“Karin, our team is growing. Fast! How do I lead well now?”
“Leading was easy when our team was small, but now our team is growing. What do I do now?”
“How do I scale my leadership influence as my team size grows?”
How to Keep Leading Well as Your Team is Growing
Here are a few tips that can help you continue to lead well as your team is growing,
1. Translate your leadership vision to tactical, measurable behaviors.
If you want to scale your leadership, you’ll want to ensure that employees at every level understand what success looks like in their role, but also the daily behaviors needed to make it happen.
For example, something as simple as “hold regular one-on-one meetings,” can be open to a wide range of interpretations. What does “regular” mean? What happens in those one-on-ones?
Or, suppose “We are highly responsive to our customers” is vital to your vision. What does that mean for your managers and front-line employees? Does responsive mean you return the call within one hour, or 24? How do you balance responsiveness with productivity? How do you distinguish the truly urgent and important from the noise? What do you do with a chronic complainer?
Playing through these scenarios helps to make your vision real, and makes it easier for your team to provide a consistent experience no matter who is watching.
2. Teach your team how to think.
It may seem like they’re leading well, but they may just be following your lead. As your team is growing resist the urge to solve problems FOR them and teach them how to think.
Our “9 What Coaching methodology” can be really helpful as you do this. Try it with your direct reports and then teach them how to
3. Build a highly integrated communication plan.
In the great maternity leave debacle, my biggest mistake was that I was at the center of all the communication.
Instead of attending skip-level meetings to SUPPORT my team leader’s messages and approach, I brought the message and worked to build trust WITH ME. I answered all their tough questions, as opposed to preparing my team managers to do so.
When I stepped away, my managers did not have the experience, skills, or courage to step into that role (see also How to Be a More Courageous Manager).
I’ve learned that to scale your leadership, one of the best approaches is to ensure that every manager on the team has a closely aligned and integrated 5×5 communication plan.
Of course, as the leader, you want to be a highly visible communicator. Even better when your direct reports are all amplifying and supporting your messages with their own 5×5 plan.
4. Build an infrastructure for courage and innovation.
One of the real joys and benefits of having a large team is all the hearts and minds you include as you work to improve the business.
To lead well as your team is growing you will want to build a deliberate approach to asking for and responding to ideas (note: sharing this article with your team can help).
5. Find, develop and encourage informal influencers.
In addition to your direct report team, if you want to build your influence as your team is growing, seek out (and build relationships with) the informal opinion leaders and change agents on your team.
As my teams got larger and larger, I found this was absolutely vital to creating buy-in for our change efforts.
For example, when I was leading a 2000 person sales team, we consistently held operational excellence rallies where our highest performers were not only recognized for their contributions, but also served as teachers of best practices.
We also pulled a dozen front-line sales reps out of their day jobs and turned them into change agents for our key strategic initiatives. This worked like magic because they were well-respected, fun, and less intimidating than those of us with bigger position power. Their fellow reps could be real with them about their challenges and concerns, and then they could roll up their sleeves together to try out the new desired behaviors.
Each year, I also led a skip-level mentoring circle of high-potential store managers where we worked on real business challenges together.
When we needed to make a change, communicate a new priority or gather candid feedback, I had a whole network of trusted relationships beyond my direct report team to help quickly engage with the larger team.
Not only was this a great way to scale my leadership as my team was growing, but also enabled me to grow leadership bench strength at a very deep level.
Your turn. What advice do you have for someone whose team is growing fast?