Many engineers and technical professionals get into their field because they like objective thinking. It’s nice when there is a clear, correct answer. I was the same way. I loved that I could be either right or wrong, and that feeling of being “right” sure felt good. Math and science came pretty naturally to me, and engineering seemed like a cool way to use those skills to design and create cool stuff. So that’s where I landed.
It didn’t take me long into the world of work to realize, however, that actually working in the field of engineering was not as objective as it always seemed to be in school. I was delivering work for bosses, product owners, and other stakeholders that had opinions about what and how I did my work. There wasn’t one clear method to create whatever widget I was working on. This is because humans are inherently subjective. I didn’t really know how to handle that.
Over the years I’ve been working on how to balance this. I’ve immersed myself in various materials, training programs, workshops, and books, and I’ve come to recognize patterns of successful leadership. I started teaching workshops and giving speeches, and interviewing and coaching technical leaders, and these key elements of successful teams kept coming to the top.
I’ve since synthesized them into what I call the Five Factors of Leadership and Team Success. These factors are meant to create a system for each leader and team to continually improve over time. Knowing these Five Factors isn’t a magic bullet, but consistently applying them can help turn subjective realities into successes. Below are the Five Factors and brief summaries. I’ll write separate posts on each one in the future.
Vision is all about making the end goal clear and establishing why you and your team exist. It should be able to be confined to a short vision or mission statement, but this is more than a statement. A solid vision should be inspiring and motivating, while also challenging us to do more than we previously thought possible. Ideally, it should clearly sketch how the world (or the company/organization) will be different when the vision is accomplished.
Trust is tightly connected to psychological safety. When trust is present, team members should feel safe to take risks and speak freely. Conflict should be encouraged in a healthy way to promote constructive dialogue rather than avoiding difficult conversations. As the leader you also need to set the example of believing in those that work with you and support them in their work. Transparency is critical to growing trust, as it can help you get the most out of everyone given their strengths and weaknesses.
Many leaders think they need to do a better job holding people accountable. While this may be true, I believe instead we should be working to grow and develop accountable people. In order to do this, everyone must work to understand the goals of others, and thus take those goals into account in their own work. Positive pressure in a team can really drive accomplishment because we expect great things from each other.
Right People, Right Skills
Teams have to be well organized and structured in order to accomplish their goals. You also have to have the right people with the right skills in the right seats. For example, you can’t play a good game of football with a team full of chess players. Additionally, it’s probably best that a defensive lineman doesn’t play quarterback. People can learn and develop new skills, but we should only expect that to happen on reasonable timelines. Thus, we must understand the tasks that need to be accomplished, and the skills needed to accomplish them. Develop and hire accordingly.
The fifth factor is where it all comes together to deliver meaningful business results. If you’ve established Vision, Trust, Accountability, and collected the Right People with the Right Skills, all that’s left is to work together to take action on your goals. You’ll know when this is happening when your goals are not only met but exceeded. Teams working collectively are not working in silos as individuals or in connection with other teams. Everyone should be striving for the success of the team, not to promote themselves.
These five factors, when applied, can be life changing. Consider where you need to spend more time. If you want help implementing them personally or with a team, I’d invite you to request a free coaching call where we can talk about where you can improve. Request it by clicking on the button below.