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You Are Only As Strong As Your Team (Make Them Stronger)

December 20, 2017

Do you know anyone who does weight training? I’ve never much of a lifter, or bodybuilder, but I know a few. Invariably they hate leg day. They’ll do bench press reps until they drop, but those leg machines are only used grudgingly. Why do they do it? The bodybuilders understand that it doesn’t matter how sculpted the upper body is, if it’s on top of a couple of toothpicks.

Your teams work the same way. As a team leader, you are only as strong as your team. Think about when teams fail. Typically it’s the manager that gets blamed or demoted. Here’s a little secret of management.

You look best as a leader when your teams look successful.

And your team looks successful when the individual members look successful. Let me tell you a tale of two managers. We’ll start with the unsuccessful one.

Allen was a first time manager. He had been a successful engineer and impressed management with his drive, his knowledge and his ability to get stuff done. Management formed a new team to focus on high value accounts. They tasked Allen with being the team lead.

Allen’s team was made up of people like him. His team members were highly driven, experienced and had a history of getting things done. It seemed like a perfect setup. However, Allen failed to realize that when you transition from team member to team manager. As a team member, or individual contributor, you are expected to get results, to see problems and attack solving them. Depending on your team, you may be expected to be the guy (or girl) who actually jumps in and gets the results.

The most successful people I’ve worked with have a “tank driver” mentality. Give them an objective and point them in the right direction and then get out of th eway lest you get run over. They see obstacles as a challenge.

The merely difficult we get done immediately. The impossible takes slightly longer”

The military calls these types “High speed/low drag.”

But, as manager, you have to almost take the complete opposite point of view. You cannot just do it all yourself. If you could, they would not have given you a team to work with. And if you are the team lead it’s typically because you were really good at doing stuff. In fact, you are probably better than your team members at doing stuff than they are. It’s tempting at times to step in and just “do it.”

Don’t do it.

Allen, became frustrated with the actions of his team. See, he had a particular method to his success. He couldn’t understand why his team didn’t adopt that same method. If they would just do it his way, they would be more successful. After all, that’s how he became successful. As time went on, it got worse. The worse it got the harder he worked at “managing.” At one point he stated, “Rodney, you don’t own your account. I do. You just work on it.”

Unfortunately for him, he was wrong. It was a multimillion dollar account that I’d managed for years. The ironic thing was that not just me, but all of us on the team would have been thrilled to make him look good. If he’d let us work our accounts our team would have become wildly successful. As the manager, he would have gotten credit for that. And he wouldn’t have had to ask. People just would have remarked, “Have you noticed how successful Allen’s group is?” But, by not empowering his team, he achieved just the opposite results.

Let me tell you about a different manager. Staci had been managing director of a group of 40 people at the company she worked at before Microsoft. However, the chance to work for Microsoft in the 1990’s was a powerful draw and she accepted a team manager position. There were 7 of us on the team. Staci made the conscious decision to work on promoting her team over attemtping to burnishing her own star.

She individually mentored each of us. She looked for opportunities for us to have an impact on the bigger department. She constantly talked us up to her peers and management. We responded. Each of us was focused on making the team look good and being successful. And it paid off. When bonus time came around we all got bonuses and many of us got promotions.

But, what about Staci? She had ignored her own “career development” for the yearin order to promote her team. She got the biggest bonus of us all.

If you want to be successful, strengthen your team. Make sure they get the accolades and the glory for success and ironically, you will be viewed the most successful of all.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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