Building a team isn’t easy; ask the coach of any professional sports team. It takes a certain kind of personality to create a group of people who are working toward the same goal with enthusiasm and determination.
“Real, effective leaders instill in us a kind of ‘can-do spirit,’’ said Ritch K. Eich, PhD, and author of “Leadership Requires Extra Innings: Lessons on Leading from a Life in the Trenches” (January 2014). Eich’s doctorate is in organizational behavior and communication from the University of Michigan.
Eich’s book covers his more than 30 years in business and covers a variety of industries, including agriculture, hospitals, academic and the military. He believes the most powerful leaders show their team what they want through their own behaviors and are always preparing their team for the future. This includes both the all-star players and those on the bench.
“A leader is somebody who stretches us, someone who convinces us we can do better. They make us feel we can achieve more and we can reach higher,” Eich said.
So how can you build your team? Eich has these suggestions.
1. Hire the right talent. If you’re brought in from the outside or whether you’re promoted from within to a key leadership position, you have to thoughtfully and carefully evaluate the folks you are going to be trying to lead, Eich said. If you don’t have the talent you need, it can be difficult if not impossible to achieve what you need to do, he said.
2. Look for adaptive people. “You want people to have what my dad used to call a Will Rogers kind of person. They are the ones that have never met someone he didn’t like or find something to admire,” Eich said. “If we’re not improving each day, we will not succeed. You can’t stand still. That is why you want people who are adaptive and embrace change for the better.
3. Set a direction. A leader has to be clear with where he or she wants to go. Having an idea of where the team is heading will help mobilize the team into action. To do this, a leader must be “clear, convincing and memorable,” Eich said. “You need to give people a sense of why they’re doing what they’re doing, why it’s important and how to get there. And if you can’t explain it in a single sheet of paper, no one is going to remember it.”
4. Lead by example. Be humble. Be a consensus builder. And celebrate your team. “It is important that when the team achieves something, that the spotlight is on the team and not the leader per se,” Eich said. “I’ve always felt work should be fun, so when a team performs in exemplary fashion, those successes should be celebrated.”
5. Have a pipeline for future leaders. “The best leaders are teachers,” Eich said. Companies such as General Electric, Procter & Gamble and IBM have significant leadership development programs, Eich said. They have a constant pipeline of talent being identified, groomed and being given constantly challenging assignments. Having mentors for these future leaders also is important to establishing the next round of leadership at work.