Team Led

I don’t think anyone who starts a company thinks about being a team leader. But it’s what happens- if you succeed, you find yourself leading a team. And you have to learn how to be a leader. Fortunately, the team teaches you. They tell you if you are being overbearing, or not inspiring them, or if you overlook the problems they are having. They tell you when they need management.

As we grew I soon realized that my team included my clients. Not just the lead, but often a lot of people who worked at the company. I’ll never forget one tech firm that hired me, and asked me to come present to their team. Before I went into the meeting, the client looked at me and said, “It’s really important to me that my team feel included in the planning process, so I need you to make eye contact with everyone on the team, and ask them for their ideas, and listen to each one of them.” “No problem,” I said. Then we went into the room. There had to be twenty people sitting there looking at me expectantly. Yikes. But I did it, and it wasn’t that hard. And I noticed that it gave me energy- to connect with all those people instead of just talking at them.

I had a big media client who asked me to come to a presentation she was giving to her team- just to provide support and answer questions if anything came up that she didn’t know. The room was designed to awe and the team was large- and included some very well known folks. I was enjoying myself when she began her presentation, which I was eager to hear. “ Thank you all for coming this morning. We’ve put a lot of time and thought into our plans for this event, which will be one of the biggest and most important ones we’ve ever done, and is in a way, the cornerstone of our marketing effort this year.” I knew this but it was interesting to hear her present it this way to these important people, who were leaning forward to listen to what came next. “So,” she said, “ That’s why I‘ve brought Michael Christman here to tell you all about it.” Sometimes your teams surprise you.

As the founder of my firm, the clients always look to me- to be the creative one, the one they have a relationship with, the problem solver. It’s great for the ego, but I know I can’t do it without my team. I’ve built my teams by looking for people who can teach me, who are better than I am at something I need, who have experience I can benefit from. And here is the important thing: I have learned to get out of their way and let them do the work.

Two key lessons that are really simple in leading a team, both of which I had to learn to do. Acknowledge them. Say hello. Ask about their work, and their feelings. Find out what they are thinking. And say thank you. It is so simple and it matters so much. Not a big group thanks- which is still good to do, but one on one, individually, as soon as you can. It’ll pay off in many ways, not the least is the strength it adds to your relationship.

I really like going back to the smart ones with a problem, or an idea, and hearing what they think, and what they would do. And I’ve kept them around. Some of them are now part of the Event Whisperers and I’m thrilled to be in their company.