In today’s work force, being an effective team leader is essential, but making certain that teams produce high quality results can be tricky.
There is no one recipe for creating highly productive teams, but I have advice to offer based on what I have learned from my two sons who attended the United States Military Academy at West Point. At this institution, the corps of cadets participated in team experiences regularly. Learning how to work together and depend on one another is a major part of the military culture.
Here are three tips that helped my sons survive the process.
1. Lead Through Example
In the military, someone is always in charge. As the leader, it is much better to model the behavior and attitudes that you want your team members to embrace rather than simply barking out commands.
If your team members notice that you are standing shoulder to shoulder with them, helping them all navigate difficult terrain, for example, they are much more likely to embrace your same behavior and attitude.
Providing inspiration rather than intimidation will provide a more conducive atmosphere, resulting in higher quality productivity.
2. Clarify the Expectations of the Team
During the summers at West Point, there are many encampment exercises that the teams of cadets have to successfully master. They work in teams to complete land navigations and outdoor obstacle courses, move large pieces of equipment, and master new military tactical formations. As members of a team, they recognize that each individual has a specific role in achieving the team’s common goal.
Whoever acts as the team leader must offer timely feedback to allow the members to know exactly how they are doing in the process. By clearly communicating the team goals, each individual knows how to stay accountable for his or her actions.
In the military, team members rely upon one another to complete the tasks in a safe and timely manner. When common goals are clearly communicated and understood, the team can move forward efficiently.
3. Involve Everyone in the Decision-making
When the cadet teams began their military tasks, they first had to decide what each person’s responsibility would be. They had to work as a cohesive body to determine how the task would be completed so each team member was involved in the decision-making process. Each understood their impact on the team’s success and they, therefore, took ownership in the process and owned the project results.
Working as a team allows an organization to build a culture of trust and offer opportunities to celebrate the group’s success. The team leader has an impactful role. A team that demonstrates mutual respect and shares common goals is much more likely to be enthusiastic, committed to each other, and highly productive. Just like the cadets’ experience at West Point.