not happy with your team, your job is to be a shield. Others don’t bark at your team – you do. You take the hit for them as your title requires. That’s how we treat family.
Finally, it means that you share success widely. When someone has a huge win, make sure they thank the team too. When the team is recognized, amplify the celebration by sharing the news with your larger network. When you personally score a big win, always share the credit widely! On a team, your fortunes are linked. The more you understand and appreciate the inter-connectivity, the more the team feels compelled to keep you all moving forward.
Need an incentive? The benefits are immense. You get a team willing to return the favor by helping you when things get rough, a team that clearly moves from compliant to committed, a team with long tenure and low voluntary turnover, and a team willing and able to engage the risks associated with change and innovation. That’s a team that can make a difference.
Sure, there’s more to it. You have to keep them in the loop, include them in decision making, know how to nurture motivation, etc. But to get started, it’s easy: help them, keep things in the team, and share success widely. State differently, just have their backs. In return, they’ll perform well, and when needed, they’ll have your back too.