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Henley Leadership Group Blog

Five Ways To Lead A Group To Greatness


Previously published on Forbes.com

Warren Bennis said, “There are groups, and then Great Groups that come together and accomplish the extraordinary.” Leading a Great Group takes five elements of collaboration:

1. Stay connected to a compelling purpose. The purpose reminds people of the bigger aspiration they’re part of. Teams flounder when members are unsure why they’re doing what they’re doing or how it fits into the larger scheme of things. When well-crafted, a compelling purpose has a powerful and irresistible effect. Team members feel like they are on a mission, so they’re driven to put their talent and creativity into the tasks at hand. Leaders of Great Groups remind team members of why, and for what, they are giving their time and energy.

2. Cultivate a culture of trust and respect. Co-workers don’t have to like each other to work together, but they must trust and respect each other. Cultivating trust and respect begins with hiring talented people and putting the right person in the right job. When the person and the task are well matched, great things happen. Sometimes, this requires tackling the tough stuff—addressing underperformance or disruptive behavior. Great team leaders devote much time to cultivating trust, creating a culture where conflicts can be resolved in healthy ways.

3. Increase competence in three dimensions—emotional, physical and intellectual.

  • Emotional Competence is about increased self-awareness, authenticity, empathy, motivation and social skill. It’s what enables people to handle impulses and emotions well and choose how to act and react.
  • Physical Competence is about paying attention to physical well-being and encouraging those you work with to do the same. If you’re tired, worn out, or stressed, you can’t contribute or collaborate. Physical energy helps people manage their emotions, sustain concentration, think creatively and maintain focus on a shared purpose.
  • Intellectual Competence isn’t just about being smart and having skills. It’s about bringing our best thinking to a project. The team must think and work creatively and collaboratively, engage in shared problem-solving, sustain focus, maintain optimism and access both the left and the right brain, taking in sensory data (sight, smell, taste, touch, sound, and feelings) without boundaries. This is what opens up possibilities. Because there is no association to the past or the future, people can think big thoughts.

4. Persevere in the face of breakdown and failure. As difficult as failure is, it is inevitable for teams that are stretching and growing and trying to make a difference. How that failure is dealt with speaks to how successful a team will be in reaching its goals, as well as its ability to cultivate a Great Group.

Failure suggests that we must try another way. At the moment of failure, we gain access to new levels of creativity. This is why, when faced with a setback, Great Groups lift themselves up, get back on track and keep going. They fail fast. And they don’t dwell on the failure except as something to learn from. They stay focused on fulfilling their compelling purpose and venture into the unknown, learning along the way.

Leaders who acknowledge failure, look past it without trying to lay blame, and choose to learn from it gain a powerful relationship to failure. As Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

5. Engage the power of appreciation. Bennis notes, “Appreciation makes everyone feel that they’re at the heart of things, that they matter. Then, people feel they are making a difference.” Most people leave their jobs because they feel under-appreciated. Appreciation is a powerful tool for cultivating Great Groups—and it doesn’t cost you a cent!

These five elements take practice, contemplation and consideration. I invite you to practice just one element. Try something new, seek feedback, and expand your skill. This is how you become a leader of a Great Group.