Techniques to help a new leader connect with his or her team

23 August 2018
SERIES Transitioning into a leadership position: notes from the OTT Fellows 8 items

The following techniques may help a new leader to connect with his of her team:

1. Monthly discussions about instruments that do not work/do not produce results

Young leaders can also enable good and productive conversations about what is not working well and may be enhanced. For example, they can organise monitoring and evaluation discussions. However, they should be very careful about how these meetings are framed so that they can open up spaces for real learning and avoid people leaving frustrated or guilty.

To this end, it is useful to shift the focus of the discussions from persons performing the task to instruments used to perform the task. In this way, when somebody reports an unsuccess or delay, you can ask them about “what does not work” and not “who does not do their job”. Such a technique would mean that you have to associate the work tasks with concrete instruments, rules, procedures, etc. In this way, when reporting about tasks’ level of accomplishment, the person will refer to the instrument used and the concrete results.

Such an exercise would invite people to be honest about their results without feeling the pressure of potentially being criticised. Also, it will encourage people to test different mechanisms and to diversify their potential.

2. Allow people to spend some work time doing what they like or what they are passionate about

Encourage people to spend 5 hours a week on what they professionally like to do. However, let them know that this time needs to be reported and it needs to be linked to their professional growth. In addition, invite them to share some insights from these activities with the rest of the team.

For example, in their free hours, the team members could write an article on their blog, engage in an internship with a different organisation, practice or improve their public speaking skills, research more on a subject of their interest etc. Such a practice, helps everybody learn something that they would not otherwise.

Personally, when while I was enrolled in the Monitoring, Evaluating and Learning Course in the On Think Tanks School, I used to spend some office hours doing my homework or participating to the video conferences. I shared the main lessons with my team. So, they did not seem to be disturbed by it. On the contrary, they seemed to enjoy the mutual learning process.

3. Come up with or borrow a system for sharing responsibilities in an inclusive, equal and transparent manner

An unfair treatment of team members always generates tension, frustration and, eventually, lack of positive results. Thus, a system that will help the leaders engage every team member in an inclusive manner is mandatory in any organisation. The system shall not solely allow for the equal or proportional distribution of responsibilities and opportunities, but also for its transparent reflection.

It should not be complex and bureaucratic. Also, it is meant to motivate people, not to overload their work. So, a google sheet where people can see, in a real time, the specific tasks people are working on, is more than enough. Based on it, leaders can take informed decisions on about how tasks should be managed within the organisation.