REAL SOLUTIONS: LEADERSHIP
Leaders exhibit three success traits: self-confidence that fuels their goal attainment, an ability to break paradigms to "think big" and a talent for building teams. The last one can prove the hardest to master.
Leading a high-performance team requires more than rallying everyone to work together, says Jay Desai, chief executive of the Institute of Global Competitiveness, a consulting firm in Cary, N.C. You need to spur everyone to think more boldly and expansively.
Left on their own, team members may settle on relatively safe goals. But if you guide them to pursue more ambitious targets - and express faith in their ability to reach beyond what they think they're capable of - you can drive them to greatness.
"Leaders align the team so everyone focuses on big ideas," said Desai. "Breakthroughs tend to occur when you build excitement about a challenge and clear the way for everyone to open up and make an impact."
Desai suggests you ask three questions to lead your team in fruitful brainstorming:
What can we do that no one does in our industry? Explore what competitors are doing right and wrong. Plumb for opportunities to snare a new market or squeeze more business from an existing one. Encourage the group to empathize with your customers. By stepping into the client's shoes, your team will understand how consumers perceive your organization. Urge everyone to take risks and propose breakthrough ideas.
What hard-to-reach goals can we commit to? Once the team identifies strategic opportunities, translate those into concrete, measurable goals. For example, if the group thinks your company should introduce a new product that no one else offers, lead them to set high goals on how to produce and distribute this product with the lowest cost.
What can we do to reach those goals? Rivet the team's attention on execution. Discuss the actions, behaviors and processes they'll need to adopt to attain their goals.
When asking these three questions, appeal to team members' self-interest. "Explain what's in it for them if they help the organization identify and achieve stretch goals," says Desai. "Let them see what their future will look like in terms of reaching their personal and career goals."
Ask questions in team meetings, but don't influence the team by revealing your biases. Be willing to listen to even "crazy" ideas. "To avoid intimidating employees, you can have someone else lead the discussion," Desai added. Morey Stettner