No, of course I’m not talking about the soft spots on your body!! That would be presumptuous and borderline rude 🙂 (That said, it’s a useful metaphor that I’ll come back to shortly.)
I’m referring to the soft spots in your team. Most of us have them…some of us know who they are, but only few of us know ‘what’ the soft spots actually are and the impact they have. A bit like many of us don’t like to look at ourselves with a swimming costume on, or trying jeans on in public, taking a deep look at the inner workings of our team can be overwhelming and confronting, so filling us with a similar sense of anxiety that we may feel when the lady at the store asks us to come out so she can see how the cossie fits and looks on you.
Why does it matter?
Simply put, if we have unaddressed soft spots within our team, we’re not being our most effective. No only does it impact the output of the team itself, but it also affects the perception of you as a leader and your ability to lead. The issue may be that your team don’t talk to each other - they don’t really get on, or they stick to operating in and focusing on their silos. You, therefore, spend many hours in one-on-one meetings playing translator, mediator, or traffic controller sharing the information between each member of your team. Quite frankly, it’s not a great use of your time.
It might be that you find yourself on the phone with stakeholders, who are asking you questions that should be going straight to your team. Why do they come to you when they should be going directly to your leaders? Sure, it may be nice to catch-up with them and each individual conversation is short….but again, is this a great use of your time?
Not only does this raise a time management issue for you, but more importantly consider the level of conversations being held in each of the scenarios I raised above. Are they the high level, big picture strategic conversations that you want to be involved in? Or do they pull you down in the weeds, taking you away from your core responsibilities and opportunities to be leading your organisation and team’s strategy?
If your team isn’t your dream team, then you can’t do the big work and deliver the big outcomes that you have set out to achieve this year (and beyond). That may sit okay with you, but imagine the possibilities if you could? What legacy could you leave?
The link to motivation
There is an important distinction that we often forget to make, and that is the distinction between capability and motivation. Just because we ‘can’ do something, doesn’t mean we ’should’ or we ‘want to’. I expect you’re familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:
The challenge with an underperforming team with undiagnosed, or untreated soft spots is that it starts to threaten you at the ‘safety’ level. Let me explain. At this stage of your career, << Test First Name >>, I imagine that your focus is on the higher levels of the hierarchy: those focused on impact, strength and helping others. About being your best self and bringing your best to the people you love. These characteristics sit you firmly at ‘esteem’ and ‘self-actualisation’ levels on the Maslow pyramid.
What happens when your team starts to fracture and performance slips, is that you subconsciously move into threat-state, thereby introducing cracks in your foundations and you can begin to wobble. You can see how this quickly translates to a marked movement down the pyramid. The problem is exacerbated when our response to this is to roll up our sleeves and get stuck in the detail and trying to solve the problem ourselves. “This is the best path forward”, you think. I can just dig them out and then I can travel on smoothly - no harm, no foul. But we both know by now that this doesn’t work. It’s never really one off.
An alternate, longer lasting approach
Stay high. Be clear and firm about what you need to perform at your best and be most effective. Stay in those higher levels. But be honest with yourself that the only way to do this is to have a high performing team with very few soft spots. Like a banana, once a few brown spots appear, it’s almost as if it turns overripe overnight and it’s spoiled for tomorrow's lunchbox. That’s how quickly a team with undiagnosed soft spots can undermine your performance and ambitions.
What to do
You need to take a broader approach. We know that sit-ups alone won’t give you a 6-pack! Same goes with your team. It’s not as easy as one intervention, you need to take a strategic approach to get it right. If you need any ideas, feel free to download this mind map to guide you through your thought process.
I invite you to shift your possibilities this year.
Amplify your Impact through effective team leadership.
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