Five Reasons for Having a Written Team Norm


Team norms exist, whether you like it or not. Any team that works together develops a certain set of norms over time.

These organically developed norms, which are often unspoken, help team members know how to behave and interact with one another. While some norms help the team function more effectively, other norms might erode the team’s effectiveness.

One norm (which I liked) from several teams I worked with gives team members the freedom to voice out differing opinion, even if those opinions are contrary to the team leader’s opinion. One norm I often observe (and don’t like) is that of keeping quiet during meetings because “it’s not going to make any difference!”

As a team leader, if I could have a set of constructive team norms that help my team work more effectively together, and not have any norms that might negatively impact the team, I would have a better team. I would then have more time to lead and empower the team and spend less time dealing with misunderstandings and mismatch of expectations.

Continue reading “5 reasons for having a written team norm”

Three mindsets that prevent you from leading effectively


Leadership is not just about skills, it’s also about your mindset.

I learned about leadership, at least initially, mostly by observing leaders in real life and, sometimes, from novels, movies, or television shows. The qualities I observed resonated with me, and I told myself that I’d like to be an effective leader like those I have observed.

The problem, though, was that most of those leaders I sought to imitate often seemed perfect. Perhaps they were not actually perfect, but they do seem that way.

When I started leading teams, I began to realise that the leader I aspired to be is likely not attainable. Trying to live up to my image of leadership resulted in me feeling stressed out.

As I tried to lead and as I learned more about leadership, I realized that some of my mindsets and expectations were putting unnecessary pressure upon myself. Instead of helping me be a better leader, they actually prevented me from being effective; worse, they have a negative impact on my team!

During my training workshops, I often have participants telling me that, “I used to think I needed to <do something, think a certain way, or have a certain expectation>, but now I realised that I don’t have to be like that anymore, and I feel liberated!”

Like these workshop participants, we think that an effective leader has to think a certain way or behave a certain way.

Some of those mindsets or expectations might be true, but many are actually unhealthy. In fact, having certain mindsets or expectations can prevent us from leading effectively.

Continue reading “3 mindsets that prevent you from leading effectively”

Five Tips for an Effective Core Team


Leading a team is not an easy task; that is if you want to lead effectively!

A leader has many responsibilities: setting direction, formulating strategies, planning, aligning stakeholders, motivating, being a spokesperson, being a change agent, developing team members, etc. Unfortunately, we can’t do all of them well; even a super talented person has his limit.

Fortunately, we don’t have to do everything on our own.

One way to ensure all the leadership responsibilities are well taken care of is to have a smaller group within the team, a core team, who can share the load with you. Some might call this a leadership team, or an inner circle, but the idea is to have a smaller group of coworkers within the larger team to help you lead effectively. Their role is not just to share your leadership responsibilities, but also to keep you focused on what’s important.

As a team leader, I would always have a core team to help me lead well. When I was an Operations Director (many years ago) with more than 20 people on my team, I had a core team of three people (including myself) who helped ensure that the team functioned effectively. When I was overseeing my church’s youth ministry, I had a leadership team of eight senior members of the ministry, and from that eight I had a core team of four leaders. Even when I was leading a smaller team, I would usually have another person who would work with me more closely.

The size of the core team might vary, but I will always have a core team.

Having a core team is not an uncommon practice. Having an effective core team, though, requires some careful considerations.

Continue reading “5 Tips for an Effective Core Team”

Five Key Decisions You Need to Make about Your Team


The word “Team” means different things to different people.

When I work with team leaders and their teams, I often encounter different notions of what the “team” really is. One team leader may use the word to refer generally to everyone who works under him, while another might refer to a specific group of people.

Even within a team, each member might have a different understanding of what the “team” is; this might even be different from the team leader’s understanding!

One leader I worked with kept saying that his “team” was not working together, and as a result, he had to do most of the work. As we talked, it became clear that he had a very different idea of what the team is, compared with members of the “team”; in fact, some members of the “team” didn’t even know that there was a “team”!

Continue reading “5 key decisions you need to make about your team”

It affects how you lead!

The Most Important Decision of a Leader


Leadership involves making decisions.

Getting a team to move towards fulfilling its goals involve numerous decisions.

But right from the get-go, there is one important decision that a leader needs to make. This decision will shape the leader and the team in a profound way. It will affect how he or she leads, how the team interact with the leader, the culture of the team, etc.

When I first started leading a team, it took me no time to realise that my responsibilities go beyond just making sure that my team delivers. I was responsible for the team’s direction, plan, budget, tasks, morale, discipline, motivation, development, internal relationships, external relationships, etc.

I could not possibly do everything, even though I was responsible for them. My strengths and personality allow me to do certain things well but would struggle at other things. When I looked at other leaders, I begin to realise that leadership looks different on different people, and I can’t just copy what another leader does.

If I want to lead well, I need to make an important decision.

Continue reading “The Most Important Decision of a Leader”

It’s more important than you think!

Why Every Leader Should Have a Regular Reflection Time


Leaders are a busy lot of people.

We are responsible for getting our team (or organisation) to the goals and making sure the team accomplishes its mission. Apart from our primary objectives, we also have secondary responsibilities, like taking care of and motivating our team, among others.

Each day, many things demand our attention: not only those we’re primarily responsible for but sometimes those we are not directly responsible for. With so many things to deal with, we tend to be very busy most of the time; though some leaders actually wear “busyness” as a badge of honour!


The whirlwind!

I remember when I first became an Operations Director, many years ago, busyness became my best friend. From the moment I stepped into the office until the time to go home, I had to attend to many things. Most days I wondered where all my time went, and occasionally I wondered if all that I did were even necessary.

Even as recently as several months ago when I was running a short-term project, I found myself going from early morning till evening without having much time for a breather. It was as if one task just led to another, or many things all happened at once. The sequence of the day could become so blurred-out that I wondered, “What really happened today?”

If we are not careful, we get swept away by the whirlwind!

Continue reading “Why Every Leader Should Have a Regular Reflection Time”

An approach that increases your impact!

How to have a greater impact when advising someone


I love giving advice! When someone asks me for advice, I would jump at the opportunity to give my thoughts, because I love helping people! I believe you do, too.


My experience

In one of my previous roles as the Regional Technology Leader of an organisation, I worked with a guy who was responsible for the technology needs of our subsidiary organisation in his country. He wasn’t my direct report, so my role was advisory.

We met every month to talk about the needs of his organisation. He’d ask for my advice on how to handle different situations, and I’d give it; after all, I was more experienced than him.

After we’ve been meeting for about a year, I began to notice a pattern: he only followed 30% of all my advice!

I was bewildered! Most times he said my advice was good, and that he’d do them, yet a month later I found that either he didn’t or he chose to do something else.

No doubt, I was glad that he could figure out his own solutions. But it shocked me to realise that 70% of my advice was not useful!

Not all my advice were truly helpful to the person!


There has to be a better way

If I truly want to be helpful, I need a way to increase the usefulness of my advice; I want my advice to have a greater impact! Otherwise, I’m merely wasting each other’s time and effort by my not-so-useful advice.

What, then, could I do to increase the impact when advising someone?

(Note: I’m not talking about unsolicited advice here.)

Continue reading “How to have a greater impact when advising someone”

It starts with a shift in you!


During my conversations with leaders, one leadership topic keeps showing up. Specifically, how a leader could create an environment that encourages learning.

It’s not as simple as just providing training for your team. I know of many leaders who’d gladly send their staff for training; even providing time and funding for them. While emphasising training is good, that alone would not create an environment that encourages learning.

Continue reading “The Key to Creating an Environment that Encourages Learning”

It’s not that difficult, and you don’t have to do it alone!

Five Simple Ways to Motivate Your Team


One major challenge of all team leaders is to keep their teams motivated. A motivated team would not only give their best but also stay together longer.

I was privileged to be with highly-motivated teams and have led several ones too. But not all teams started out that way.

One team that I led was particularly challenging because they were already demoralised when I took over as the team leader!

To make matters worse, the team was responsible for some of the critical support functions of the organisation! They were performing what was required of them but were not enjoying their work; some were even negative or critical of the organisation. Anyone could sense the “gloom” atmosphere the moment they stepped into the office.

How would I motivate such a team?

Continue reading “5 simple ways to motivate your team”

It’s not about rewards!


It’s hard to have a good team. I’m not saying it’s rare; I’m saying it takes an effort to nurture and maintain one.

Some of us have been with teams where the leader is only interested in getting the job done; in which we’re mere tools for the leader to achieve his/her goals. Chances are, I would move on as soon as a good opportunity comes along.

Most leaders are not like that, I’m sure. We want our teams to feel belong, to have a sense of camaraderie, be committed to the team, possibly willing to die for the team; or maybe not, but willing to go several extra miles would be great!

Motivating a team takes effort. We already know that money is not a good motivator, and rewards tended to feel superficial. So what could leaders do?

It turns out, one of the simplest ways to motivate your team is to show them you value them!

Not just value their contributions, though that’s important. Value them as a person, for who they are!

There are many ways a leader could show his team he values them. Here are five simple ways that do not require lots of efforts, but would go a long way towards motivating your team.

Continue reading “5 simple ways to show your team you value them”