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Five Leadership Habits for Leading Cross-Functional Teams

Coaching and Leadership

5 leadership habits

Practising these five leadership habits for leading cross-functional teams will help you lead effectively. When leading cross-functional teams, you often have to prioritise and make choices that may impact one or all of the functions you lead. You may find yourself compromising the needs of function for the other. You will need to be able to balance the demands. Being self-disciplined and willing to practice what you preach will help you lead a cross-functional team effectively.

Leading by Example

The number one leadership habit is to lead by example. Leaders often set the tone for others to follow. You can do this by demonstrating to your team members the behaviours that you expect from them. If you would like to improve knowledge sharing among cross-functional teams, for example, you can facilitate this by bringing representatives of the teams together to share ideas.

Coaching your team to build a high level of trust between them will lead to more collaboration. If they believe they can rely on each other, it makes it easy to work together to achieve a common goal. You will need to promote a culture of openness for the functions to share ideas, have healthy debates and communicate. This can lead to innovation and efficiency. Teams become aware of what others are doing and the capabilities each of them have. They will be able to call on each other for support.

Concise and regular communication

Getting into the habit of speaking to your teams frequently will pay off in the long run. Over time, the length of the discussions will become shorter. It will also be more meaningful and impactful. Spending too much time talking to people and in meetings is one of the common complaints from leaders. They don’t seem to get much else done.

Have regular conversations with your team members. This will help them be a lot more relaxed when you ask to speak to them.

They will also be forthcoming with information. Having short focused conversations with your team will help you get to the main points of discussions quicker in meetings. You will be building on an established rapport. The more your teams get used to short meeting durations, the more they will prepare for the meetings and deliver on-point messages or initiate concise discussions.

You have to remember though that there may be times that you may need a longer period for your meetings. But these long meetings will reduce in frequency due to the regular catch-ups.

Motivating your team

How well you know your teams can help motivate them. Individuals and teams are driven by different factors. Understanding what these drivers are will strengthen your leadership ability to inspire them. You will get to know their key skills, strengths and challenges they face. You will be able to piece together the different personalities, skills and passions. This can inform your decision to bring certain teams or individuals together on a particular project. You will also be able to develop them in line with their aspirations. And will be able to involve them in projects and tasks that they are more suited for.

Prioritisation and Quick Wins

Although you are all working towards achieving a common goal, cross-functional teams can often focus on their tasks and how they are going to deliver against their targets. Whilst this is great, each team can sometimes lose sight of the big picture. Your role as a leader and being part of the leadership team will give you a clearer view of the big picture. You will be able to spot where there are synergies and bring them together for a more impactful outcome.

By balancing resources and efforts and against priorities, you will be able to know where to direct efforts for quick wins. You will also be able to pull the necessary resources together to come up with the best solution when a challenge arises.


Every team has members who have views and opinions on everything and often dominate discussions. Similarly, you will find team members who may be quiet, don’t generally say much and are hardly noticeable. This often does not mean that they have nothing to say. On the contrary, they may have some brilliant ideas that may benefit the team and the organisation.

Your leadership mandate must include ensuring that all team members are included and feel empowered to join in, speak up and contribute. You have a duty to ensure that some of your team members do not feel intimidated when representing their functions at cross-functional meetings. And that experts do not always run the show. Explain to your teams the importance of recognising what everyone brings to the table and how working together will be beneficial to all teams.

For a chance to effectively lead a cross-functional team, you will need to make these your second nature, your habits. Read more on cross-functional teams and team performance.

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