If you want an effective team, focus on your individual people, says Daniel Wood, director at DRW Advisors and a former military leader.
“The basic element of leadership is the people,” he says. “There’s no magical way of doing things. It’s scientific, interpersonal—and a mess because people are involved.”
Wood, who addressed the 2018 CUNA CFO Council Conference in Austin, Texas, suggests “canceling out the executive brain—it limits you—and working toward the elastic brain. That’s the best place to be if you want to think of something new.”
The idea that you need to treat all employees the same is unrealistic, he says. “You need to realize people are different and respond to different treatments. There’s a payoff in this approach: People like being recognized for who they are.”
Wood cites four aspects of building effective teams:
1. People—the foundation of team-building. Leaders need to know what’s going on with their team members, personally and professionally: Where they’re from, what motivates them, what they’re dealing with, and what pressures they’re carrying.
“You should have a grasp of this as a leader,” he says. “You can’t do that unless you talk to them.
“If someone is upset at work, do you know why?” he continues. “Take time to check in with people—it helps you recognize the dynamics of your team. If there’s a mess going on, there’s a reason for that. Don’t say ‘leave it at home.’ You can’t.”
2. Personality. This is the framework of team-building.
Everyone has a primary personality, and leaders need to align staff’s roles with their personality type. “This helps you leverage members of your team,” Wood says.
Help employees realize the importance of stretching their limits by doing so yourself. “People want to take risks, but they don’t because they’re afraid to stretch,” he says. “They need you, the leader, to go outside your comfort zone and acknowledge that it’s a good thing. You need to be the biggest stretcher on your team.”
Also, don’t discount the importance of emotional intelligence. “You have to recognize people’s emotions and find the reasons behind them. Emotionally intelligent leaders run toward the mess to see what’s going on.”
3. Passion. This is the “life’s blood” of your team, Wood says.
“You need to have people who are passionate about their work,” he says. “People run on emotion—it drives us all. Leaders need to both spark passion and de-escalate it when necessary. But for the most part, you want passion.”
With passion, however, comes risk. “How’s your willingness to accept this?” Wood asks. “If you’re risk-averse, that affects the team. Allow the team to have a passionate response.”
4. Possibilities. This is your blueprint for expansion.
Create an atmosphere of innovation, Wood advises, where you provide space and time for new initiatives. “People won’t use their elastic brain if they’re never asked or given the opportunity,” he says. “Then you’re missing out. Don’t let busyness spoil the atmosphere of innovation.”
Collaboration and cohesiveness are critical to creating this atmosphere, Wood says. “Collaboration brings everyone to the table and cohesiveness creates feelings of safety. Bring your team into a culture of collaboration.”
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