This is Leadership with Richard Kwarteng Ahenkorah: Let the team work

leader steers the team
Richard Kwarteng Ahenkorah
  • “Even in the circus, clowns have objectives”

When you share your standpoint on discipline with the team, define the boundaries quickly. Guide the boundaries with policies or your ‘laws’ if you like. As our learned friends will say, ‘the law is the law’, and keep your structure in your policy enshrined within regulatory framework and the laws of the land. It’s about ensuring that leaders do have grip to develop watertight policies aimed at encouraging the team to work effectively and efficiently.

If an institution’s policies, regulatory framework and the laws of the land are aligned, it’s always easy to introduce reforms within your people strategy. The team should be kept together by the values of the company to enable leaders manage accountability and performance (Kaplan & Norton 2004). If they are not having common core values, teams can’t deliver in line with leadership’s expectation.

Every team has an objective. As a matter of fact, leaders must focus teams toward a firm’s objective on a daily basis. No team is put together to joke. Even in the circus, clowns have objectives! There will always be challenges in team development. The key is to ensure that the passion to build must be stronger than the forces and factors of team destruction. If you want the team to really come to work to work, tell them about your Dos and Don’ts.

Be serious about this and remember, loose lips sink ships. Let the team value the institution’s values by way of providing guidelines and standards toward your institution’s culture. One thing I enjoy sharing with teams I manage is always about the Dos and Don’ts. The reason is simple. Two things always come up in people management. The team will do what you don’t want them to do or they’ll not do what you want them to do. Every leader goes through this. For leaders to manage these excesses, a leader must be authentic because followers will mirror leaders, eventually.

A leader must represent the value system of an institution because leaders represent culture of institutions. Dr. Amina Aitsi-Selmi said: “People don’t leave jobs, they leave toxic work cultures”. In effect, people leave toxic leaders. If you want the team to work, show them the prize.

In the Olympic Games, for example, athletes know what is at stake even before they get into the tracks. If performance pays, let it be clear. If it doesn’t, then the question is, what gets employees promoted or elevated? A friend once joined a company where the CEO called him to his office one day and said to him: “Jones! The only thing that would get you promoted is loyalty and not performance”. He was straight to the point. So Jones asked for his definition of loyalty. He wished the CEO never explained to him. Because the more he did, the more he felt sorry to have joined that company. I can’t explain further because Steve Jobs summed it nicely that: “In weak companies, politics win. In strong companies, best ideas do”.

When the foundations are strong with clarity of purpose, institutions won’t fail; unless the uncontrollable happens. If you really want the team to work, introduce programmes and initiatives to let them work. If people come to work to work, work will always be fun because followers can measure their contribution and performance to the companies bottom-line. If you want to get more from the team, train them. As a CEO of a learning organisation, I’ve come to learn this. Training is an investment not a cost to the company. People ask: “So what happens when you spend so much to train them and they leave?” I don’t think I have any answer. But every good CEO will answer with a question. “What if I don’t train them and they stay,” quoting Zig Ziglar.

Letting the team work is about preparing the team, creating the right ambience for performance and growth, developing team competencies to subsequently empower them and more importantly trusting the team to grow. Within the trust, there must be controls.

For example, you trust the team to get to work on time which is why you have a timer to check employee attendance. Give them room to grow and delegate roles to check role growth potentials, learning gaps and motivational techniques. If you don’t allow the team to work, you’ll end up doing their chores. Remember, a leader hires employees to work so you can lead, guide and mentor. Don’t be seen doing their work. Remember that you hired their brains. Let them use more of it! The 80:20 rule applies here too.


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