So what is the role of the manager or team lead in a self-regulating team? Since most organizations have not flatten their hierarchies, those in the lead need to master a shift in role to improve team performance in a self-regulating world. Their roles need to be inverted from one of directing to one of supporting and facilitating, inverting the traditional triangle (making the ∆ into the ∇). Leaders need to be the point at the bottom that support and facilitate the team above, helping it and its members develop the requisite skills to perform at its best. When there are problems to be solved, decisions to be made, performance to be evaluated, or work to be assigned or authorized, the leader must work from below to help the team discuss and decide. This approach, though, is hard, especially for those with more traditional training or experience. The skills and behaviors needed to manage from below include:
1. Self-management—requiring an orientation towards achievement, adaptability, emotional self-control and a positive outlook.
So when I am disappointed or upset about the progress a person or team has made or an error in judgment or a lack of execution, do I appear distraught, hyperbolic or upset or do I remain calm and offer a clear path to solving the problem? Impulse control (aka the “amygdala highjack”) is the number one cause of a person derailing. Do I have the emotional self-management to be able to calmly reframe and guide folks to a better outcome?
Do I often complain, blame or allow others on my team to do so without letting the past be and focusing on understanding the problem we face and finding suitable solutions?
Do I take the extra steps to ensure that my work excels? Do I take pride in the outcomes and not stand on my past laurels? Do I help others achieve and excel in their work?
2. Social awareness—mastering both empathy and organizational awareness (how the technical and social systems operate and intersect) and "process" consultation.
Can I place myself in another’s shoes to understand what they might be experiencing, especially when the pressure is on or the conversation is difficult?
Do I keep abreast of my teammates, our stakeholders and the direction other departments and the company are taking?
Do I have a good enough understanding of the dynamics amongst my teammates and between us and other departments and stakeholders? Can I read a room to know when things are on course or not? And do I know how to intervene when there are miscommunications, politics, people disparaging others or other negative dynamics that lead to poor performance?
3. Relationship management—being adept at conflict management, coaching and mentoring, giving and receiving actionable feedback, influencing others, leading with inspiration, problem solving and promoting teamwork.
How are my communications skills? Can I negotiate a difficult conversation between others and myself or between colleagues? Am I comfortable giving and receiving actionable feedback? Do people at different levels understand and listen when I talk?
Do I take the lead when necessary and inspire others to follow? Can I offer alternative positions or ideas during discussions that influence others to achieve better outcomes?
Can I manage conflict utilizing multiple strategies to resolve matters?
Am I someone that others feel comfortable coming to for help? Can I coach and mentor others from behind helping them achieve success and build unique and personal strengths? Is my orientation to help others advance and be successful in their roles and careers?
Do I understand how teams function, ensuring roles and tasks are clear and aligned, and that people have the authority to do their work? Can I lead a team from behind to achieve and excel?
4. Communications—mastering active listening, giving and receiving actionable feedback, difficult conversations and inquiry (over advocacy).
Am I an active listener, engaging others in conversation? Do I know how to productively intervene when someone is dominating the conversation?
Can I deliver good and difficult news with equal affect and focus? Do people trust my feedback and me?
Do I use the power of the question to engage in conversation with others, especially when solving problems?
Can I engage in a difficult conversation while both managing my emotional state while empathizing with the other?
5. Subject expertise—having a deep understanding and experience in the work of the team.
Have I become expert in the areas of my responsibility?
Do I understand the measures used to assess progress and what impacts their movement? Am I continually aware of the metrics and how we are doing?
6. Planning and resourcing—developing a plan for getting work done, making sure people, budget and other required resources are available when necessary, and ensuring the systems are in place to track results.
Am I organized and do I co-develop plans for my and the team’s work?
Do I use tools to report on progress and are they shared across the team and stakeholders?
Have I ensured that my team knows our budget and resources and do we offer excess capacity back to the organization, load-balance and reassign work accordingly, and ensure people are aware of constraints and risks?
The examples offered above are ways in which highly effective people and teams find success. We need to find ways to productively bring the management of work to the work in order to excel in performance and profitability. Holding each other accountable for results and taking responsibility for improving both my colleagues and myself are critical to leading successful sustainable teams and organizations.