In my post last week, I concluded that the key to being a good coach is:

1)   Having a clearly articulated plan
2)   Getting full “buy in” from your team

In response, Keith Petri asked: “I would love to hear your strategy to achieve the respect and trust of your players.”

Although I’m certainly no expert here, I’ll give my opinion in this week’s post.

When working on a team, I always make one fundamental assumption: every member of the team wants to be a productive and successful part of the team.  They want to develop expertise, they want to add value, and they want to be appreciated.  Many studies (including this one I quickly found online) have shown that “appreciation” and “being valued” are more important to employees than “compensation.”  Logically then, I would argue the best way to achieve the respect and trust of your team is to help them each personally succeed and add value to the company.  Really, it’s a win-win.

Some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten about leading a team I received from a mentor and former boss, Brandon Atkinson.  He taught me to look at the job of a leader like that of a community organizer.  According to Brandon, the job of a community organizer is to go into really struggling neighborhoods, travel door to door, and find people to help you make things better.  At first you’re just looking for volunteers, and you, as the community organizer, lead the team.  As you recruit more people and grow the team, you help some of the volunteers step up and take on more responsibility.  You develop a structure to the organization and implement processes.  You train the organization on how to set goals, track progress, and achieve results.  Then, as a final step, you promote someone from within the organization to take over your role as leader and you go to a different neighborhood to start over.

In the end, there are really two ways to lead a team.  You can maintain central control and continually cement yourself as an integral part of the organization, making every decision, and approving every move – or you can use your role as leader to empower others, build leaders, and shift responsibility outward.

So, my answer to Keith in regards to earning the trust and respect of your team: give them room to grow, allow them to become experts and leaders, and when the time is right, let them take over your role.  It’s true that leading a team in this way could put you out of a job, but it’s guaranteed to lead to a more loyal, happier team – and on top of that, you get to take a lot more vacations.

Leading Like a Community Organizer
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  • Andrew, thanks for expanding on your thoughts on building a team, establishing trust and respect, and ensuring full “buy-in.” I definitely agree that enabling members to personally succeed and add value to the company as a whole is a must. Plus, what better way than to empower employees to grow from the bottom up – eventually making your job obsolete. I could certainly use a few more vacations… Or just one!

    Your notes on building leaders and shifting responsibility made me think of some tactics I have previously discussed on establishing a new business. I think you might enjoy the thoughts shared by Michael E. Gerber in “The E. Myth” –

    http://keithpetri.com/2012/12/02/binders-full-of-procedures/