Make Your Team The Best They Can Be

You are the leader, so it your responsibility to grow and develop your team. It is your responsibility to help them become the best person they can be, and want to be. Look at it as a privilege, not a job, or a chore.

We discussed earlier that as highly effective leaders, we should focus most of our time and energy on our best performers, not on our poor performers. The reason for that was so we can increase our influence with them. They will then multiply our influence through increasing their own influence with the team.

But, we still have our poor performers and we need to spend some of our time, and energy on them. It will only be a small amount, so we need to ensure we don’t waste that time.

1. How Do You Spend Time With Poor Performers?

I see my poor performers on my team as the weakest links. If you think of a chain, if there is a weak link in the chain then it is going to break. I think of my teams in exactly the same way. If there is a weak link in my team, then the team are not going to perform to their best as a team.

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We won’t achieve the results that we are capable of achieving because of the weak link. In some teams, the weakest link is the leader. I know that is not you in your team, because you are taking serious action by reading this and my other posts.

A highly effective leader will know who their weak links are, and they will develop them to increase the strength of that link in the chain, or in the team. A low performing leader will not even contemplate developing them, because they don’t think it will do any good for them.

They won’t even make the choice of developing themselves. So, it is actually them who are the weakest link in the team. If they are not willing to grow and develop themselves, why would they be willing to grow and develop their team?

With low performing leaders, because they won’t develop their weakest links, they will replace them. They blame the weakest links rather than look within themselves, and see if they need to change or develop first.

They will not accept the responsibility for the team. They will not accept the responsibility that it is up to them to encourage, empower and engage with the weak links. Not replace them after blaming them.

2. Form Your Own Opinions

There was a couple of occasions when I inherited teams as their new line manager, and my boss would advise me on who to watch out for.

So, I felt like I was on the back foot from the beginning, because I was focussing most of my time on the so called “weak links.” After a few days, I ignored the advice of my boss, and decided I would make my own opinions on the team I was going to lead.

So, I would set up one to one’s with every member of the team to get to know them a little, and I treated every team member equally. I had the same belief in everyone. The advice I was given previously would not influence my opinion on the team whatsoever.

Then, following my one to one’s, the team actually performed well. This was a surprise to my boss, and the results we were seeing. Work was getting completed on time, and everyone seemed a lot happier. As I say, I believed in them equally, and they could feel that from me (as we discussed earlier).

If I had listened to my boss’s advice, and treated his weak links as my weak links, then I would have just told them what to do. However, I wouldn’t have expected a lot from them, which is a very bad way to start with a new team. My advice to you is believe in your team equally, don’t listen to anyone else’s advice on your team. Make your own opinions.

3. Help Your Weak Links

I have no doubt that there is at least one weak link on your team, and you may have had a difficult time recently trying to motivate them. But, as you are reading my posts, you now have lots of leadership principles that you can apply, and will help you with your weak link.

Make a fresh start with them, and take action on what you have learned. Build trust with them again, build on your relationship with them, and influence them. Use your influence to help them connect with other members of the team, and the organisation.

When you go back to your team, apply the leadership principles and focus on your top performers. When you do focus on your top performers, and increase your influence with them, they will help the weak links. They will increase their won influence and therefore multiply yours.

As you become a better leader, the team will become a better team, and that includes everybody. If you grow and develop your entire team, you will be in a better position to influence the weak links to grow and develop too.

You are responsible for the whole team. It is up to you to make this happen, so go and do it. Believe in every single one of them equally, and influence your team positively.

4. Avoid The Blame Game With your Team

When I worked on Scotland’s railway in Edinburgh as an engineering production manager in 2011, I was part of a 5 man rotating shift team. I worked there for two years and I was the newest member of the team. It was a very tough job, especially at the beginning.

But, after a few months of settling in, and getting to know everyone, I really got the hang of it. I made some great changes with the manager’s in-process checks. We became more visible to the teams, and we got out of the comfortable offices to talk to people. We gave a lot more help to the teams with any issues they had.

However, after about 18 months of working as an engineering production manager, the performance of the trains was decreasing. My boss was very aggressive and he instantly blamed our team of production managers.

So did everybody else on the depot. To defend ourselves, we blamed the performance teams and the engineering department for not maintaining the trains properly. It just became a finger pointing exercise.

In the end, the depot manager was “told” by the engineering director that he had to do something about it. So, he blamed my team, and ultimately my team blamed me. Not because I was the weakest link, but because I was the newest member. Which they saw as a weakness on my behalf, so they made me the weak link.

My own team made the decision for the depot manager, so on my first day back (it was a Monday morning) he called me into his office.

He asked me questions like: “How do you think you have performed since starting with us?” “Have you been having any problems at home?” “Do you think you’re as good as the other guys?” “I brought you here to change things and you haven’t.”

I was shocked at what he was saying to me, but I answered honestly and said “I have been doing my very best.” “I don’t have any problems at home, because I live on my own.” “I know I am as good as the other guys, and I strive to get better every day.” “I have changed things, I have made a massive improvement on the in-process checks.”

The depot manager was a very low performing leader, so all he could see was negativity. He only listened to the things that were going wrong. He could only see the people who were making mistakes and the weakest links. He could not see any of the good work that the whole team, and I were doing.

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He told me “Your best Tom has not been good enough for me.” “I need to move you out of the production management team.” When he said that I just wanted to burst out crying. I couldn’t believe what he was saying.

He didn’t consider growing or developing me to get better, he did not consider growing or developing the rest of the team either. He just replaced me.

I moved into the performance team and after 6 months I moved over to Glasgow in a different team and took up a leadership role again. Then, after about the same amount of time, that same depot manager was replaced by a younger model. So, the business actually saw him as the weak link in the Edinburgh depot, not anyone else.

To become a highly effective leader, you must take responsibility for your team. But, you must also take responsibility for yourself and you must be able to grow, develop, and control yourself. If you can do that you are on the right path to becoming a highly effective leader.

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

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All the best,

Tom (Lead, Grow, Influence)

20 thoughts on “Make Your Team The Best They Can Be

  1. Really, really, really interesting post. I loved it.

    I’ll probably have the responsability of a business in a couple of months and your post about leadership is a great message telling me what to do and not do.

    Leadership is about growth and improvement. If you cannot apply these 2 concepts and only think of “replacement”, it can hardly go forward.

    Leadership is also not an easy thing and not given to everyone. Some people will be very good at it, others will never be able to understand how to properly behave.

    I booked mark your post so that I can refer to it once I’ll be in charge of a team.

    Thanks a lot!

    Audrey

    1. Hi Audrey,

      Thank you for your comment. Really pleased you found the post valuable.

      You are spot on that leadership is about growth, improvement, and it is definitely not easy. That is why not everyone can do it, or has the courage to do it right.

      I really wish you well when you begin to start leading people and I know you will have the courage to do the right things by your people.

      If you need any further advice or help then do not hesitate to get in touch.

      Keep returning and keep engaging.

      All the best,

      Tom

  2. You gave a lot of quality advise for all who listen. The mistake a lot of new leaders have is believing they are the boss and everyone most listen. After 27 years in the military I have seen more bosses then leaders. Every worker has potential, it’s the job of the leader to find it. Great article.

    1. Hi Rick,

      Thank you for your comment. Really pleased you found the post helpful.

      27 years in the military is a great service for your country, well done. Seeing more bosses than leaders is the wrong way around however.

      We need to start seeing more leaders than bosses in all walks of life if we are going to make our people and our teams the best people they can be, and get the best for them.

      Keep engaging and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need any further help.

      All the best,

      Tom

  3. Hi Tom, another great article. A great addition to your last article, about the time consumed with the right people in a company. This one opens my eyes even more. I’m working hard every day to make my own company and to assemble a group of people. Reading your articles gives me another perspective. Leadership is not a simple job, but there are ways to learn and grow. One of the ways is simply by reading your posts.

    Best regards
    Srdjan

    1. Hi Srdjan,

      Thank you for another comment. Again I am so pleased that you come back and found my post valuable.

      I’m touched that my articles are helping you. If you need any further help with setting up and assembling your team then don’t hesitate to ask me anything.

      All the best,

      Tom

  4. Awesome post Tom! I love anything to do with leadership so I found this fascinating. I don’t have a ton of leadership experience, but I’m looking to get a lot more so this has been helpful for me. A leadership book I read a while back talked about dealing with weak links and suggested that you actually give them some task or job to make them feel more involved and on the flip-side, it puts the blame on them if something goes wrong or gives them the praise if something goes right. I’ve seen this help a lot with negative/weak links. Not sure if you’ve seen it work before. Thanks so much for sharing this great information!

    1. Hi Dan,

      Thank you for your comment. Really pleased you found the article valuable.

      I have seen the poorer performers in some teams I was part of be blamed for things that go wrong. When you have a low performing leader, blaming the weaker team members is a good “get out clause” for them. Then they rely on their own leaders to do something about it, rather then do something about it themselves, and help the weaker team members.

      Keep learning every day about leadership, and keep returning and engaging with me on here.

      All the best,

      Tom

  5. Thanks so much for this post. One hears a lot about leadership, but finding the right sources on how to actually implement leaderships skills can be difficult. This was a very useful and enlightening post! I hadn’t ever thought about first investing in the stronger team members before the “weaker links”. Thank you for your insight!

    1. Hi Kayla,

      Thank you for your comment. Really pleased you found it insightful.

      It isn’t the norm to focus on the stronger team members, as most leaders will try to improve/change the weaker team members. That is just the way it has been for years. However, switching it up and focussing on the stronger team members is the best way you can increase your influence, through them, and bring on your poor performers.

      Try it out, and let me know how you find it.

      All the best,

      Tom

  6. Thank you so much for your post! I hadn’t ever thought about investing in the stronger team members before the “weaker links” before, but that truly would seem to make a huge difference. This post was very enlightening and really helpful! Thank you!

    1. Hi Kayla,

      Thank you for your comment. Really pleased you found it enlightening.

      Let me know how you go when focussing on your stronger team members, and if you need any further help or advice then don’t hesitate to ask.

      All the best,

      Tom

  7. I have this chart of differences between managers and leaders

    The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.

    The manager administers; the leader innovates.

    The manager maintains; the leader develops.

    The manager accepts reality; the leader investigates it.

    The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.

    The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.

    The manager has a short range view; the manager has a long – range perspective.

    The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.

    The manager has his eye always on the bottom line; the leader has his eyes on the horizon.

    The manager imitates; the leader originates.

    The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.

    The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his own person.

    The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.

    I ran across this one day and I liked it. Because being an effective leader we need to be equal with our teams members and have one on ones.like you mentioned great information you have shared. Thank you.

  8. Hi Tom,

    I found this article very informative.

    The bit about the ‘blame game’ never solving anything is particularly good, in my opinion.

    Do you ever use the Meyer-Briggs personality test when you are developing your own opinions about the team members?

    I had a manager get us to write one before, and I thought it was very helpful.

    Food for thought.

    Some great stuff in here. Thanks again!

    1. Hi Michael,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased you found the article informative.

      I have never used Meyer Briggs personality test, I just develop my own opinions from my own observations. Can you tell me more about this personality test?

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  9. An interesting post Tom and from an interesting perspective as well.

    There can be a little bit of a double edge sword quandary when it comes to putting energy into developing the weak links as opposed to cutting your losses, replacing them and moving forward. I definitely agree that the buck stops with you (the leader) so its your own responsibility to identify, support and grow ALL of the team members. We are only as fast as our slowest runner as they say.

    I think there is also a big challenge with self awareness as a leader and trying to be better as an individual as well as a team member and leader. It can be a thankless job sometimes but when it all comes together the rewards can also be pretty sweet.

    All the best.

    1. Hi Jason,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really happy that you found the article interesting.

      I totally agree that there is a big challenge for leaders when it comes to self awareness, I talk about self awareness quite a lot.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  10. Hi Tom,

    Really inspirational post here, and I’m sure it’s something that we’ve all experienced in the past. I can be a hard one to tackle without causing turbulence, but with the techniques that you mentioned above, I feel that if I ever encountered such a situation again, I’d be better able to handle it.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Hi Sharon,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased you found the article inspirational.

      I appreciate your honesty. If you are a hard one to tackle and you know this, then it is up to you to work on yourself to change that for the good of yourself and for others. If you need help with this then please don’t hesitate to contact me.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

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