Second Lesson in Leadership: Support

How can we provide support to our teams? Do we encourage the team members to support one another? It might be useful to take some time to reflect on your own leadership skills.

Think about the best leaders you’ve met in your life. What kind of characteristics do you find on them in order to make them special? Were they Intelligent? Passionate? Strict? Empathetic? Supportive? Some of the key words possibly came to mind when you built the images of these incredible forces in your world. In order to be a great leader, there are many interpersonal skills that one must acquire. It takes far more than a grand vision and a microphone to lead teams to achieving their goals—it takes the ability to see what individuals truly need to be successful. In many cases, providing support will be paramount.

What does it mean to truly provide support? Is it taking an employee out for lunch to talk about their emotional state? Is it hiring an assistant for an executive to help ease burdens and execute tasks? Is it backing up a team member with a difficult client? The truth is that support can take shape in all of those forms and many more. In a recent article from the Huffington Post titled “Essential Elements of Effective Leadership” by esteemed educator Eric Sheninger, he writes, “Support comes in many forms – financial, time, and professional learning opportunities… Support begins with adopting a ‘no-excuse’ attitude and the resilience to always seek out solutions to the many problems that arise.

In Kevin Eikenberry’s article, “Six Ways Leaders Can Support Team Success,” he makes an incredibly important point when it comes to empowering employees to take care of themselves and one another. As Eikenberry states, “Since [we] know that confidence and a positive attitude and energy will improve individual (and team) results, it is important that you not only do this, but help people do the same for each other. Creating this upward spiral of support and encouragement will grow your team’s results as fast as almost any other thing, and it starts with you.”

So how do we empower our employees to create a more supportive environment? Start by cutting the gossip, venting and negativity. There is a common misconception that people need to vent and “talk it out,” when most often, they are simply looking for validation of their frustrations. There has been much research to support that this breeds hostility, negativity, and is not conducive for building a supportive team. Encourage employees to communicate directly with one another as opposed to airing their feelings with others. This makes it easier to cut down on miscommunications and helps them build trust. When a team trusts one another they are more invested in their roles and more likely to provide support or a listening ear to a co-worker in need, easing both your need to provide constant support as the leader and their need for it.

There are many ways to provide support for those in your organization. Take time to experiment—see what your employees need and what you can effectively deliver.