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4 Ways to Be a Stronger, More Confident Team Leader

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Every day, people come together naturally to get things done. Like when a group of friends plans a vacation or coworkers collaborate to exhibit at a conference. 

Teams also form more formally, like when team leaders assign employees to new units as part of a company restructuring. Those teams must work together to do things like run company operations, launch new products, or execute marketing campaigns. 

In any situation, whether those teams succeed depends on how they’re led, especially through change.

“Change can be very anxiety-producing, and it can be very taxing on people professionally and personally,” career non-profit leader Kaomi Taylor Mitchell said.

“Having a quiver full of skills and knowledge that helps you understand teams and foresee and preclude some of the difficulties that might come up is a huge boon to your career, personal life, and sanity. It just really helps once you understand you’re not navigating through complete chaos.”

Kaomi Taylor Mitchell, Instructor Leading Effective Teams

Taylor Mitchell has over 20 years of experience in the non-profit and business world, helping leaders manage effective growth and change through consultant and staff roles and working with businesses like the Governor’s Institute of Vermont, a national health advocacy organization, and colleges and universities. 

Leading Effective Teams instructor Kaomi Taylor Mitchell
Kaomi Taylor Mitchell Instructor Leading Effective Teams

She is also the instructor of Leading Effective Teams, a 4-week online course from UVM Professional and Continuing Education designed to create more confident team leaders. Taylor Mitchell says the course creates stronger team leaders professionally and in every aspect of their lives. 

Here are four tips from the Leading Effective Teams course curriculum that can help you become a better team leader.

Get to Know Tuckman’s Stages of Group Development

Tuckman’s stages of group development are a research-based model for how groups form that every good team leader should be familiar with. The four basic stages are forming, storming, norming, and performing. Taylor Mitchell says recognizing the stages allows leaders to anticipate and move past potential hurdles.

  1. In the forming stage, everything is new. There are no established ways of working. The roadblock is how to move things forward and interact with people. In this stage, leaders should focus on team building and interaction. 
  2. In the storming stage (for brainstorming), ideas are plentiful. The key here is to capture that energy, excitement, and readiness. Taylor Mitchell says, “Leave room for creativity and energy, and create a safe space that norms that performance level and excitement.”
  3. The next stage is norming, where you create structures that will work for the group. This includes processes and ways of working. 
  4. Finally comes the performing stage. In this stage, the group effectively works together to accomplish their goals. This doesn’t mean you can sit back on your heels as a leader, though, Taylor Mitchell says.

“You won’t always stay in performing. Somebody will leave, something will happen in someone’s life, a new challenge will come up, or a change will happen, and it will throw you back to one of the other stages,” Taylor Mitchell said. “It’s not a stable thing. But, what you can do once you understand this framework is really look at where you are, and go okay, ‘What were the habits in skills I used in this stage that helped move us forward into the more productive stages?’”

Taylor Mitchell says research has uncovered additional stages beyond the primary four, including an adjourning and mourning stage when a group ends. She covers these in detail in the Leading Effective Teams course.  

“When a group is coming to an end, that throws all sorts of emotions into the works. It also may throw some real logistical changes into the mix,” Taylor Mitchell said. “If you have a performing team and know you’re stopping in three months, it can change the dynamics. It can help you understand why a team that has been performing together for four years is now having drama – there may be some grieving and some checking out happening.”

Understand Personality Types

From Gallup Strengths to the DiSC model to Myers-Briggs, you can utilize many types of personality tests with your team. They not only help employees understand their preferred working style but also help you decide on how to form effective teams and understand the lay of the land in your organization. 

“To know who is in the boat with you so that you know you can count on the person on the left-hand side to paddle really strong if there’s a problem, and maybe, on the other hand, you have somebody who’s going to get a little frightened in case of a problem. So, you’ll factor that in when you are charting your course,” Taylor Mitchell said.

Pace Changes Mindfully

As a new leader, it can be tempting to make sweeping changes immediately. Yet, in many cases, this approach doesn’t work. 

“Most of us that like change and improvement, at some point in our career, have walked into a workplace and completely failed at trying to change it,” Taylor Mitchell said.

She says a good team leader can decipher between high-priority changes that need to happen immediately and changes they would love to make but need to put aside because they are not worth the consequences of that change on company culture and morale. 

“Being able to foresee the possibilities if you change something in the system. Understanding the scope of changes you’re making and the unintended consequences you may be setting off are valuable management skills that we talk about in this class.”

Kaomi Taylor Mitchell, Instructor Leading Effective Teams

Accept That Conflict is Inevitable

A good team leader knows conflict can’t be avoided and how to strategically choose their conflicts.

“Anytime you have people together, some sort of conflict is bound to come up at some point,” Taylor Mitchel said. “If not, you don’t have the highest-performing team; you have people that are sort of rubber-stamping things. Conflict is inevitably going to arise. Your goal is to choose your conflicts.”

Become a More Effective Team Leader in Four Weeks

If you’re interested in learning the tools required to put these tips into practice and become an effective team leader, the Leading Effective Teams course can help you become a stronger leader in just four weeks. 

Each week begins with a live video session. Between sessions, students review course materials, complete independent assignments, and contribute towards team assignments. At the final live video session, each team will present a short research project they have completed and then debrief on their experiences as members/leaders of class teams.

All so you can get where you’re trying to go in every aspect of your life. 

“I hope this course helps students reach their dreams, whatever their dreams are. We have groups in every aspect of our lives, not just in the workplace, but our families are groups, and our hobbies happen in groups,” Taylor Mitchell said. “These are not skills that are limited to the workplace. They can really impact how you interact everywhere, and your success everywhere in your world.”

Join the next session of Leading Effective Teams.