Teams change all the time. People come and go, and organisations go through re-structures. We onboard, manage, lead and let go. But what do you do when your team grows bigger?
Does it require a different skill?
I got inspired by Julie Zhou, VP of Design and Facebook, who published this HBR article and it reminded me of my time as a team leader in Hong Kong.
I moved to Hong Kong in 2010 to help a serviced office start-up grow across Asia Pacific. When I started, I had a team of 6 salespeople. We met every day to talk through our prospects and sales pipelines, and I focussed my time on helping them close deals, build strong pipelines and keep them motivated.
Within a year, the team more than doubled. It became more and more difficult to spend ample quality one-on-one time with each team member.
I had to change the way I led the team and adapt my leadership style.
I still made sure I knew all my team members personally and had regular update meetings and social gatherings with them, but I had moved from being directive to orchestrating.
In 2013 I was accredited as an organisational coach. I took this course as I knew that coaching would help me empower and develop my team. I didn’t even necessarily want to become a coach; I just loved the approach.
I also became a DISC accredited trainer at the same time. I loved the power DISC had as a tool for me and my team.
Little did I know that I was adopting ‘Leader as Coach Skills’, using a coaching approach to lead and manage people.
As the leader of a growing team, I used DISC to continue to know and understand each individual personally. It helped me adapt my communication and coaching approach to suit them, and engage with them on a personal level, even though my role had changed.
For my team, I was able to debrief DISC reports using my coaching skills and empower them to step up. It helped them understand their own behavioural style, and the style of each other. It meant they could communicate more effectively, and the senior salespeople were better coaches and trainers for their junior colleagues.
I already believed in my team; but as I coached them and used DISC as a trusted tool, I saw them engage with each other better. There was a shift in support, collaboration and productive conflict. They also learned people reading skills through the process which helped them to adapt to clients and improve their sales conversations too.
The question is, did it work? Using a Leader as Coach approach, with DISC as a key tool, we became the fasted growing serviced offices company in Asia, and hit our sales targets year on year.
Today I work with leaders, HR and L&D professionals, coaches and consultants to teach them these skills. And I get to bring the power of emotional intelligence into the mix with DISC Flow.
Of course, coaching and DISC are not the only skills or tools you require as a leader; but they play a fundamental role in developing the soft skills that matter when you are leading a growing team.
Like Julie Zhuo says:
"At higher levels of management, the job starts to converge regardless of background. Success becomes more about mastering a few key skills: hiring exceptional leaders, building self-reliant teams, establishing a clear vision, and communicating well. People who master those skills will be well-equipped to lead teams of any size."