Welcome to Episode 1 of Leading Behind the Scenes, a new channel focused on supporting those who support great leaders and entrepreneurs.
Miranda Barrett, Vice President at the Entrepreneurs Organization (EO), has spent more than 10 years working with more than 400 entrepreneurs as part of the EO Global Team, and shares her insights on what it takes to be an effective leader.
Leaders often think they’re leading, but their staff is disengaged and disinterested in the overall mission. “If you think you’re leading and no one is following, you’re just out for a walk,” she says.
According to Miranda, the main trait of a good leader is someone who knows how to leverage and engage their team. “Entrepreneurs have so much energy and passion. It’s akin to an excited golden retriever,” she says. Leaders must understand how to share that excitement and vision with the team. Additionally, showing sincerity and curiosity is a crucial part of getting teams in line with their leader. She explains, “You have to admit when you’re stuck and turn to your team members to help fix the problem, instead of micromanaging. That trust is contagious and will come right back to you.”
Empowering your team through humility and vulnerability can also lead to teaching them to develop their inner leader, which, in turn, will help you reach your goals. The team needs to feel protected and supported by the leader before they’ll protect and support him or her. She recalls a situation where a supportive team led to success. “We were hosting our Global Student Entrepreneur Awards program. The team was phenomenal. My job was to make sure our emcee did the best job possible, despite last minute scheduling changes. In a very visible way, he was on the hook for anything that would have gone wrong, but he had a safety net. He looked alone but he was very, very well supported.”
Things don’t always turn out as planned. When teams don’t reach their goals, it’s important to take some time to regroup. “There’s a humility in being curious. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Was the process broken? If so, where was the breakdown? Unemotionally figuring out what happened and where, instead of immediately blaming your team is a crucial part of maintaining that trust,” she says.
Having a team of “yes-men” may mean that your team members don’t feel open enough to voice their opinions. A disengaged team can be just as bad as an incompetent one. “When you have people proactively looking ahead of you to help and feel safe making suggestions? That’s when you can be sure that your team wants to be there,” she says. Conversely, if your team isn’t making suggestions, they may not feel comfortable speaking up. People who follow like leaders help push each other to grow and be better.
Finding ways to draw the honesty out of your team ensures its health. Miranda suggests that leaders find “fun and inventive” ways to get honest feedback from team members that may not feel comfortable opening up. Miranda recalls a company that was opening a store in China. In a meeting, the team assured their managers everything was on schedule to open on time. However, after the managers let the team place bets on when they thought the store would actually open, they found out that no one on the team thought that making the deadline was possible. The store ended up not opening for months.
Provide a safe environment, and people will speak up.