In my previous article, I outlined some practical steps to reviewing how you lead your team. I also looked at how your leadership style can feed into, or even create, the leader-follower mindset. This is an unproductive place for your team to be because they will feel disempowered and demotivated. They will have no control over their work and can tend to rely on the leader for all decisions, even minor ones.
We all know that the leader-follower mindset needs to be broken if it is present in your team.
Now it is time to move beyond reviewing your leadership style and the impact on your team. It is time to start putting the learnings from your review into action. It is time to take positive steps to break the leader-follower mindset and replace it with a team of empowered, motivated and productive employees.
5 Steps to Break the Leader-Follower Mindset
1. Quality Time
The first thing to do is build the relationship between you and each member of your team. It is important not to think that this can be done on a team basis. You need to create opportunities to spend quality time getting to know each individual in your team. Join team members for coffee and make time for both formal and informal conversations.
Listen to them and learn about them. Be genuinely interested in each person and enquire about their ambitions in life, both work and non-work based. What can you do to help make their ambitions happen? Let them know you care. Create a relationship where ideas, suggestions and concerns can be safely discussed and actioned.
2. Comfort Zone
Many employees get into their comfort zone at work. It is a large part of why we don’t like change at work. It jolts us out of our comfort zone. However, the comfort zone numbs our senses and ambitions in work. So, gently push your team members out of their comfort zones. Involve them in decision making and problem solving. Ask for their suggestions and pose challenging projects to improve productivity.
3. Throw The Ball Back
When your team members realise they are moving out of their comfort zones, they will seek the old comforts they are used to. They will try to revert to you taking control. Now is the time to share control by throwing the ball back into their court. When a team member asks you to make the decision, simply respond by asking ‘what would you do?’ or ‘how do you think we should approach this?’ Encourage him/her to talk through their suggestion.
Ask good questions to encourage your team member to explore his/her suggestion and come to their own conclusions regarding feasibility. Then you can suggest they give it a go and report back with results.
By doing this gently, you will build greater self-reliance in your team members who will feel safer and more in control when dealing with their jobs.
4. Mastery Beats Competition
I learned many years ago when studying motivation among unemployed people that competition is an unsustainable source of motivation, especially if it is overused. A lot rests on how the highly competitive person reacts when s/he meets someone who beats them. Too many teams, work based and otherwise, place too much emphasis on competition.
Mastery is much more sustainable and effective over time. Encourage each of your team members to master certain skills within their job. These can be skills they enjoy doing or feel are really important to the outcome. Discuss this with your team members enabling each person to grow and develop within the team environment. It also enables each person to build their own identity within the team. This is very powerful in terms of motivation, commitment and productivity.
To truly break the leader-follower mindset, give your team members autonomy within their job roles. Empower them to make decisions about how to do the job better, more efficiently and improve quality. Sure, mistakes will be made. Help your team members to learn from any mistakes as part of their, and the team’s, growth.