Personal Development of Team Leaders – Building Personal Connect

Personal Development of Team Leaders – Building Personal Connect

Sridhar Rao

Management Coach & Business Mentor


While a few people are called “born leaders”, the reality for many management professionals is that, they need to consciously work towards their personal development as team leaders, to be truly effective and successful.

Organisational hierarchies provide for team leaders at multiple levels, each having the responsibility of driving the core objectives through their direct reports. The success as a delivering team leader is the key to the career growth of the management professional.

In order to achieve the objectives set by the organisation, the commonly understood key responsibilities of the team leaders include

– setting the vision and goals for the department they manage

– planning the strategy to achieve the goals

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– motivating and guiding the team members to deliver

– reviewing the results at periodic intervals and making changes

Motivating through Personal Connect

A very important part of the personal development of Team leaders, is the third ability – motivating and guiding the team.

Often this gets reduced to giving a pep talk at meetings, after having discussed out the way forward; and building bonhomie through post work activities.

But, despite these actions, not everyone in the team performs to their full capacity.

The fact is, every individual’s psychological makeup, at a given point of time, is different from others. Their core personalities, their personal life situations at that time, their recent workplace experiences; all of these define the effectiveness with which an individual team member will think and perform at a given time.

A key aspect of a team leader’s personal development is knowing how to understand each individual in the reporting team; and how to communicate with them personally, beyond  group communication. This helps fathom the stage of readiness each team member is in. This can only happen through a mindful personal connect with the concerned team member.

The personal connect effort helps the team leader to bring about change in the way each person contributes; by playing on their strengths and helping them overcome their limitations or inhibitions.

So how does a team leader, or an aspiring team leader, build the personal connect capability?

Personal Connect as a key skill

Personal connect is not just about getting to know a person’s background and interests. It includes an ability to have a conversation, where the leader can provide assistance in finding solutions. It is an ability that needs to be consciously built as a part of personal development of team leaders.

The personal connect ability helps in identifying the specific problem the team member is going through and a way forward from there. This helps both the individual and the organisation.

This conversation can be more effective with a professional touch- what is otherwise understood as counselling capability.

Let’s take some common scenarios that happen in organisations, where this  personal connect and counselling ability could help-

1. A first level executive does well at work and rises to become a team leader, designated as a Manager. After a while, the manager’s immediate superior finds that this manager’s team members don’t seem to be comfortable with him/her.

The superior, as a team leader of the manager, would be able to handle the situation and guide this manager more effectively, if he/she has the ability to connect with the subordinate with empathy; listen to his/her version; and probe deeper to find what’s coming in the way of the manager’s team management effort.

Likewise, the manager in turn, as a team leader, wouldn’t face dissatisfaction from the team, if he/she had the ability to build a personal connect with each direct report.

2. An executive in the manager’s team has the necessary training and skills to do the job well; but tends to underperform. The manager, in turn, if equipped with counselling skills, may be able to probe and understand what is holding the employee back. It could possibly be something which has nothing to do with work skills; but more to do with other personal problems.

3. A HR manager receives a complaint about an employee who has been misbehaving or underperforming, with the request to remove him from the team. To do a fair and effective job and save the organisation unnecessary  changes in teams, the HR manager, conversant with personal connect skills,  could help; by connecting with the employee, understanding the personal issues involved and guiding him/her towards bringing about change.

This counselling ability is a crucial part of the personal development of a team leader. It is becoming even more critical and imperative in today’s circumstances, where the entire working process and environment is taking a huge change.

Counselling Ability Personal Development of Team Leaders

Today, while doing their work in a remote mode, employees are often also battling issues at the family level; in terms of children’s schooling, health issues of family members, restrictions at social level etc. This impacts their performance at work.

Typically, team leaders, when attending to a subordinate facing a difficult situation, tend to focus on the needs of the organization, which is of course important. However that’s not enough.

Building counselling skills, as a part of personal development of team leaders, allows managers to focus on the team member’s well being as well, because it helps sort out the issue and bring focus back to his/her performance; eventually benefitting the organization.

Instead of putting the onus only on the top management and HR team to define and drive the workplace cultural and process changes at a broad level, each team leader could help in understanding what their team members are going through and define sensible and effective process changes; if they connect with team members with awareness and sensitivity.

The team leaders’ counselling abilities could also help spot more serious issues with employees at an early stage; and provide first level support before things get worse.

Counselling is a service which only fully trained professionals can provide. It involves active listening and communicating empathy, offering a non judgemental space, which allows the other person to vent out and clear his/her mind, in order to work more effectively and efficiently.

It will, however, be very useful for organisations, if personal development of team leaders includes some basic counselling skills that help build the personal connect with team members.

Sridhar Rao is a Management Coach and Mentor and is available for one to one sessions online as a part of the InfinumGrowth Coaching panel. Click to know more.

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