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nfluential Leader: Why It is Important to Know Your Team

Layne McDonald. Ph.D.

As a leader, your job is to achieve a goal or reach the target by encouraging your team to do their best work. Again, it is not your job to micromanage that team or to do the work for them. Instead, you are simply encouraging them and giving them a safe place to exercise their inherent abilities.

Be Genuinely Interested in Knowing Your Team

Knowing them is one of the most important aspects of getting the most out of a team. That means taking a personal interest in them and having a solid understanding of what they do for your organization and how they work best.

This then allows you to expect how a team member is likely to react, and it will enable you to put them in the best place at the best time, to put them on the most proper projects, and generally, help them to perform at their best level.

One of the most fundamental aspects of this is to recognize the essential skills of each team member and then how you can put them to the best use. You are wasting money if you have a team member who is not maximizing their potential.

Let us consider an example. Imagine that you run a website on a complex topic such as programming. You have hired some technical writers, paying them a lot to write in-depth tutorials and articles and stay up to date with the latest information.

But you also have those same writers uploading their articles to the site. And you are incredibly strict about formatting. You want them to make sure they use the right fonts, use the correct sizes for images, and add the proper meta tags.

To make things more complicated, your formatting guidelines change every few weeks. The writers then jump back into their work to add those updated changes.

And when do they miss some formatting? Then all heck breaks loose, and you yell at them until they change their ways.

That sounds rather destructive. But it is how many teams will manage this kind of situation. This example is taken from a real-life experience.

The worst thing is that the programmer is now being paid much money to do work that anyone could do for a fraction of the price. Why has a top writer spent all day? Changing image sizes?

Instead, you could hire someone for a tiny amount of the price, and you could then use your best talent to generate meaningful work. You would double your output, keep everyone happier, and end up with a much better result.

Moreover, your staff will soon become miserable if they spend all their time doing work that does not engage, challenge, or reward them. And we will explore more about why these matter in a moment.

Putting Your Team Together

Another important reason to know your team well is to know who works best with whom and then make sure they are paired according to that information.

This is more complex than simply putting people together if they get on! That is because people who get along often distract one another, meaning it might even make sense to pair people who challenge and improve each other.

Think about when to mix up your team or how staying together could ultimately hurt performance. We have all heard how

Steve Jobs introduced open-plan offices to Pixar to encourage chance encounters between animators, scriptwriters, actors, and the rest of the team.

Likewise, consider factors like “convergence and divergence.” This tells us how people placed in groups will grow more alike over time while also becoming more different from those around them. This process can result in a “tribe-like” attitude, which might create problems within the office.

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