Editor's Insights: Leveraging Your Team's Talent Abilities

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A New Era of Leadership Communication

Studies at institutions such as Harvard Business School argue that effective leadership is taking a different direction. For example, HBS scholar Boris Groysberg argues that effective communication no longer revolves around brilliant speeches and heroic exhortations. Groysberg and co-author Michael Slind suggest in their 2012 book "Talk Inc." that high-level leaders must focus on engaging others in conversations, rather than trying to shout them into submission.

An article by George Anders of Forbes Magazine suggests a few ways leaders may increase their effectiveness via communication. For example, bringing the company vision to life. Anders cites Jeff Bezos, who insists that Amazon.com is "the most customer-centric company in the world." While this is a nice sentiment, Bezos every company decision truly embodies this vision. For example, he vetoes ads that mock customer, insists that mid-level meetings include someone to serve as a customer advocate and watch out for any moves that might undermine customers’ interests. And, according to Anders, when Amazon reorganizes departments, it is always justified as a way of serving the customer better.

How can this example serve you as a leader? How can you bring this communication style into your organization? Anders suggests you salute other employee actions that reinforce your company’s vision-- and don’t be afraid to call out conduct that goes against it. You can help reinforce these principles into your employees’ thought patterns by referencing key values as often as possible when company decisions are being made.
Making the Most of Collective Team Capabilities

Speaking of decisions, most important business initiatives are tackled by teams, not individuals. But the truth is, not everyone is a "team-player." In fact, many people despise being part of a team, or at least have some major gripes with certain aspects of the team process. As leaders, it is our job to make sure that this is not causing our company to miss out on maximizing the teams’ potential and missing out on the ideas we are investing in our teams to come up with in the first place.

An interview with Pixar cofounder Ed Catmull discusses the company’s strategy for empowering teams to achieve the extraordinary.

"Catmull and his fellow executives give directors tremendous authority. At other studios, corporate executives micromanage by keeping tight control over production budgets and inserting themselves into creative decisions. Not at Pixar. Senior management sets budgetary and timeline boundaries for a production and then leave the director and his team alone."

An article by Dr. Marla Gottschalk, Industrial & Organizational Psychologist, shares some guidelines to help teams function more efficiently.

First, share ideas sooner. Let the team members know that ideas must not be "perfect" before being brought to the rest of the group. This gives other team players the opportunity to help refine the idea and develop it fully. Secondly, make an attempt to give up emotional attachment to your own ideas. Of course you must stay involved and oversee as a leader, but let the team work it out for the most part in order to allow the members to maximize their potential collaboration.

Finally, Gottschalk suggests "nurturing a different perspective." Combine several ideas to and you may end up with a a novel product or process. "Explore combinations that might offer unique capabilities."

When business seems to be going smoothly and everything is status quo, it's an unlikely time to question or worry if we are getting the most out of our organizations, teams, and individual employees. Employing different leadership communication strategies will help ensure that your are tapping into your organization's collective genius.