In Part 3 of this series on leadership in the MSP environment, we drilled down into some components of the leadership skill set, and in Part 4, we’ll take a look at some of the top techniques that you can use to keep your MSP team on track. I’ve noticed that popular writing about leadership often confuses skills and techniques, but they’re really two distinct elements. A skill is the ability to perform a particular task, whereas a technique is how you perform the task. Using the right techniques will help you to perfect your skills. Here are some techniques good leaders utilize:
- Recognize and reward: Good leaders don’t assume that team members know their good work is appreciated. A leader rewards team members who innovate and share new ideas, who come up with solutions to problems, who complete their assigned task on or ahead of time, who bring people together, who create more efficient processes, and so forth. Good leaders look for something to praise in a team mate, rather than looking to find fault. The rewards don’t have to be monetary or large; a simple compliment in front of the group can go a long way toward making team members feel appreciated and motivating them to do even better.
- Give team members the resources they need: A good leader doesn’t just hand out tasks or assignments, but makes sure to give the team members whatever resources they need to do the job. This is part of the “follow through” skill that we discussed in Part 3; you can’t assume members will ask for what they need or even that they know what they’ll need to do the work. Help them to analyze their needs and make sure you don’t give them just “things.” For example, if they need new equipment (computers, networking equipment) to accomplish the objective, make sure they also get the proper documentation and training.
- Communicate: Recognizing and rewarding is a form of communication, but you also need to let team members know if they’re going off track. You have to clearly communicate to them what the goals and objectives (discussed in Part 2) are, and not just let them know that they’re doing well or poorly, but specifically communicate to them what areas could be improved and how they can make those improvements, without becoming a micromanager or “helicopter boss.” Maintain a positive, helpful and encouraging attitude when providing your input.
- Motivate: All of the above techniques help to motivate team members to get and stay excited about the team’s projects and goals. Enthusiasm is contagious, and sharing your own excitement about where your MSP is headed and how the whole team can work together to help it get there is the first step in getting the team on board. Show other team members “what’s in it for them” – in addition to the satisfaction of a job well done, how will the company’s growth and accomplishments benefit them personally?
- Organize: A good leader sees the big picture, and is able to coordinate and organize the different tasks performed by team members into a coherent whole. An efficient team breaks the overall objective or goal into “manageable chunks” and everyone knows his or her areas of responsibility and “action items,” as well as the deadlines for completing them. A leader keeps track of each member’s progress, reassigns when necessary, and brings it all together.
- Lead with integrity: There is plenty of temptation in the business world today to cut corners when it comes to ethics and values, but if you want the respect of your team, you have to earn it – by basing your leadership on principles of honesty, consistency, fairness, compassion and personal responsibility. Leaders know their values because they’re deeply engrained, and they teach those values to others by example – by “walking the walk” – not by preaching them.
In this four-part series, we’ve examined some of the basic principles of leadership as applied to leading a team working to make an MSP a success. Now get out there and lead!