I’m convinced that the willingness of team members to not only accept, but embrace, their needed role on a team is one of the most telling signs of that team’s potential for success. The question is, what makes it so hard? Why do so many team members balk at the role they are asked to fill? What makes the success of the team so dependent on this commitment? And, how do we help team members become more willing to embrace the roles we are asking of them?
I don’t have the answers. I’ve tried different things. Some have worked, some haven’t. What has worked well with one team member makes no impact on another. Leadership is an art, not a science. There is no answer, no formula. It’s a messy process, but it’s a messy process we must be willing to wade through.
Why Should We Care? The main reason we need to become better at helping team members embrace their role is simple: everyone has a role. No one on your team is without a role. For some reason, we think of role players as being less important, less valuable, to the success of the team than those out in the spotlight. It’s a misconception that must be changed because it’s blatantly not true.
We’re willing to acknowledge it - a quarterback or running back is only as good as his offensive line - but we rarely think of it that way when building our teams. Just as a quarterback is looking for linemen that are not only willing to block, but love the opportunity to block and protect, the best teams have members that desire to excel in their role.
And, remember, everyone has a role. The salesperson that’s out in front of the people and on the billboards may be the face of the company, but that’s her role. That role comes with benefits and challenges, just like every other role.
Society loves to overvalue the public role - the leading scorer, the highest earner, the top salesman. If you want your team to excel, it would benefit you to flip the spotlight.
REAL TALK - Action Steps Every team, and role, is different. It’s never the exact same from year to year or position to position. We must approach each situation as its own, separate encounter. Here are few ideas that do remain consistent when helping team members accept roles.
Be clear. Much more clear than you need to be. If you think it, say it. Provide explanation, explain why, help them understand how it helps the team be at its best - but say it! Far too often we assume, or hope, they understand. They don’t. Clarity creates consistency and speed. Say it so the message can not be misunderstood. Then say it again.
Celebrate the Single
Everyone doesn’t need to hit homeruns. Teams don’t work like that. A team full of homerun hitters will strike out far too often to be successful. You need people that will hit singles day after day. The paper writes about the homeruns. Be sure you are singing praises about the singles.
Recognize Your Role
As the leader of a team, you have a role too. Everything is not your job. You’re not good at everything, nor can you do everything. Become self-aware enough to know where your role begins and ends, then operate within those boundaries. It’s empowering to those you lead to see you deferring to a team member that thrives in a certain role.
Roles are the linchpin to the success of every team. The better we are at helping our team members understand their role, the closer we will be to guiding our teams to maximizing their potential. That’s our role as a leader!
For more information on building excellence in your teams, visit us at www.bluecollargrit.com. We would love to know how we could help!