Article

Leadership Matters: Understand Your Influence

orange paper airplane leading a group of white paper airplanes in formation
By Brian Smith

4 minutes

Identifying your key strengths and weaknesses is step one to working effectively with your team.

If you have ever been a participant in or a fan of sports, you have likely heard the phrase, “There is no ‘I’ in team.” But it is my goal that, by the end of this article, you will understand that there is and always has been an “I” in team.  

In a team hierarchy, there is a leader and each member below them; however, this hierarchy does not define the importance of each individual on the team or the importance of the team as a whole. To work together with your team in the most efficient way, you must be able to define and develop your own unique influence as a leader.

To understand your influence, you first need to know and understand yourself. What are your key competencies and strengths? What do you need to work on? By knowing yourself, you can embrace your strengths and weaknesses and remain transparent with your team members. Your weaknesses are only dire if you allow them to drag you and your team down; if you acknowledge them, your team will be able to help provide support where you’re lacking—in a positive way. Sharing your weaknesses can be an endearing trait as a team member and leader.

The second step to developing your influence is communicating effectively. Poor communication is one of the quickest ways to bring your team down. Communication must be clear and concise and include all the individual team members who need that information to complete their jobs. This can be a hurdle—you can’t always expect people to understand exactly the context of the information. In other words, your team may not be aware of relevant details you’re privy to as a leader, so it is important to provide as much detail as possible to get everyone on the same page. Don’t make assumptions about what people know.

Another best practice is to avoid delivering negative information in writing to any team member. Speak to them personally, either face-to-face, on the phone or in a video conference. Negative news or information, when delivered in writing, can often seem much worse than it actually is. By delivering the news in person, you are able to explain more clearly and control the tone with which the information is delivered. Sharing negative information offers each party a unique opportunity to brainstorm ideas to fix the problem. Lessons can be learned, so don’t shy away from these interactions. Just remember that how you communicate issues that have the potential to cause stress will help to define what kind of leader you are.

A third component of effective team leadership is working towards realistic and measurable goals. Your expectations of your team should be realistic and within the ability of your team, as individuals and as a whole. All goals should have a measurement aspect attached because, if you can’t measure it, you can’t control it. Taking the time to create and communicate clear, realistic goals—setting the bar high, but still attainable—helps develop trust and respect within your team, and not complacency or resentment.

Time and money are two common measurements: Tracking how much time you have allocated to a task versus what it actually takes can help drive scope of work and lay a foundation of support that guides the team through future tasks needed to reach goals.

By setting a budget and outlining a project’s process steps, you can measure your efforts and identify whether you are making reasonable progress compared to resources spent; this also helps you manage the overall scope of a project, as you will be more likely to set a reasonable budget if you’re clear about the process. As business consultants, we often hear people say, “I have allocated a certain amount of money towards a project,” and then they come back and ask, “Why are we over budget?” This is usually due to not keeping track of the process and progress of the project. By laying out the steps and communicating those steps to your team, you will be more likely to stay on time and on budget.

Being a leader offers the unique opportunity to influence your team members and to lead your team to influence your organization as a whole. True leaders understand that their single biggest responsibility is to manage their influence and communicate effectively in support of that influence. Setting realistic goals and providing the framework for your team members to communicate and measure progress will ensure that you and your team have the necessary foundation lead your credit union to success.

Brian Smith, Ph.D., is the author of the newly released book Individual Advantages: Find the “I” in Team. He holds a doctorate in organizational psychology, a master's degree in management information systems, a bachelor’s degree in accounting, and is a certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt Consultant. Brian has been helping business owners and managers since 1988. His company, IA Business Advisors (a DBA of Individual Advantages), Elgin, Illinois, has helped over 18,000 clients worldwide since 1996.

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Keywords

Leadership