As a leader who values teamwork, cooperation and synergy, there are several behaviors that you must learn to be consistently capable of to nourish a supportive atmosphere for your team.
Setting Expectations Is Important
You need to make it clear, from your website, policies and recruiting interviews on through your everyday activities, that teamwork is an expected and important value. It’s about “we”. We defeat dragons together, or sometimes we fail to do so, but we are learning and growing together. We discuss how we can improve.
You Need To Model The Behavior Of A Team Player
There are many ways for you, the leader, to model the behaviors you are hoping to see. Here’s just a few of the most important: Share. Take turns. Don’t (need to) be a hero. Don’t micromanage. Trust. Do your best. Help others respectfully; don’t create co-dependencies. Deal with your own emotional “stuff” instead of dumping it on those around you. If someone bothers or upsets you in some way, ask them about it privately, and as non-confrontationally as you are capable of. Appreciate the people around you. Notice them. Thank them.
Flaws Are Okay, Especially in Leaders
Create an atmosphere where occasional mistakes are ok. Make sure your team has an environment that helps give them the emotional security to admit mistakes. Model what you want to see by admitting your own mistakes. “I blew that, I’ll do better next time” is fine. It’s usually a relief to people when the boss/teacher/leader isn’t perfect, and admits it. It takes the pressure off them to achieve an unrealistic standard of perfection. While some stress can be positive, none of us perform well when too much piles up. If you assume and model the expectation of a supportive environment, most often others will expect that too – and help create it!
I read something a couple of months ago that has stuck in my mind, although unfortunately I don’t remember the source. It was a theory which states that most human beings want to be safely in the middle of their social hierarchy. They don’t want to be leaders, they prefer to be led. They also don’t want to be at the bottom of their respective social hierarchy, they fight for the “middle of the pack” position. The theory is postulating that there’s more than a bell curve at work here.
What Cavemen Have in Common With Your Team
The idea is that most of us, due to a heritage going back to our cavemen days, feel that it’s safest to to be unexceptional, to conform. The leader may have perks, but also has to charge the mammoth first. The weakest of the pack is the one not fed if there’s not enough food to go around. However, the middle of the pack is safe, low risk. Entire organizations can slip into this mindset at times.
What (Good) Leaders Don’t Want
This can lead to a number of behaviors that leaders don’t want to see in their teams:
- Peer pressure to not excel, or take risks.
- Refusal to step into leadership roles, contribute ideas, or even make personal decisions.
- “Brain off” performance mode, where they do what they’re told. Only what they’re told.
- Denigrating other people’s performance to make themselves look good.
This came to mind because of a conversation I had with a guild member the other day, where she expressed her frustration with the lack of initiative among certain members of the raid force. She felt that many of her teammates preferred to be led, or even micro-managed in raids, rather than taking initiative to make some decisions, ask questions, or self-manage. She believes they’re less effective than they could be by taking more initiative. And I agree.
Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth
-John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Now, this isn’t a big problem for us, because our guild delegates lots of jobs in raids, and rotates those jobs to various people, so there is an expectation of a certain amount of participation. We don’t have reserved raid jobs like Main Tank, Raid Leader, Loot Handler. These are done by various people, officer or not. It’s still noticeably a challenge to get members to step up and do even small roles, though. And I think the “middle of the pack” theory is largely why. It’s unconscious and habitual, but it’s something you’re going to encounter, particularly if you try to build an organization with a fairly flat hierarchy.
One who walks in another’s tracks leaves no footprints.
Making It Better, A Bit Deviously
So, how do you address the issue? I think we’ve made a good start in rotating jobs around, and giving members small opportunities to exhibit leadership. Praise and appreciation helps, of course. However, these are strategies to flatten the curve. In a relatively flat organization, you may hit the limits of that quite quickly. My other suggestion is that you focus on moving the curve. If I accept that many people want to be in the center of the pack, another strategy is to move the middle – move the bell curve itself.
The way this works in practice is to slowly, almost imperceptibly, increase performance and participation expectations. Over time, as you move the entire curve, the “middle of the pack” is now performing at a higher level.
Posted on 2009 under Teambuilding |
This isn’t going to be your typical World of Warcraft blog.
I have a strong interest in leadership, management, and teambuilding. World of Warcraft has been an incredible environment for me to observe some things about what works, what doesn’t, and why. The opportunity to compare and contrast these activities between gaming and RL, aka “Real Life” has, I believe, broadened and strengthened my previous understanding of them.
It’s also really messed up my work life. I used to like playing solo, in both Wow and RL. Now I prefer being on a team. I have a whole new appreciation for the scope of what can be achieved by a team working in synergy together. In short, I’ve been wrecked as a soloist entrepreneur. I want to be part of a team. At a minimum, I want a partner or a Mastermind group to swap and explore ideas with. I’ve learned down to the core of my being that you don’t accomplish great things solo. Or at least not as great as those you can accomplish with the right team. Two (or more) heads really are better than one, as long as they interact effectively.
So whatever the dragons you want to overcome in your life, I believe building a team will help. Being able to do the leadership and management tasks necessary to keep a team running well will get you further than soloing. That’s the stuff I’m here to write about. I just think it will be more entertaining for both of us if I mix in illustrations from the game. Some days its more fun to think of defeating a dragon than creating a killer marketing plan. Overcoming a giant, rather than managing a project.
“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”
Welcome to Defeat Dragons.