There are many clichéd phrases in business and sport about the leader or manager taking ultimate responsibility for the performance of their team. The same happens, perhaps to a lesser extent some might say, in politics. But the principle remains the same. As a leader it is your responsibility to set the tone for how a group of individuals merge together to become a team, hopefully a high performing team.
Bruce Tuckman’s model of team development comprising forming, norming, storming and performing is no less valid today than it was when he proposed it in 1965. The individual responsibility of each team member to get involved and contribute as a team becomes established is not in doubt and some will help shape the team dynamic in more ways than others. Often this is by working closely with the leader in a collaborative way but still, the leader remains responsible for the performance of that team whatever business setting it is part of.
Even when a leader has done all they can think of doing in building the best team they can there will be occasions when performance doesn’t meet expectations. This can be for any one of a many reasons or combinations of reasons many of which will be outside of the leader’s or team’s control. But is not meeting expectations failure? In the strictest sense it is. Whether the expectations were realistic (remember SMART goals) or not needs to be considered in respect of the capability and experience of the team in question. In other words, reflect of what happened and make appropriate adjustments for the future – learn the lessons of the past.
Don’t Blame The Team
It is all too easy for a leader to stand back and say the team didn’t perform well enough and that it was their fault. After all, the leader has done everything possible to recruit the right individuals into the team and to forge them into a team capable of delivering what needs to be done. This is not the reaction of a responsible leader. This is the reaction of a leader who believes they are more important than the team and one who believes that their approach is right and that others are to blame for failure. Who wants to work for a leader like that?
Blame the team, blame individuals in the team and single out publically those who you believe aren’t good enough for ‘your team’ and you run the huge risk of alienating all team members. Leaders should never forget that everyone can have an off-day, even themselves. What are you doing as a leader to accommodate such a reality? How are you, as the leader, monitoring on-going performance to recognize dips? How are you, as the one ultimately responsible for the performance of your team, going to build on what has been achieved rather than dwelling on the occasional trough?
Yes, the ‘buck does stop with you’ and that means that you have to look carefully at your own performance in getting your team into shape. Don’t blame them if things go wrong – blame yourself, and then do something about it.
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