What I Have Learned About Leadership and Team Culture

What I Have Learned About Leadership and Team Culture

I’m the first to admit I am a flawed human. There are so many things that I don’t do well and a heap of areas that need improvement. Perhaps my biggest strength is knowing and acknowledging all my imperfections. It’s confronting and at times makes me feel super vulnerable to admit all my flaws so openly. But at the same time, it’s really liberating to know that it’s me that has the power to change my weaknesses and by owning this awareness, making mistakes is less scary.

Some weaknesses are just a part of life. I’m terrible with numbers, I tend to get distracted easily and I’m inherently impatient. Other weaknesses of mine have been less obvious to me, as though they were hiding from my consciousness. It wasn’t until recently when I was on the receiving end of some unrealistic expectations that I was able to reflect… Do I do this? What does my tone sound like when I’m stressed and under pressure? It was a real aha moment.

The thing about leadership is, most of the time we need to use our intuition and our values to teach us how to be leaders. While there are plenty of courses and programs designed to teach you how to be an effective leader, the only things that really teach you authentic leadership are time and experience. What we first learn about leadership is what we have loved from people that have led us, and what we hated. The way we have been treated in the past totally shapes the way we approach leadership for better or for worse.

Although I have always known how important boundaries are, implementing them is such a huge challenge. The goal post can shift with every situation being completely unique and when you’re a people pleaser, this is treacherous terrain. The incredible Pauline McCabe from Rock Paper Scissors once said to me “I just lead with kindness.” This simple, yet poignant quote has always stuck with me. concern from a place of kindness and empathy (regardless of how frustrated, disappointed, or even cranky I am about it), I would inevitably have a more receptive team member on the other end. It’s easier said than done because if I have one of our clients not happy about something, they are taking it up with me because it’s serious and I need to fix it.

My default mode is to tell the team member how serious their mistake was and what the consequences may be. Usually, it’s us losing the client which is always devastating. The idea that we lose a client relationship, or reputation and suffer a financial loss is a HUGE deal as a business owner, and therefore emotion comes into it.

BUT… If I only look at the emotion of the team member instead of my own emotion, I will get a better outcome. It’s HARD, especially if it’s a repeat offender, but the growth of a team can’t just be about everyone who reports to you. It’s growth as a collective unit.

So, what have been my lessons and takeaways after this epiphany?

· Really check your tone. Yes, especially in emails. Sometimes I write things so matter-of fact because I’m short on time and I don’t add any pleasantries, which makes the tone come off as curt and aggressive. It’s never my intention, BUT when you receive an email like this you understand why it’s important to check how you might sound rather than how you think you sound.

· My new approach is “how big is this mistake really” … Sometimes we totally blow out an issue and make it so much bigger than it actually is. Find something that gives you REAL perspective and do a quick comparison

· If you feel like you’re going to react or there are any emotions brewing just STOP.

If you have the option to park the problem for a moment and come back to it later, it is always so much better. Maybe write the email, but don’t send it. Allow plenty of time for reflection.

· Remember that EVERYONE is entitled to make mistakes and have an off day. A lesson I learned a long time ago is what it feels like to have your confidence taken away. Your ability and talent are put into question. This takes a long time to rebuild. Sometimes years, so remember that when you’re addressing an issue that maintaining the personal and professional confidence of your team members is paramount.

· Acknowledgement and praise are like giving someone a pay rise without parting with any money. Don’t underestimate the power of a compliment. Don’t just make it a short and sweet “good job”, but really invest in telling the story of why someone was outstanding and what that means for everyone around them. It’s a game-changer.

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