Look after your team and they will look after you.

When Jake became the newest member of our household, we knew that some things were going to change. Walking, training and feeding have been added to the daily routine (some with more acceptance than others!) We anticipated that this little dog was going to worm his way into our hearts and we would care for him like any other member of the family; but what came as a surprise was the way in which Jake showed his care for us. If one of us is sick, Jake is there by our side to make sure we are OK, if there is a strange noise outside, Jake is there with a bark to alert us. The care we had shown for our new little team member was being reciprocated.

The same principle applies when working within or leading a team. While the concept of looking out for your team is not new, many people seem to forget that the process is ‘give and take’ rather than just ‘take’. A common mistake amongst new team leaders / supervisors is to assume that they can ‘take’ from their new team without giving anything in return.

A simple principle to remember when managing a team is the difference between a Savings Account and a Credit Card. Care and concern for the team is like having a savings account. Every incident of care or concern you demonstrate for members of your team is similar to making a deposit. The more deposits you make in good times provides you with ‘credit’ that you can use later. A Savings Account only works when the balance is positive – you can’t draw more from the account than you have put into it.

Many team leaders think of care and concern for their team like a Credit Card. They will take and take from the account (ensuring that the balance is negative) and top up the account once a month. Rather than bringing the account back into positive territory, they bring it back to zero, then start to draw against the account again.

Anyone with a credit card knows that there is more than just the balance to pay back at the end of the month, there is the interest payment as well. In this analogy, interest can be thought of as the resentment and lack of trust that results from a Team Leader taking more than they give from the team. Without constant care and attention, a Team Leader using a credit card approach can easily fall further and further into ‘debt’ and eventually will not be able to make the repayments required to manage the team effectively.

How much credit do you have with your team? Have you taken too much from the account? What are the ways that you use to ‘top up’ the credit account?