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How To Build A Confident Team That Steps Up To Any Challenge

Heidi Zak

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build a confident team

One of the core values at my company is “make it happen.”

Our team chose this mantra as one of our values to encourage people to be proactive and thoughtful in their approach to getting things done. No one else is going to do it for you. You have to make it happen.

That sense of independence has to be instilled, starting from the top and trickling down to every team member. But you won’t find that self-reliant attitude at every company, because it requires leaders to be very deliberate about hiring the right people, setting expectations, and asking the right questions.

Here’s how to put together a confident team that handles anything thrown their way:

1: Screen for independence during the interview process.

Not everyone is naturally self-reliant.

While a candidate may be a wonderful person, that doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is the right fit for a role that requires an independent mindset.

You can see if candidates have this trait during the interview process—curiosity is a giveaway. If a person asks a lot of questions, it indicates thoughtfulness. It means they’re actively trying to get the right answer, and they don’t mind going to great lengths to find it.

Being thorough and asking questions is a huge part of being effective in any job, and you should always look for it when interviewing potential hires.

2: Give ownership to new team members.

At some point, you won’t be involved in every decision your team is making.

No one is going to make the same choices you would or do something in exactly the same way. Fortunately, that’s actually not important. What matters more is that they’ve thought through a decision and chosen to act in an intentional way.

This sense of ownership is usually passed down by senior leaders because people model their behavior on what they see others doing. So, if you’re asking the right questions and giving people ownership over their new roles, they’ll instinctively take control.

3: Train people on your expectations.

It’s hard for someone to be independent when they don’t know what’s expected of them.

If you want a confident team, you have to communicate what everyone needs to do and how you want it done. Personally, I used to do all our product purchase orders in the early days of ThirdLove. But when our current VP of Operations came on, she took over that task. One day, we sat down, ran through the process for placing orders and the “why” behind those decisions, and had open communication on the expectations.

Today, I don’t even look at the purchase orders because she knows what’s expected, and I trust her to make those decisions on her own.

4: Find the right moments to involve yourself in a process.

It’s challenging to find the balance between getting involved too early or too late.

If you stay away from a project until the very end, you may find yourself requesting changes that create more work for your team. Whereas if you’d given input earlier, the end result would have reflected your opinion.

On the other hand, you don’t want to get involved before your team has even gotten to the point where your input is necessary. I’ve actually excused myself from meetings because it was clear the team hadn’t thought through all the details yet.

If you can find that middle ground by communicating clearly and setting expectations, your team will have the room they need to get work done on their own—with the assurance that if they do need your input, you’ll be there.

5: Encourage your team to ask “why.”

Asking why roots people in the high-level decision-making process.

When your team truly understands why they’re working on something, it gives them the opportunity to push back and make sure the right decisions are being made.

I might say to our marketing team, “I think we should focus on this topic for next year’s PR strategy.” If that team is independent and knows to ask why, someone will respond with, “Well, why do you think that? How does it fit in the overall plan for the year? Is this the best way to spend our resources?”

Asking why is not accusatory. It just gives someone the opportunity to explain themselves further.

At the end of the day, a confident team will make certain decisions and run with them. If you continue having conversations and giving context, then your team is more likely to feel confident making decisions—and will increase its independence over time.

Here are a few other related articles you might find helpful:

Getting Heated? Here’s How To Stay Cool During Tough Conversations At Work

Why Emotional Empathy Is A Leader’s Greatest Strength

How To Encourage Workplace Friendships And Increase Team Happiness

This article originally appeared on Inc.

Heidi Zak is the co-founder and co-CEO of ThirdLove. Prior to ThirdLove, Zak cut her teeth in retail at Aeropostale where she quickly rose to Director of the retail giant, launching and running the International Division, before becoming a marketing executive at Google. Zak holds an undergraduate degree in Economics from Duke University and an MBA from MIT Sloan. In her free time she loves spending time with her two kids. Heidi has been named one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People, Goldman Sachs 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs, Business Insider's 30 Female-Founded Startups to Watch, and SF Business Times 40 Under 40. Follow her on Instagram: @Heidi.

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