Balance Points from the Team

Leaders, Let Your Team Tie Their Own Shoes


Michael Winner jokingly (I hope!) once said, “A team effort is a lot of people doing what I say.”

Of course, we know that teamwork actually takes collaboration. In fact, collaboration and teamwork are synonyms, and collaboration is the next “secret sauce” element that makes up impactful teams.

Setting context paves the way for collaboration but it’s not the end-all in building effective teams.

Collaboration starts with defining what Peter Hawkins so aptly calls the “WeQ” – what you need from one another as team members, understanding your roles and, most importantly, making contributions that are the highest and best use of your talents.

As leaders, sticking to this last point can be a hard thing to do.

We think that stepping in to help is the right thing, but it can actually create role clarity challenges.

I coached a leader who truly felt she was being “helpful” when she jumped in to fix problems within her team. In reality, she was inadvertently making people who worked for her feel very unappreciated and unclear about their roles.

If you’ve ever watched a child try to tie his shoe you know the seemingly simple act can be painfully slow. Would it be easier to bend down and tie the shoe yourself? Undoubtedly. Will he learn anything if you do that? No, and he might get frustrated that you didn’t let him do it on his own.

The goal in team leadership is to work through people and not step in for them.

This can be challenging because it requires being certain that everyone is clear on what they’re supposed to be doing and how it fits into the overall goals and deliverables. Team members have the capacity to do their share of the heavy lifting and know why they are doing it.

Highly effective teams ask:

  • Are we clear about our team agreements that guide how we will work together?
  • Are we making decisions in an efficient and effective way?
  • Are we speaking up when we are challenged so that we do not let frustrations lead to broken relationships?
  • Are we each contributing what is the highest and best use of our talents?

Once these questions are answered, teams can take the actions that will drive forward momentum and work collaboratively to solve problems.

The leader, instead of falling into “stepping in and doing mode”, can assume two key roles; facilitator of strong connections and strategist for long term impact.

Establish clarity, tap talents, invest in collaboration and…achieve results! WeQ in action!

Click here to learn more about Lisa Johnson

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