Three factors for successfully leading large teams.

By Rainier Beelen I November 2022

Three factors for successfully leading large teams.

What levers does a leader need to pull to get larger groups of employees on board? We have reviewed the latest literature on the subject and identified three essential themes: meta-knowledge, team reflexivity, and diversity mindset. Although these concepts originate in scientific research, we believe they are critical for leadership in practice too. In our previous blog, we discussed the importance of the first theme: meta-knowledge. In this blog we will cover the other two themes.

Team Reflexivity

Team reflexivity refers to the degree to which a team’s members openly reflect on and communicate about shared goals, strategies, and processes. It also means adapting based on that shared reflection. A reflexive approach to strategies, for example, means a team examines together how decisions are made. For processes, it could mean reflecting on how communication takes place. In this way, team reflexivity leads to better decisions.

Examples:

You could train direct and indirect reports to evaluate goals, processes, and outcomes in a focused way. Get employees to reflect on their goals: are the goals still appropriate, can they be clarified and are they specific enough?

Have team members self-critically reflect on their own development and motivation.

Diversity Mindset

Who is not concerned with diversity these days? Research, however, is not uniformly positive about diversity. Of course, there are advantages, for example, a richer variety of perspectives in decision making. However, there are also disadvantages, like teams splintering into subgroups and not communicating effectively. However, researchers agree that if diversity is given proper attention it leads to better performance and its problems can be avoided. But how to make it work in practice?

One answer is that leaders should encourage a diversity mindset. That is, encourage people to develop a positive attitude towards diversity. This change of mindset makes it easier for people to exchange information and better understand one another, despite potentially different views. In doing so, it is important to create consensus on goals and tasks and to encourage a “we” feeling. That is not always easy, because mutual understanding in a diverse team is far from a given. At the same time, the rewards are great, because if leaders can build a diversity mindset it will lead to better decisions being made.

Leading Larger Groups

Leaders, in addition to their interpersonal and decision-making roles, have an informational role. This role becomes significantly more complex when leading larger (and more diverse) groups. Coordinating meta-knowledge, building reflexive teams, and developing a diversity mindset are scientifically proven tools that can help leaders to the shape informational role they play within their organizations.

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