Let’s just get this out of the way and let me state that I adore my current team. Just this past weekend I attended one of my co-worker’s vow renewal with his wife of fifteen years and next to me sat my boss’ boss, The Director. Our team is like family, we joke with each other far more than we fight a 2400 x 3 ratio and that’s just within the last 6 months that I’ve been working with them.
The Director immediately stood out to me when he interviewed me. He used the word “family” and since then I’ve paid close attention to the way he directs the team, himself, and our role as a department within the company.
Our department’s name doesn’t explain what it is we do but we are a group of graphic designers, video producers, compositors, Ux designers, front-end developers, project managers, photographers, videographers, copywriters, animators, print designers, screenwriters, digital designers, and camera operators. We are a team of twelve, we each wear multiple hats, complimenting each other very well. At least two of us share a skill set: allowing us at least one other person to bounce ideas off of; at least one other person who knows, lives, and breathes our struggle; and at least one other person to be pinned up against you at some point in time to create a better design/project/etc. It is a collaborative and competitive environment and those we serve benefit from it.
Iron sharpens iron.
Let me reel it back in, I believe in the family approach when it comes to building a team and this is the first person that I’ve worked under that has built a team in this manner. I asked them how they do it, they say they go with their gut and then they hand them off to the rest of the family to get their take. This family can be intimidating. I know because I remember meeting them for the first time. So many people really comfortable with each other, like a family, that gets along with one another.
So how did the Director do it? I have no clue but I can speak to the way they have carried themselves and the way I believe anyone leading a team/department should carry themselves:
Be ethically transparent.
Be clear with your team about your ethics. How you handle situations and circumstances. Present your personal moral code so that they know who they are working under. The leader’s words and actions behind closed doors to other parts of the company affect the team they lead.
Be clear about what you feel is right and wrong. How you expect the rest of your team to carry themselves. Make it known that while they do represent the company outside of the company’s walls. They also represent that department outside of the confines of your department. In every meeting, on every project. Bring excellence.
Find a way to hire decent, ethical, honest, honorable, right-minded, genuine people and you yourself set an example as a person of such.
Have their back.
Maintain fairness amongst team members. Be impartial, putting aside personal connections. Don’t allow a family member to be screwed over, especially by another family member. If you’re ethically transparent about how you carry yourself and how you expect the team to carry themselves they shouldn’t think for a second that they can’t come to you to let you know what’s going on.
Mediate, maintain, deal with what’s going on by conforming to the truth, to the facts, and to reason. Back your family members should problems arise outside of your department.
Not everyone can be a part of your department, but they can be a part of the family. You can adopt. Show love, be inclusive. Spread the love not just within the family but also to other departments. When someone comes to you for help, bring them into the fold. Show them how you and yours work. How you get along with one another.
Make sure your team spreads the love as well. Be inclusive, not exclusive. So much that the strong affection and kinship of your team is known throughout the company not just for those within the department but also for those who wander in from other departments.
Create personal ties, spread the love.
Back up words with actions and actions with words. Remain steadfast in the goals you set as a leader and make sure your team does so too.
Form allegiances. Remain steadfast in the quality of work as a leader and as a team. Make the whole team aware of deadlines even if they aren’t a part of the project. This comes in handy when one member has too much on their plate and is at the risk of failing to meet a deadline. Step up, step in and help. This is why there is more than one person on the team with the same skill set.
Create a standard and make sure everyone is aware of it and stays true to it.
People should walk away feeling assured that what you and your team has promised to deliver will, in fact, be delivered.
Find a way to fill your team with dedicated people. Devoted to the mission of excellence, constantly delivering great work and effort, and being dependable.
Before you can ask or even have a team that is ethical and loyal. Before you can have a team that is known for being supportive and consistent. You, yourself as a leader must be so. Real recognizes real.
You won’t be able to recognize anyone with these traits unless you yourself possess them. You won’t be able to keep from hiring those with opposing traits either.
Naturally, people tend to gravitate towards those like them, they also tend to lead those who are like them or remind them of a younger/less developed/less mature version of themselves. So it stands to reason that you will hire those who share your qualities and core functions and beliefs.