Improving Teamwork Skills: What Makes a Great Team Leader

      Improving Teamwork Skills: What Makes a Great Team Leader

      You’ve heard it before,  “there are no bad teams, just bad leaders.” And if you look around, there are countless examples of exceptional teamwork with groups that have greatly improved with a new leader. The reverse can also be true, but it is difficult to pinpoint the correlation of a bad leader with bad teams.

      Former Navy SEAL Commanders, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, learned something about this at a Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training event. During a boat racing challenge, the last-place team instructor and first-place team instructor switched boat crews. The once horrible team now took first place in the race while the former first-place team did okay, but did not perform nearly as well as in previous races. What Willink and Babin learned was so powerful that they became best-selling authors on the topic.

      A Great team Member Will Make A Great Leader, Right?

      Not so fast! Someone who excels as a group member does not guarantee that they will be the type of leader needed to foster a positive teamwork environment. Directing teams requires additional skills that may not have been acquired in prior roles. Take for example, Alan Trammel, the Hall of Fame inductee and four-time Gold Glove winner who was once named World Series MVP. Unfortunately, his first season as manager for his former team, the Detroit Tigers, ended with them having the worst record in baseball. After losing 300 games during three seasons with Detroit and a couple of games with the 2014 Arizona Diamondbacks, he went from best MLB player to worst MLB manager.

      Of course, there are other examples where the team was already performing poorly, such as MLB manager, Tony Pena. He was stuck with one of the worst teams in baseball at the time, the Kansas City Royals. He was let go after 33 games and labeled one of the worst MLB managers. But for now, let’s deal with bad leaders and leave the discussion of bad teams for another time.

      It’s Not Always the Team’s Fault

      As a team leader, let’s assume that you’ve put the right individuals together and in the right roles. You’ve considered their strengths and weaknesses, and you’ve given them direction with assigned tasks to stretch their potential. You are now expecting high productivity and great teamwork from the group as you look to capitalize on their talents. But after a while, they don’t seem to be moving in the right direction. Now what?

      Before pulling the trigger, you might want to take a good, hard look in the mirror. Honestly, it’s just good business to first eliminate any possibilities, including yourself, before making any faulty assumptions. This will give you time to make necessary adjustments to your leadership style. The worst possible move would be taking unfounded positions about what’s going wrong and presenting them to the team. In no time, you may be witness to their ugly side as they turn on you with claims of poor policies, procedures, or guidance, if they don’t jump ship altogether.

      Qualities of a Great Team Leader

      If you’re a team leader, “check yourself” before jumping down the throat of group members. If you think you’re a rock star, see how well you’re leading teamwork efforts. Here are 10 characteristics that make a team leader great.

      1. Develops Strong Team Member Relationships

      Developing strong working relationships is the first key to success as a team leader. Make a connection with the individuals on your team. Put yourself in their situation as it may have been a while, if ever, since you’ve had to deal with some of the issues they’re facing. Because business is changing so rapidly, new problems arise that need a leader’s insight on how to tackle these new challenges.

      Great work relationships are essential if you want your team to perform at its best. According to, here are 5 examples of healthy working relationships

      1. Trust – Trusting your team members allows everyone on the team to be honest about their thoughts and actions, which means they will spend less time worrying about overcoming relationship problems, and spend more time focusing on new opportunities.
      2. Mutual Respect – As a team leader, respecting your team members means you value their input, and they value yours. By working collaboratively, you can develop solutions that are based on collective creativity.
      3. Open Communication – Good relationships depend on honest and open communication. The more effectively each team member communicates with each other, the better the working relationships will be.
      4. Welcoming Diversity – Take time to consider what every member has to say. Welcoming diverse people and opinions within a team will surely make the project more successful.
      5. Mindfulness – Take responsibility for your actions and words. By being mindful of what you say and not letting your own negative emotions impact the other team members, you won’t bog down your team with unnecessary stress.

      2. Trustworthy and Transparent

      Or, are you hiding behind your own insecurities? Team members need to know that you have their back to feel confident as part of the group. Great managers develop future leaders who are a testament to their leadership skills! Always have the best intentions to foster an environment of trust that the team will thrive in.

      3. Keeps Communication Lines Open

      This is a no-brainer for all leaders. Having an open door to discussion is important to group success. But the channel needs to be open both ways to insure even minor details are exposed that could otherwise lead to disaster.

      4. Gives the Team A Clear Path to Effective Teamwork

      Are the values and vision clearly stated and understood? Make sure members can navigate under the guidelines so they don’t waste time and money venturing into roadblocks that lead nowhere.

      5. Does Not Micromanage

      If you want to stay hands-on and _not _develop a solid team that can work independently, go ahead and micromanage your team! The problem is, you’ll not only stifle their creativity and enthusiasm, you’ll stay chained to the day-to-day stuff preventing your own growth.

      6. Provides Accessibility to Resources

      Give your group what they need to succeed and make available additional resources like learning and development training that will enhance their skills in upcoming projects.

      7. Loves What They Do

      Are you passionate about your life’s work? If not, why expect anyone else to be excited about coming into work and getting things done? Inspire and motivate your team by sharing how their work makes a difference!

      8. Keeps a Positive Attitude

      Do you permeate nasty vibes wherever you go and have that don’t-bother-me-now look? Don’t expect your group to work hard if you have a negative attitude about things from the get-go. Keep a positive attitude to let them know you want them to succeed!

      9. Offers Constructive and Honest Feedback

      By not offering constructive feedback, you are part of the problem. It’s like watching someone paint black lines on the pavement and not telling them it’s supposed to be yellow. Your team needs to know what they are doing wrong and what they are doing right even more!

      10. Stays Accountable

      Are you answerable for things that are in your control? Team members have a watchful eye on how you handle problems and learn by your example. Make sure you’re spreading the right messages to keep future problems in check.

      Stop Bad Teams in Their Tracks

      Finally, just be there for the team! They learn from you and need your guidance. Being an absentee leader can create a void and fester bad feelings. If you want what’s important to you to be the team’s guiding light, you’ll need to be part of what’s going on.

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