team leadership

Leading From Behind: Creating the Conditions for Team Success

Can a project launch be… boring?

I recently led a team through a large systems implementation project. We launched successfully, with very little drama or stress. In fact, the launch was so uneventful that some members of the team called it boring.

But in reality, that project was neither easy nor boring. We faced major curveballs, including COVID and a cyber attack that took down the organization’s system and IT infrastructure. But the team pulled together, worked through the issues, and launched smoothly.

The project went well because the team worked together with coherence and synergy. Our team was operating like the starlings pictured below. They were moving and working with a single purpose, remaining completely attuned and responsive to one another.  

And that team coherence was no accident. 

Just as we created a project charter and plan to guide our actions, we also created a team charter to keep the group on track. 

And, as the project leader, I made it a point to foster the team’s coherence and synergy at every opportunity. 

 Become the Leader Your Team Needs

That kind of attention and intention is a basic requirement for building a successful team.

A high performing team is established by deliberately creating an environment where the team can succeed. 

So leaders need to dedicate time, attention, and resources to building trust and fostering a safe environment. They need to manage project planning and execution in a way that empowers everyone to do their best work. And they need to prioritize building and maintaining strong relationships. 

That might all seem perfectly obvious…

…but there’s a tricky little quirk of human nature that sometimes makes it hard for leaders to follow through on this.

See, when the team is operating at a high degree of coherence and synergy, things just flow. Issues arise and are dealt with, but they don’t become a crisis.

In that situation, all the work you do as a leader to create the environment and conditions that enable the team to excel feels… invisible. You might imagine that executives are thinking the team is so awesome that they don’t need a leader.  And you might be tempted to jump in, just to show your value.

But this is the moment that separates the good leaders from the rest.

Because a good leader sets their ego aside. They step back, and they get out of the team’s way. They understand that their role is to support and guide. 

Leading in this manner requires a steady mind and a steady hand — particularly in times of turbulence.

But the payoff is tremendous.  When you create the conditions for team synergy and coherence, you’re also creating the conditions for project success. Your team will be better equipped to deal with whatever situations arise — and they’ll be able to do so as a unit, without depending on you to ride to the rescue.

So the next time you feel tempted to jump in and solve a problem for your team, consider what you could be doing behind the scenes to guide and support them as they work through the situation. 

This behind-the-scenes work may not be as visible — but it is where the real acts of leadership take place.

Photo Credit: The Irish Times

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