Kill the elephant in the room
Nothing frustrates coworkers more than having their core area of expertise ignored, says Carbin. “Don’t try to convince someone that you have skills that you don’t have because people will sniff that out pretty quickly,” he says. Identifying a colleague as an expert and asking them to share their knowledge doesn’t undermine your authority. It shows confidence and encourages collaboration.
Allow people to choose what they’ll work on
Rather than assigning roles, ask team members what they want to work on. In most cases, colleagues will gravitate to the task that best fits their skills, plus they’ll be more vested in completing their assignments. If there’s undesirable task no one wants to take on, pair it with something more desirable and ask a colleague to take on both. If the task can be divided among members, such as taking notes during meetings, ask if everyone can take a turn. Keep in mind, though, that if your suggestions are turned you down, it may fall on you, as the group leader, to pick up the slack, she says.
Streamline meetings by researching best practices for achieving your goal ahead of time and bringing that information to the group, inviting others to add their own suggestions and ideas. This not only demonstrates leadership, but also saves time by providing team members with something specific to react to. “People are always more inclined to answer when they are asked a specific question,” she says.
Watch your body language
Nothing gives away your true feelings like body language. As the group’s leader, it’s up to you to set the tone and demonstrate a positive environment that welcomes everyone’s ideas and input. That means don’t roll your eyes, cross your arms or fidget when a colleague makes an unpopular suggestion. Thank them for their contribution and move on.
Give voice to differences
Recognize that not everyone will agree all the time. As a leader, you will need to hear out those differences and possibly make a tough decision about how to move forward. You might want to schedule a separate meeting or call with the disagreeing parties so you can hear them out without taking up the group’s time, Moser says. Just be transparent about it. The next time the group meets provide an update, explain the process you took and acknowledge that not everyone is in agreement but this is the direction the group needs to take to accomplish its goal. While your colleagues won’t need a rehash of the disagreement, they will want to know how the issue was resolved and that the resolution was based on the group’s shared goal, not your personal preferences, so quickly summarize your decision, how you came to it and move forward.
Be truthful, but tactful
The team won’t deliver a great product if members aren’t given an honest assessment of their work, so if someone’s work doesn’t meet expectations tell them in a truthful, yet tactful way. Point out where they are on the right track and then tell them what they need to rework and why, Moser says. Rather than just critiquing their work and saddling them a new deadline, offer to help by asking if they need additional resources or more time to complete the project.
Take ownership of mistakes
Regardless of whether you’re to blame, take ownership for the group’s mistakes, Moser says. Not only will it build trust, she says, but, when you take the blame yourself, it takes the power to blame you away from others.
Ask for feedback
This is an opportunity for you to learn from others, particularly the senior-level colleagues on your team. Ask all team members to offer feedback on how the project went as well as your management style, either anonymously through an online survey like SurveyMonkey or in a monthly one-on-one meeting, says Melissa Hook Shahbazian, an innovation coach and graphic facilitator at LIME.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you find yourself in a difficult position where the group is at an impasse and can’t move forward, you may have to ask senior leadership for help re-imaging the project or reassigning the team, Carbin says. “This will save you more time than just trying to push through and continue to knock heads,” he says. Organizational pressures to get something done quickly can lead to a mismatched team, he says. As the group’s leader, it’s up to you to let management know when that happens.
After your project is complete, don’t forget to evaluate how it went – who was helpful, who works together well, who contributed the most without being asked and how successful you were at motivating the team. This will help your manager determine who should work together on the next project and it might lead to a promotion, especially if you can show that your leadership skills helped the team to succeed.