We have had a lot of young leaders join our team over the last few years, some straight out of school.
I absolutely love working with young leaders, but one of the challenges was helping them acclimatize to working in a team setting with others. Over the last few years, we’ve discovered a few key practices (call them secrets if you like) that can help create traction fast when trying to optimize a young leader’s contribution to the team. When adopted, these three can make a significant impact quickly.
I love these practices because anyone can learn them quickly, and frankly, they’ve served as great reminders to me, regardless of the fact that I’ve been leading for a few years now. The more I exhibit these traits, the better things go.
So what are the secrets? Here they are:
1. Proactivity. So many problems emerge when people fail to take action. Inactivity, uncertainly and hesitation create all kinds of confusion in organizations. Things fall behind schedule, issues never get dealt with and frustration rises. Uncertainty can plague people who are starting out because they are trying to figure out whether they are allowed to act or not. Proactivity solves so much of that. Take the initiative. Don’t wait for someone to ask you to solve a problem, start tackling it. If you’re not sure, ask. They’ll at least be grateful you saw it, if not give you full authorization to handle it. On the other hand, if it’s in your area and you see it, solve it. If you are wondering, stop wondering, and do something. It will solve a host of potential problems. It might even get you promoted.
2. Responsibility. Often in a team setting, responsibility for tasks is unclear. Take responsibility for moving a project from inception to completion. Even if you are engaging lots of other people to get it done, a project well executed from start to finish creates a great track record for young leaders. Just assume responsibility. Another situation in which responsibility comes into play is when clarity is lacking. A team generates an idea, but isn’t clear about follow through. Or an email lands in several inboxes but questions remain about next steps. This is a young leader’s chance to do two things. First, clarify responsibility. Ask “what would you like me to do?” And second, offer to assume responsibility. Seasoned team members love young team members who take initiative.
3. Communication. I am convinced you almost cannot over-communicate. Marriages and families collapse because of poor communication, and so do teams and organizations. When in doubt, communicate. This takes at least three forms. Where there is a lack of clarity, ask for clarity. When you have completed something, tell your boss (I love progress reports from my team). When something is falling behind, let the team know. If your supervisor has to ask you a list of questions about where projects stand, it’s a sure sign you could communicate more. I also say to my team “Communicate, communicate, communicate. If you are over communicating, I will let you know.” I don’t think I’ve ever told a team member to stop overcommunicating yet.
I’ve seen young leaders move from green to great in just a few months using these three practices as a go-to recipe for developing skills in the workplace.
Try these three practices in your workflow this week and with the people who work on your team and see if it helps manage both workflow and communication.
In the meantime, what have you learned about proactivity, responsibility and communication? How has working on these three skills helped you?