At this year’s SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas, keynote speaker and HR expert Marcus Buckingham shared how team leadership is becoming more valuable and evolutionary than ever before. A typical leadership development program focuses primarily on the organizational heads like the Presidents, Directors, and CEO’s, the ones that oversee their employees through the lens of implementing the organization’s mission statement and goals. In order to measure performance and success rates, teams and employees are regularly assessed and surveyed. Then, large amounts of time are dedicated to analyzing the “big data” which should yield clear strategies for the company’s continued success. But this method of management has proven time and time again as not being effective in actually improving individual performances in a company.

Buckingham suggests that in order for companies to truly “know” their employees and to improve performance, the focus needs to be on developing team leadership rather than the top organizational leaders. Team leaders, by virtue of proximity to the individuals they are leading, are better able to understand how work happens, and in turn can provide added focus around how goals are pursued and how efficiently projects are run. If leadership development remains only at the highest levels then the right goals will not reach the right people and can lead to frustration for everyone involved.

In order for team leaders to be effective and move their teams in the right direction they need the right information. Buckingham suggests that the right information is “real-time data” rather than “big data” which tends to categorize employees based on the previous person in their role rather than who they are, where their strengths lie, and their unique contributions to a team. The same can be said for the traditional performance feedback and evaluations model that only prove to be more reflective of the interviewer than the interviewee. For instance, can two interviewers that are 6’2” and 5’2” accurately describe whether an interviewee is tall or short at a height of 5’7”? Not exactly since it depends on your own perceptions about height.

For the team leadership to actually lead their teams, hands-on coaching needs to be involved in the learning process. Team leaders will have to focus on these three criteria to create real-time data in coaching successful teams:

  1. Define individual goals
  2. Create natural and unforced real-time data
  3. Display results reliably and credibly

Teams are made up of people with diverse thinking and behavioral preferences. Team leadership needs to identify these differences in order to better lead each individual while also developing better solutions for the team as a whole. Coaching employees based on their individual strengths, current projects, and personal feelings of accomplishment will lead to a more accurate display of information upon which organizational decisions can be made.