August 4, 2016

Leaders Must Learn To Recognize Team Aptitude

We all recognize that success in today’s business environment requires every professional to demonstrate a high EQ. The increasing complexity of the business challenges faced means, as leaders, we are constantly forming and evolving new and different teams.
While being a “team player” has long been a stated corporate value, its meaning has irrevocably changed. Where once it meant being pleasant, helpful and not bucking the status quo, it now requires working effectively on cross-functional, multi-generational, multi-cultural teams tackling ill-defined problems with time sensitive urgency without driving themselves (and others) to burnout.
And as organizations have flattened out, more and more we ask our individual contributors/SME’s to represent their wider functions’ needs and priorities, contribute ideas and proactively solve problems within these complex teams. To do this well requires “leadership grade” EQ and communication skills.
Traditional leadership training typically focuses on the self awareness and communication skills necessary for effective team participation and successful collaboration. These skills, while not nuclear physics, do take years of practice, application and refinement before one can truly claim its fluent application.
Even when hiring into in entry level or promoting into early-career roles, leaders need to look for and reward behaviors which signal “team aptitude” in addition to any technical job competencies. Here are behaviors to look for to help you spot team aptitude:

Shows initiative: she volunteers to learn/try new things where others may step back; she appropriately and considerately offers insightful feedback and opinions

Has a point of view: He can make thoughtful, insight-driven recommendations and, where possible, makes an effort to solicit and apply the input of others

Confidently asks for help: She is aware when there are things she doesn’t know and is confident enough to seek out and ask for help and guidance.

Reminds you of Pooh (not Eeyore): there just isn’t a better way to describe how to recognize this. Pooh’s are forward thinking, taking responsibility when things go wrong and focused on the go-forward while maintaining a positive attitude in times of stress and setbacks. People who are Pooh’s help keep teams motivated and productive while Eeyore’s “woe is me” attitude may permeate the team and cripple them

Able to build on ideas: She is able to listen to and “riff” of another’s idea in order to make it better or move its execution forward.

Recognizes strengths in others: He shows a genuine interest in others, even those he may not work closely with. He proactively seeks out to learn from subject matter experts on topics within and beyond his job description

Team dynamics are an important part of today’s work environment. Leaders who are able to identify behaviors which display “team aptitude” will be more effective in developing and coaching their teams.