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5 ways to lead unique teams filled with experts & newbies, superstars & misfits

Whether you’ve been a leader for a hot minute or cool decades, you likely have many unique teams – from office veterans and newbies to superstars and misfits. The only thing each team has in common is the challenge it presents to its leader!

It’s important that managers lead with their team’s unique qualities in mind because the level of engagement matters. When employees are engaged with their leaders, teammates and the work, they help organizations become more productive, boost profitability, and reduce turnover and absenteeism, according to research from Gallup.

Whether it’s your HR team – or you need to help front-line managers lead their unique teams – you want an approach that’s as unique as the group.

Here are five types of unique groups, plus what makes them dynamic and how you can lead them to success:

The experts

Veteran, expert employees might have experience leaders like you can rely on, but their “seen- and done-it-all” attitude presents a problem.

For instance, they might be quick to kill an idea because they know it failed a long time ago. Or they believe that the way it’s always been done is the only way it should be done.

The good news: Tenured employees can stay engaged. Like most new employees, they start off strong. Interest and engagement wanes between the second and eighth year, but ticks up considerably after that, according to research from Quantam Workplace.

Success tip: Business researchers have found veteran employees stay engaged and perform best when managers understand what they do best – and allow them to do that kind of work most often. In unique teams or when they work individually toward the team goal, assign long-term employees the work they love. When possible, let them take the lead or give the autonomy when that kind of work is involved.

The superstars

The best talent is more productive and performs better than the rest. Having five, 10 or more work together sounds like a dream team.

But it isn’t always like that. A unique team of superstars is often full of egos and infighting.

Success tip: Your all-star team is highly capable of meeting – and probably smashing – the goal. So leaders want to focus more on removing obstacles and managing egos. Harvard Business School researchers suggest you:

  • Create team-based goals and rewards. That way, members should work together rather than try to outdo each other in pursuit of rank or reward, and
  • Make team success essential for individual success. Build all-star teams with people whose talents complement, not compete with, each other.

The siblings

This group is like a bunch of brothers and sisters. They’re so tight-knit that some days they accomplish everything and beyond. Other days, one wrong word or crooked look can spark irritation and animosity.

That’s a unique team to be reckoned with!

Success tip: Leaders practically want to handle this team like parents do with their sibling children. Recognize that some situations are worth intervention and others are not. If an issue stunts productivity or harms morale, it’s time to sit down and talk it through. If they’re bickering but staying on task, step back.

The newbies

They’re new to your organization, department or task. They’re inexperienced and often overwhelmed. But they bring a fresh perspective on the task or project.

Success tip: Leaders might feel like they have to do way too much hand-holding with these unique teams. But if you give them the right amount of guidance and autonomy, they can breathe new life into the job at hand. So ask for their input in areas that can be changed. Avoid micromanaging (so they can build skills and you can maintain your sanity), and require progress reports a few times a week.

The misfits

Sometimes it’s difficult to put a tag on a work team. Their personalities, skills and experience vary. They co-exist and function, but might struggle to excel … so far.

Success tip: Bring a group of misfits together and lead them to success with clear expectations from the get-go. Give them three priorities, how you expect they’ll meet them and how their success will be measured. Misfits can form unique teams that become aligned when their work flows from the established goals.

reprinted with permission from 09.2022

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