Adam Bryant has spent the last 10 years interviewing over 500 CEOs for his New York Times column, Corner Office. In an incredibly helpful (and viral) NYT piece this week he lays out exactly how the most effective leaders in business built their most successful teams.
1. Have a Plan.
“You need a clear and measurable goal for what you want to accomplish,” says Bryant. It may sound obvious, and simple, but Bryant confirms that it’s one of the greatest challenges that teams face. “Determining these priorities and how they’re going to be measured is arguably the most important job of a team leader because most of the jobs that everybody does will flow from these goals.”
2. Make Rules.
“You’ll need a set of values, behaviours and cultural guardrails so that everybody knows how to work together.” Make the rules short, unique to the team, and really abide by them. “The most important thing is for the team to live by their stated values, rather than just going through the motions of the exercise, with people earning promotions even though their behaviour runs directly counter to the stated rules of the road.”
3. Show Respect.
“If team members don’t feel respected, they won’t be motivated to bring their best ideas—and their best selves—to work.” This starts with the leader: “it’s incredibly important for leaders to set a tone, and model behaviour, that everyone will respect one another.” The effects of a bad or disrespectful boss are catastrophic.
4. Accountability Is Key.
“A team is stronger when everybody delivers on their roles.” It’s a simple bargain leaders can offer, but it works. “I’ll treat you well, but we’re also going to be clear about the work you’re expected to contribute.”
5. Have Conversations.
“Difficult conversations aren’t anyone’s idea of fun—but they are necessary for running a successful team.” And even more important than having them is making sure you’re having them the right way. That means, “never make statements that include assumptions about the motivations behind someone’s behaviour,” and giving feedback frequently, so employees aren’t so alarmed when it comes and they’re more open to hearing it and acting on it. And finally, says Bryant, be aware of “the hazards of email. Emails lack the tone and context to clearly signal what the sender is thinking.” The effects can be corrosive.