Team Leadership: Seven Steps to Lead a Winning Team

Team Leadership: Seven Steps to Lead a Winning Team

The California Association of Collectors (CAC) conference and expo held each year in October features some of the best leaders in the credit and collection industry.

Many of the sessions center on best practices for successful agencies, but some sessions provide unique advice which can be applied to all aspects of personal, professional and team leadership communication, no matter what type of business you run.

When companies can increase their number of talented managers and double the rate of engaged employees, they achieve, on average, 147% higher earnings per share than their competition.
Source: Gallup

How to Lead a Team: Seven Steps

One recent presenter, Jeff Johnson, motivational trainer and chief marketing officer of Hawes Financial Group, addressed the nuances of leading a team at the CAC in a presentation titled “Creating and Inspiring a Winning Team.”

Based on two decades of experience, he has crafted seven steps any team leader can practice every day during group interactions. Johnson is confident that through these steps, we can all become inspirational and effective leaders of successful, goal-oriented teams.

Team Management: Seven Steps to Lead a Winning Team

1. Create an Optimal Work Environment

As managers and leaders, it is our responsibility to set our teams up to succeed. This means providing them with the proper tools for the job and making sure the route to success is as streamlined as possible. If we don’t follow this first step, the team is already at a disadvantage.

This doesn’t always mean they will fail, but it’s your job as a good leader to make the path to success as short and simple as possible.

We as humans respond to the environment we’re in. And too many times, I see leaders put their team in an environment they can’t succeed in, expecting a different result.
Jeff Johnson

2. Be a Visionary Leader

Being a visionary may seem hard to define, and even more difficult to achieve. Johnson’s blueprint for succeeding as a visionary is rooted in the Four P’s:

  • Passion
  • Planning
  • Purpose
  • Perseverance

In order to implement effective team leadership, a leader needs to live the Four P’s and set the example for his or her team.

3. Be Present to Lead Effectively

This element of teams and effective leadership centers on both physical and mental presence.

A commonplace management practice is for team leaders to close office doors and spend much of the day communicating through emails to those in the same building — sometimes just yards away. You may not be purposely offending your team. After all, you’re busy!

However, shutting out your employees can send unintended signals that you do not want to be involved with their work. This might indicate that you implicitly trust them. But much more likely, the message a closed door sends is that you don’t care about the team and the hurdles they face in reaching their goals.

Johnson urges leaders to make themselves accessible by keeping office doors — and the lines of communication — open throughout the life of the projects you assign.

Have you ever checked in on a project to find it isn’t what you wanted done?

Aside from indicating apathy to your team, being absent (physically or mentally) can create a disconnect between what you hoped your team might accomplish and what direction their efforts begin to take.

Missing the stages of a project and making your group backtrack results in wasted time, wasted effort, and a strained relationship with your employees.

4. It's No Longer Me, It's We

There is tremendous power in a team where no one is worried about taking the credit for a success, or afraid of being singularly blamed for a failure.

When the group functions as a whole, with everyone sharing in the results, attitudes shift away from competition with peers. The work becomes the focus and quality increases.

Here are a few tips for creating a ‘we’ centered team:

  • Accept success and failure as a team
  • Suffer equally
  • Your problems are all of our problems
  • Don’t compare, compete or criticize
  • Always seek synergy
  • Always be the coach, never the critic

5. Don't Forget the 'Fartleks'

Fartlek, a running term, is a Swedish word meaning ‘speed play.’ In the world of racing, alternating difficult goals with easier spans of jogging can push your performance to greater levels and raise your easy spans to a higher baseline.

The fartlek reference is Johnson’s way of telling managers to buckle down and push through hard deadlines.

Creating difficult (but achievable) goals can push us and our teams to produce great work in an impressive amount of time.

After a few speed plays, future projects will seem even easier by comparison. Also, these speed plays will raise the quality of work your team can achieve, and even shorten the time span it takes to get results.

6. Love What We Do

Team members will always be most driven to work for a leader who loves and believes in the work they are doing. If you are obviously frustrated with your job, or dislike the direction your office or project is going, your team will notice.

These negative feelings will influence the motivations of the group, and ultimately results will suffer. But if you enjoy your responsibilities, and you’re excited to create the best work possible, your positive attitude will trickle down creating a culture of higher productivity and job satisfaction.

Something as simple as your state of mind can help your team yield extraordinary results.

7. Practice Gratitude

The last element of creating and inspiring a winning team is to be grateful for those around you. Regularly express appreciation for your team members' efforts.

This gratitude must not only be felt, it must be communicated to your team. They need to understand their value if you want your employees to continue doing great work.

Showing how grateful you are to your team members can also raise low morale, create a positive company culture, and build trust. Johnson says it is “one of the quickest ways to go from a negative environment to a positive environment.”


of the variance in team engagement can be attributed to the manager.
Source: Gallup

Benefits of Strong Team Leadership

A strong team is a company’s best asset. When you apply these seven steps of team leadership, you’ll begin to see:

  • Greater productivity and efficiency: teams that work well together can get up to speed faster, make decisions as a group and divide work to get things done in a timely manner.
  • Higher morale and job satisfaction: Being part of a strong team makes everyone feel happier about their positions and creates a positive company culture leading to better employee retention.
  • Open communication: Demonstrating open communication with your employees shows they are encouraged to do the same. This leads to better ideas and more knowledge being shared among the team.
  • More creativity and better problem-solving: people who feel open to communicating among their teams are more likely to share better ideas and feel more secure in their decisions.
  • Higher individual performance: All of these benefits of team leadership create better team dynamics and stronger individuals.

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Hannah Huerta - PDCflow Marketing Specialist
Hannah Huerta, Marketing Specialist

Hannah Huerta is a Marketing Specialist at PDCflow. She creates content for the accounts receivable and payment industry.

LinkedIn - Hannah Huerta

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