How to lead an effective team

Rather than delegating tasks, give your employees responsibility for outcomes. The approach promotes a sense of ownership, boosts performance, and fosters creativity.
Mark Fritz
Mark Fritz, an adjunct professor at the IE Business School in Madrid, says it is important to give employees some degree of choice in how to do things, or they will feel powerless and take less action.

Empowering your team to take ownership, rather than simply delegating a task, benefits everybody. A focus on outcomes engages creativity, drives performance, and, ultimately, generates pride in the organisation. For a manager, the approach provides the bonus of saving time and brainpower as employees find solutions and make more decisions for themselves.

So says Mark Fritz, an adjunct professor at the IE Business School in Madrid. Fritz developed his leadership approach from his experience implementing enterprise systems in marketing companies throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

“If we are focused on completing an activity, we tend to do exactly what we did the day before,” he said. “When the focus is on outcomes, people tend to get creative to find the shortest way there.”

Successful leaders are focused on two things: the direction the organisation should be headed and the pace of progress towards those outcomes, Fritz said.

Once the leader has provided clear goals, an effective way of promoting ownership is encouraging staff to set milestones en route to the goal.

Asking employees how they will achieve the outcomes indicates to you, as a leader, how much involvement you need to have. If their answers are credible, you can hold back. If you get weak answers, you may need to manage more closely.

So how empowered does your team feel right now? “If their first instinct when faced with a problem or challenge is to try and solve it themselves, they own the task,” Fritz said. “If they come to you for an easy answer, they don’t have a sense of ownership.”

Motivating your team

Imparting a clear sense of why your team should care about the project is key to motivating them. Why you are doing something is more important than how it gets done. Good leaders must articulate this. The more you reinforce the why of your mission, the more the message is amplified, Fritz explained.

Giving employees choice is also important. If you don’t give your people some degree of choice in how to do things, they feel powerless and take less action, Fritz said.

Ego also plays a role. The biggest motivator to the most valuable team members is visibility. Give them that, Fritz suggested, and they will drive the success of the team, as their reputation depends upon achievement. A degree of peer pressure is also necessary and comes with the bonus that not all of the “push” is coming from the leader. Monetary rewards can also help.

But don’t forget that recognition is crucial for everyone. Good leaders match the level and frequency of the recognition they give to each individual’s needs.

Likewise, effective leaders evaluate which motivators are most important to each employee and adapt accordingly. Spending time getting to know about employees’ lives outside work can help guide you, Fritz advised.

Culture and communication

Emotional intelligence is crucial to a leader’s ability to influence. An awareness of each person’s needs can help you target your communication style accordingly. One-on-one time provides a perfect opportunity to tailor your message. The most powerful question you can ask your people is, “How can I help you be more successful?” Fritz said.

In many situations, stories and examples are the best way to illustrate your point. If people are able to relate your message to their own experiences, it makes it relevant and memorable. It also enables you to provide your employees the answer without imposing an approach.

Leaders must also build trust amongst their team. Trust facilitates and encourages collaboration. Helping team members find common interests is a good way to start, Fritz suggested. Trust helps people feel comfortable speaking up when they don’t agree, and openness is crucial to utilising the full power of the team.

“The best culture, especially when people are working virtually, is one where everybody participates,” Fritz said. “If they participate and can see part of their idea in the solution, they will buy in to the whole solution and have a personal stake in making it happen.”

Also read "What we can learn from the best – and worst – leaders," by Bob Paladino, CPA, CGMA.