by Jeanet Wade, the ForbesBooks author of “The Human Team: So, You Created A Team But People Showed Up!“
I want to start this discussion by saying I have no idea what really happened at the Olympics. Most of us probably don’t know what was said or done and fewer will ever know what was happening for the human beings who were part of the decisions, actions and events around Simone Biles’ withdrawal from the women’s gymnastics all-around final competition.
What I do want to discuss are the leadership principles that showed up in that story. These five lessons demonstrate ways that we, as business leaders, can improve our own personal performance, our team’s performance, and our team’s health and they correspond perfectly to the framework I call The Six Facets of Human Needs™ which is a way of understanding the prerequisites for teams to fully actualize their potential.
1. Put the Focus on the Team Win, not the Individual Glory.
Effective leaders have perfect clarity about what the team needs in order to win and they make that their ultimate focus. If they believe they would be a liability to meeting that objective they put any desire for a personal win aside and turn the leadership role over to someone they believe is more likely to help the team perform at their highest capacity.
That might mean having someone else run a meeting because the leader has a migraine or letting someone else head up a project because they have more subject matter expertise. Sometimes it means letting someone else take a role we really want and may feel entitled to because we know they’ll bring more to the team.
No matter what Biles’ motivation was (again, many have opinions but few will ever really know) if we accept that she had a case of the “twisties” we can also agree that she was a potential liability to the team. In which case it was her responsibility as a leader to put the team win first and step aside.
2. It’s Okay to Take a Back Seat.
Biles said it herself, “It is okay to take a back seat, even at the most important meet.”
In fact, sometimes the leader needs to take a back seat. And not only when circumstances mandate the change. Being okay with taking a back seat and letting your team step up to take the lead is the ultimate challenge and display of confidence.
A healthy, high-performing team will be prepared to rise to the challenge of taking the lead, and they’ll thrive on the opportunity to contribute at a higher level. Giving them that chance is a way to say, “I’m offering you this challenge because I have every confidence that you’re up for it.” It builds leadership, legacy, and loyalty and gives other team members the opportunity to contribute in a more meaningful way.
3. Be Willing to Hear the Concerns of your Team.
Taking a back seat is one way that leaders can demonstrate confidence in their teams, but the need for confidence goes two ways. The team has to have confidence in their leaders as well and that includes trusting that the leader will listen to any concerns they feel they need to express.
Biles said her teammates were concerned about her wellbeing and her ability to compete and they were able to come to her and say so. That level of trust and confidence requires connection which is about knowing that everyone is in it together, part of something larger than any individual, and bonded through shared goals and experiences. Without that sense of connection a frank conversation about the capacity of a leader to perform their role could easily be confrontational. When that connection and confidence is there the conversation is most likely to be oriented on the highest and best outcome for all regardless of who plays what role in achieving it.
4. Hold Space and Cheer Loudly.
No matter your title or your role, as a leader you need be the loudest cheerleader and the most committed coach your team has ever had. One thing I noticed about the all-around competition was Biles on the sidelines jumping and shouting and high-fiving each of her teammates. In spite of the controversy surrounding her choices, her first consideration during that event was for the team.
Regardless of how the team is performing they need to know that you have consideration for them as fellow human beings, that you support them and are 100 percent rooting for them. The same is true for the hard days you’ll face as a leader – your team needs to be certain that even in the darkest moments you value and appreciate them and want the best for them.
5. Come Back when You’re the Right Person for the Job that Needs to be Done.
Whether your decision to step away from the leadership role was because of adverse circumstances or in order to leverage a team growth opportunity, it’s part of your job to know when it’s time for you to step up and take the lead again.
But never come back to the leader position with your head hung low. A healthy leader never forgets that they’re leading a team of humans or that they are themselves a human being. And when you are a human being, working with human beings, sometimes “human happens.” Those moments can be messy or downright devastating, but even the worst of them can lead to greater victories when the focus is on meeting the needs of the humans on the team.
In these five lessons it’s easy to see how the Six Facets of Human Needs™: clarity, connection, consideration, contribution, challenge, and confidence came into play. (I made it easy for you by putting them all in italic just in case.) I know that when you incorporate this framework of human needs and these five lessons into your own leadership you will create teams of human beings who are happier, healthier, and performing at a higher standard than you, or anyone in your “audience” ever expected.
Jeanet Wade, the ForbesBooks author of “The Human Team: So, You Created A Team But People Showed Up!” is a Certified EOS® Implementer and the founder of the consulting firm the Business Alchemist. As a facilitator, teacher and coach, Wade helps companies implement the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), a set of business concepts, principles and tools that help business owners and executives run more successful businesses.