Leadership training, part 1 of 3: take your team HIGHER

Publication
Article
dvm360dvm360 June 2022
Volume 53
Issue 6
Pages: 58

Follow these steps to improve team cohesion, well-being, and efficiency

veterinary leadership

Mariia / stock.adobe.com

Content submitted by Empowering Vet Teams, a dvm360® Strategic Alliance Partner

This is part 1 of a 3-part series. Read part 2, "Fighting is easy; leading is hard," here.

Over the years, I have led, been part of, or observed teams succeed and fail, and through these experiences, I have discovered a few approaches that leaders often use to get the most out of their teams. In the next few paragraphs, I will discuss how to take your team HIGHER.

Hiring

The first step in creating a great team is to fill your positions with the right candidates. In many cases, this means interviewing numerous individuals to hire the right one. In others, it can mean identifying the experts or the people who are ready for growth within your practice. Either way, it’s important to talk to these candidates to understand their skills, personalities, and career goals. It’s also a good idea to reach out to their coworkers and leaders to understand how they perform. Remember, you’re looking for teammates who bring knowledge and desire to the group and match its social dynamic.

Instruction

Part of being a leader is being a teacher to your team. Even if you have filled your team with experts rather than growth candidates, you will need to instruct them on your function, program, or processes. There are always aspects that are unique to your team, and ensuring you communicate this to new employees is fundamental to success.

Instruction can also be broader and more basic if you have team members who are looking to grow within the organization. In that instance, you’ll need to guide them and teach them a bit more about the fundamentals of their new role. Although the amount of time this entails can be intimidating, I am happy to say that I have found some of my best team members this way. Most important, leverage your network and the rest of the team. If you connect your team member with experts you know and trust, they can help you and enhance the training.

Goals

Now that you’ve gathered your team and started them on an educational path, it’s time to set goals. Teams will fall apart if they don’t know what they’re working toward. Without guidance, they will be running in different directions and doing tasks that undermine each other, a bit like a soccer team that doesn’t know which goal is theirs. Well-defined circumvent this problem. A good way to verify that your goals work is to check whether they are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

Accountability

Accountability is important for you and for your team. This means meeting deadlines and communicating about obstacles that may result in delays. It does not mean screaming over every mistake or missed target time. When errors occur, and they will, identify the root cause. Do not engage in a blame game, but do look for ways to address the situation. It is important for the person who made the mistake to understand it and be involved correcting it, but it is more important to move forward. Dwelling on errors or pointing fingers won’t erase them; it will merely make the team scared, and their fear can stop their progress.

Empowerment

After you have assembled a team of accountable experts comes the most important—and difficult—part: empowering them. Again, you are not an expert in every field; that is why you’ve surrounded yourself with those who are. You cannot possibly understand every detail or make every decision. Give your team the power to decide and act within their area of responsibility. Show them you trust them by supporting their choices and actions. Will everything they do be perfect? No, but that is why you hold each other accountable.

Now is when your team’s ability to get things done, to impact and inspire, begins to take shape. Unfortunately, it is also the time when many leaders begin to fall apart. They feel that it is their responsibility to question every decision and approve every action. Avoid this at all costs: It causes productivity to grind to a halt. Trust begins to crumble, and resentment creeps in. Don’t forget the steps you took to get here and stay focused. Believe in your team and, in turn, they will believe in you.

Reliance

You have built a council of trusted advisors. So, when you are presented with challenges or difficult decisions, take it to your council. Ask for their thoughts, concerns, and advice. Make sure to understand the implications, consequences, and the benefits of their advice. Collect all the information, and you will be able to make a well-rounded, intelligent decision. If you don’t know, don’t be afraid to turn a problem or question over to your teammate(s). Answering a question incorrectly undermines your credibility far more than letting someone else answer. Even saying “I don’t know but I will find out” can be an answer.

These leadership behaviors don’t always come naturally, so if you find your team falling apart, come back to this article and hit reset. Pick a step to focus on and keep practicing. In time, you’ll find that every team you create is a one that reaches HIGHER. Don’t stop trying and don’t give up on yourself or your people. Keep going and remember that none of us are in this alone.Over the years, I have led, been part of, or observed teams succeed and fail, and through these experiences, I have discovered a few approaches that leaders often use to get the most out of their teams. In the next few paragraphs, I will discuss how to take your team HIGHER.

Hiring

The first step in creating a great team is to fill your positions with the right candidates. In many cases, this means interviewing numerous individuals to hire the right one. In others, it can mean identifying the experts or the people who are ready for growth within your practice. Either way, it’s important to talk to these candidates to understand their skills, personalities, and career goals. It’s also a good idea to reach out to their coworkers and leaders to understand how they perform. Remember, you’re looking for teammates who bring knowledge and desire to the group and match its social dynamic.

Instruction

Part of being a leader is being a teacher to your team. Even if you have filled your team with experts rather than growth candidates, you will need to instruct them on your function, program, or processes. There are always aspects that are unique to your team, and ensuring you communicate this to new employees is fundamental to success.

Instruction can also be broader and more basic if you have team members who are looking to grow within the organization. In that instance, you’ll need to guide them and teach them a bit more about the fundamentals of their new role. Although the amount of time this entails can be intimidating, I am happy to say that I have found some of my best team members this way. Most important, leverage your network and the rest of the team. If you connect your team member with experts you know and trust, they can help you and enhance the training.

Goals

Now that you’ve gathered your team and started them on an educational path, it’s time to set goals. Teams will fall apart if they don’t know what they’re working toward. Without guidance, they will be running in different directions and doing tasks that undermine each other, a bit like a soccer team that doesn’t know which goal is theirs. Well-defined circumvent this problem. A good way to verify that your goals work is to check whether they are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

Accountability

Accountability is important for you and for your team. This means meeting deadlines and communicating about obstacles that may result in delays. It does not mean screaming over every mistake or missed target time. When errors occur, and they will, identify the root cause. Do not engage in a blame game, but do look for ways to address the situation. It is important for the person who made the mistake to understand it and be involved correcting it, but it is more important to move forward. Dwelling on errors or pointing fingers won’t erase them; it will merely make the team scared, and their fear can stop their progress.

Empowerment

After you have assembled a team of accountable experts comes the most important—and difficult—part: empowering them. Again, you are not an expert in every field; that is why you’ve surrounded yourself with those who are. You cannot possibly understand every detail or make every decision. Give your team the power to decide and act within their area of responsibility. Show them you trust them by supporting their choices and actions. Will everything they do be perfect? No, but that is why you hold each other accountable.

Now is when your team’s ability to get things done, to impact and inspire, begins to take shape. Unfortunately, it is also the time when many leaders begin to fall apart. They feel that it is their responsibility to question every decision and approve every action. Avoid this at all costs: It causes productivity to grind to a halt. Trust begins to crumble, and resentment creeps in. Don’t forget the steps you took to get here and stay focused. Believe in your team and, in turn, they will believe in you.

Reliance

You have built a council of trusted advisors. So, when you are presented with challenges or difficult decisions, take it to your council. Ask for their thoughts, concerns, and advice. Make sure to understand the implications, consequences, and the benefits of their advice. Collect all the information, and you will be able to make a well-rounded, intelligent decision. If you don’t know, don’t be afraid to turn a problem or question over to your teammate(s). Answering a question incorrectly undermines your credibility far more than letting someone else answer. Even saying “I don’t know but I will find out” can be an answer.

These leadership behaviors don’t always come naturally, so if you find your team falling apart, come back to this article and hit reset. Pick a step to focus on and keep practicing. In time, you’ll find that every team you create is a one that reaches HIGHER. Don’t stop trying and don’t give up on yourself or your people. Keep going and remember that none of us are in this alone.

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