The ‘T’ in Team stands for “Trust”

Remember, teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.

Patrick Lencioni

Whoever said building or leading a team was easy, was a big fat liar. Don’t get me wrong, I love working in a team however, I’ll be the first to admit that the work one has to put into building or leading a high performing team is not easy.

Journalism is not a team sport

What I remember about when I started my career is that I didn’t go into a team-centric industry. My first job outside of University was that of a community journalist. What I remember from working as a journalist is that, despite being part of a team, the industry is a bit of a dog eat dog world and as an individual, you’re only as good as your last byline.

Thus, as much as you could reach out for help, another journalist’s win wasn’t necessarily your own. This then meant editors didn’t necessarily have to baby us because we all wanted that number one spot, the byline on that front page.

However, this concept of working in as a “team” changed when I was appointed News Editor and had to manage the team.

The journey of being promoted to manage

So the idea was that my colleagues and peers at the time would have to report to me. These were my friends – we had socialised outside of work many-a-times and we would always share big laughs together every now and again in the office. I thought, “working with the team is easy and pleasant therefore, managing them shouldn’t be hard then right?” Boy was I in for a surprise.

Here’s the truth that no one prepares you for if you are promoted into a managerial position, when any colleague steps into a leadership role and becomes a manager, the relationship is bound to change. I wish someone had explained this to me sooner. This is a story of how I failed in my first role as a manager.

Trying to be a cool manager

The journey starts off with the manager whose been promoted (aka Lesego) wanting to be the “cool manager”, not like her predecessor. No one warns you that there is a thin line between being a “cool manager” and a cool friend who sucks at being a manager. Therefore, I probably don’t have to tell you how this attempt failed in the first month.

Trying to mimic previous managers

I didn’t stay down for too long. I decided that I would go into my archives of previous managers and see what I style I could adopt. From my own experiences, I flourished when I had a manager that would guide and mentor me – I worked well under pressure and when I was told I didn’t do something right, I would work extra hard to prove that I was capable and was willing to use criticism to my advantage.

However, I learned very quickly that what may have worked for me, may not necessarily work as well with the next person.

Stepping into my own reality of managing

I tried quite a few styles and eventually landed way that worked best for most. I quickly realised that no matter what I did, the reality of moving from peer position to managerial role means that your authority and level of knowledge will always come into question. It’s about accepting this quickly and showing up as well as you can in response.

Trust was the missing element

Looking back now, I must admit that I think I failed quite miserably at my first stint of being in charge of a team. My feeling of failure is based on my inability at the time to inspire one of my team members. For the longest of times, I wondered why I wasn’t able to reach him but I think now, almost 10 years and a few roles later, I get it.

Trust. I couldn’t reach him because I didn’t trust him and he could sense it.

There was an incident that took place where he did not deliver and it was after that, that it all went downhill. Because I had lost confidence in him to deliver, he didn’t feel the need to go above what was expected. When he didn’t deliver, I showed no sense of disappointment but rather an “I knew it” attitude. Now I think to myself, why would anyone want to achieve under the guidance of someone who doesn’t believe in them?

I have come a long way since then and I strongly believe that everyday in a managerial position is a lesson learned.

The most important lesson however, will remain this one in particular. As a manager, you need to have trust in and build trust with your team. How can you do this? There’s obviously many ways to do so however, one way that has worked for me is to continuously let my team know that their success is my success.

I have no other advice for other managers as I think I’m only now at walking stage but I do believe trust can go a long way in building a high performing team.

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