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  • Writer's pictureTyler Sinclair

Do Right By The Team

Are you doing right by the teams you lead?


I try to measure my success each day by reflecting on a set of questions: 


  1. Did I do right by the team? 

  2. Did I do right by our clients? 

  3. Am I aligning decisions to the business’s needs?


In the coming weeks, I want to go a level or two deeper on each of those questions, what they mean to me and how we can go about answering them. Since my first introductory post focused on the centrality of people to the business (they are the business), I'm kicking this off with the first of my leadership principles, Do Right by the Team.


Deep, intricate layers of team dynamics impact every aspect of how our businesses operate. At the end of the day, people are the fundamental building blocks of every business.


A scene that evokes awe, wonder and a pause to reflect
A sunset moment between storms in Hayden Valley, one of my favorite photos I've captured and helps me get in place to reflect

How do I assess if I did right by the team? What does measurement look like for something so vague? Untangling this in my head, I got to something simple enough to remember in quick reflections but also able to go deeper and nuanced enough to capture much of the complexities related to leading teams.


Broadly speaking, I believe we can break that question down into three components:


The 3 Es: Empowered, Engaged, Enriched 


Empower 

Did I empower the team?


Empowering teams means giving them autonomy, the responsibility that comes with autonomy, and holding them accountable for their outcomes. To empower teams I must create an environment where they feel confident to take initiative, make decisions, and own their work. 


This kind of empowerment acknowledges their capabilities and expertise; it fosters trust and mutual respect. When team members are empowered, they're not just executing tasks; they're contributing to the vision of the business in meaningful ways.


Expectation-setting is a critical element of empowerment. When people know exactly what you expect from them, they are able to navigate their role in getting there with clarity and confidence. Effective leaders communicate these expectations clearly and transparently, fostering an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect — and ensure their teams have the support and resourcing needed to execute. Engendering trust is never a one-off project, and this trust isn’t blind; it is built on your understanding of each team member’s strengths, development areas and potential. 


Another key aspect of empowering teams lies in the environment we cultivate around them, and the key element underlying that environment is the concept of psychological safety. 


Psychological safety at work is about creating an environment where team members feel secure in sharing their thoughts, ideas, and concerns without fear of ridicule or retribution. It's an environment where open, honest communication is not just accepted but encouraged, where taking risks and making mistakes are seen as integral to learning and innovation.


When team members know they are in a safe space, they are more likely to take initiative, express creativity, and engage in problem-solving without the fear of negative consequences. This freedom breeds a sense of ownership and accountability, essential components of a truly empowered team. It allows individuals to step beyond their comfort zones, challenge the status quo, and contribute to the team's and organization's growth in meaningful ways.


Engage

Did I engage the team?


Engagement in a team is the emotional and intellectual commitment they bring to their roles and the organization. This commitment is pivotal, directly influencing not only their motivation and satisfaction but also their overall productivity, quality of work and loyalty. 


An engaged team is characterized by members who are enthusiastic and invested in their work, viewing their tasks not as just duties or checkboxes, but as opportunities to contribute to something meaningful. 


Leading with empathy is important to creating and maintaining team engagement. Empathy means a true and “felt” understanding of the feelings and perspectives of your team members. Empathy is central because it allows us to form deeper connections with team members, leading to nuanced understanding of an individual's motivations, challenges, and aspirations. 


Empathetic leadership also supports psychological safety. Acknowledging and addressing each person’s unique needs, we cultivate a cohesive and motivated team. Leading with empathy contributes to their well-being and job satisfaction, enhancing overall morale and increasing retention.


Ethical leadership, defined by integrity, fairness, and respect, is fundamental to fostering trust within a team. Ethical leaders make decisions that are not only beneficial for the business but are also morally sound, establishing a culture of trust. This approach to leadership influences team morale profoundly, setting a standard for honesty and fairness within the team. Teams are naturally more engaged and committed in an environment where they trust and respect their leaders and the organization’s values.


Enrich 

Did I create an environment supporting the team’s enrichment?


Enrichment is about how we ensure we’ve built a two-way street between the business receiving the efforts of an employee and the employee receiving investment from the business in their professional selves. 


The employer-employee relationship has evolved beyond an exchange of service for compensation. It’s expected and wise that we go beyond exchanging time for compensation and actually invest in the development of skills, aptitudes, and other proficiencies of our teams. 


When we invest in our people, we are enriching their experience with the company and their professional personhood. Investing in people enables us to receive stronger, better quality outputs and can enhance their engagement, sense of belonging, dedication, and interest in their work. 


To do right by our teams, we must ensure we find opportunities to enrich their experience at the business with development and growth opportunities.


Everyone wants to know how they’re performing at work. They may not enjoy or agree with the answer all of the time, but people want (need and deserve) to know where they stand. 


Leaders should use our relationship with the team, the environment we’ve created, and the expectations we’ve set to create an environment where constructive feedback and praise is a regular occurrence. 


If someone could have facilitated an interaction better or missed the mark on a deliverable, they should expect to know there and then. If they nailed a meeting or presentation, they should expect to know there and then. When you’ve set the expectation with them, you must in turn evaluate your team members against that.


Beyond continual, event- or action-specific feedback and praise, we should also help team members evaluate themselves regularly. 


We facilitate conversations about short-, medium-, and long-term career goals and how we can help them achieve those goals through growth and development opportunities or helping them find the right place to work toward those goals if it isn’t at our firm. Doing right by the team means we must recognize there will be times when the right thing for a team member is to be in a different organization.


Wrapping up


At the end of the day, I want to know if I lived up to my commitment of doing right by the team; I measure this by asking if I empowered them to do their best work, if I managed their engagement with ethical and empathetic leadership and if I took steps to enrich their professional experience.


In practice, these things show up in various ways, like providing timely feedback on a client deliverable, equipping them to push their skills with a challenging project or just showing up prepared and ready to listen for a 1-1 conversation. Some days we’ll hit all of those marks. Some days we may not hit any.


To help you get started, the TGS Insights team has put together a short checklist you can use to reflect on some of the things we’ve outlined here.


If you’re curious to learn more about how to apply some items discussed here, drop the team a line.


Otherwise, go forth and conquer.



Do Right by the Team_ Reflection List
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