Advice

Opinion: Your team is your product, here’s how to bring the best out of them

I recently had a conversation with a Product Manager friend, and she said to me “a leader’s product is her team members.” This conversation triggered questions such as what’s my leadership style, how is that impacting the team I work with, what values and practices have I been consistent about, and what is my ultimate goal in regards to the team?

If your team is your “product,” the aspiration of any manager or leader then should be to bring out the best in the team, help them reach their highest potential and develop their individual voices. Question is, how do you do that?

In this post, I want to share some of the practices I use. I can’t claim the work for everyone or work at all, but hopefully, some of these will resonate with you.

Clear intentions

Leadership is a fluid practice. Every leader has their style, and each position comes with its own unique set of challenges. For me, leadership is a service to the team, and more often than not I will explicitly ask “how can I serve you?” or “tell me how I can be of service to you” or “how can I make your day.” This kind of questions set the tone and expectations for the relationship and could be useful in bringing down the walls of hierarchy. Of course, what you say has to be harmonious with your actions and behavior but imagine what would happen if presidents asked their citizens “how can I serve you?” This is no different from a leader asking their team members “how can I serve you?”.

Power of informal

Contrary to what one might expect, I have no set agenda for my 1–1s with the team. I replaced agendas with a standard open-ended question “what’s on your mind?” which helps the person get straight to what is top on their mind. Not only does this approach makes it super easy for conversations to take a natural flow but also allows the person to talk about what is important to them. To be clear, am not saying agendas are altogether useless but that there’s some power that comes with this kind of informal approach which is good for relationship building during 1–1s.

Curious questioning

By design, human beings are problem solvers, and we almost always know what we need to do. We merely need confirmation that whatever answers are within us are worthy and welcome. To quickly tap to this inner power and get the team to problem-solving mode, I ask questions. Lots of questions that I can sometimes be annoying. There’s a learning curve to this particular approach but once you can ask well thought out, well-designed questions you will be surprised how quickly the team gets to the problem-solving mode and come up with solutions on their own.

Affirmations

Beyond the paycheck, we all wish for a sense of recognition, achievement, belonging and genuine relationships at the workplace. After all, we spend a 1/3 of our lives at work. When a great action, performance or attitude is recognized and appreciated, it provides positive reinforcement both for the individual and the team. Thus, encourages the likelihood of repeated behavior.

Have courageous conversations

To become better at my job, I continually assess where I am today. This is where direct feedback from the team comes in handy as a quick pulse check. In this spirit, I recently asked some of my teammates if they can tell me a time when I did or said something that they thought was not right. What surprised me the most is the answer to my follow up question. Why didn’t you correct me when this happened?

Interestingly, they were super generous with their interpretation of my behavior. Some of the answers were “I know one mistake doesn’t define who you are so I found a way of interpreting your behavior. If it were repeated, I would have corrected you.”

Building an environment where leaders serve their teams, individuals are empowered to problem-solve, speak their truth and share honest views is something I work towards.

This list is not exhaustive and would love to hear from you in the comment section what your go-to leadership practices are.

Jamila Abbas

Jamila Abbas

Guest Author at MENAbytes
Country Manager for Kenya with Wefarm, world’s largest farmer-to-farmer digital network. You can reach out to her on LinkedIn.
Jamila Abbas
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