5 Lessons for Young People Leading Teams (for the first time)

I recently attended a series of sessions aimed at developing young leaders — a great opportunity for people like me, who are at the cusp of leadership and have started to manage a small team. When the chance of leading a team of executives was presented me, my first response was utmost enthusiasm — this would be a perfect road to personal and professional growth. My second response was a sleepless night or two. Was I ready for this? Would I be able to tell these exuberant team of writers what to do? Would I find a way to add value?

I haven’t found these answers yet, but I know that I am well on my way. Here are 5 on-point takeaways from the Young Leaders training session organized by MakeMyTrip recently (hope they help you as much as I can see they are impacting me!):

1. Know thy self: Like happiness, leadership begins at home. You can’t change and alter your way of working unless you know yourself well. Self-awareness leads to effective self-leadership, or influencing yourself to achieve your goals. Here are a few quick questions to ask yourself to understand your basic behaviours and traits at the workplace:

  • What is your response to a new opportunity at work?
  • How often do you speak up when you have an idea?
  • How do you handle criticism?

These might be pointed questions, but what we’re trying to discover here are our responses to everyday work situations. There are several online tests that can help understand the traits and characteristics we exhibit in our professional life (one such is the Caliper Test). But knowing how you fair on these metrics isn’t enough. A little bit of help and a lot of reflection can help us become truly aware through our reactions and responses. With awareness comes change.

2. Know thy team: Everyone is unique. And sometimes the smarter way to work with people is to understand them. At the workplace, the way we work with people, get things done, would be immensely effective if we would take a moment to analyse our teammates and cater our responses to their requirements. Is she eager and enthusiastic but lacks the skills to complete this task? She might need more handholding than someone who is highly competent but lacks drive. Saying the same thing to get the best out of them would indeed by a silly idea. Here’s what you can do:

  • While reviewing numbers, take some time to review your teammates
  • Build a rapport to know them better
  • Sometimes it simply helps to ask — how can I help you succeed?

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate: Nothing is possible without communication. But for the best results, we also must learn to communicate effectively. Like content, effective communication is all about context and timing. Often the battle is lost because clear expectations haven’t been set — we’ve seen this at work and at home. I’m a frustrated boss because my team presents a less-than-satisfactory plan, but before I blame it on their competence, it might be a good idea to rethink what expectations I had set of them. Read that email again. Was the objective clear? Should I have broken it down further? Keep in mind:

  • Communication allows us to connect with our team and build a foundation of trust
  • Establishing channels of communication enable feedback, the cornerstone of growth and progress
  • It is as much about restraint and listening, as it is about making your voice heard

4. “Manage” before you “Lead”: There are several managers, but not all can lead. Management is the ability to make sure a task begins and ends with the results in mind. But leaders ask the whys and give a reason to a task. Being able to aid task completion is a strong framework on which leadership is built — you can’t be an effective leader if you can’t get things done. This is why most of us have little respect for leaders who are disconnected with our tasks and don’t have much domain knowledge. I guess it all really goes back to being able to manage ourselves through self-discipline and self-directed learning.

5. Be Vulnerable: I know this sounds terribly contrary to the authority that most leaders seem to command, but truth is, leaders never stop learning either. Growth of any kind is rooted in the ability to adapt and not in rigidity. Vulnerability, isn’t a lack of confidence in one’s capabilities, it is the acceptance a new truth ever day and handling it with grace and dignity. It means being able to say, “I don’t know this — but I’ll learn,” or “that’s great feedback and I will act on it.”