Leading Your Team into Self-Regulation

It’s not easy for any of us to see ourselves… to see a lack of self-regulation… to see the behaviours and processes that work against us, and against a team. If you’re a leader, however, you’re in a position… indeed, many would say it’s your very responsibility to help people see themselves and their actions in a clearer light, and mentor them through a development plan which is substantially aided by self-regulation.

It’s odd then, to suggest querying yourself before you approach someone, but as it sets the plumb line straight, here is the two-part question you need to ask:

  1. What are my thoughts and feelings about this person?
  2. Am I thinking about paying attention to them because I care about them or because I want results?

Wanting results is perfectly understandable, just insufficient. If you care, the individual will know it; it will be motivating; it will help create a desire for self-regulation. And if you don’t care, the individual will know it. You’ll get regulation, all right… along with reluctance, grudging compliance, and anger. Plus, you won’t enjoy the process. One way you’re a leader, the other a monitor. So, address ‘caring’.

Exclusion due to a lack of self-regulation

When you’ve examined your motivations and perhaps ways in which you exclude the individual, it’s time to look at whether the team includes, or subtly excludes them.

If a person is being excluded, it may be that they do not understand the various working-styles around the table. If that’s the case, the team can read and discuss: Resolving the Work-styles Conflict, Articles Archive: Sept. 2014. They’ll gain a whole heap of awareness about their own style and the styles of others, reducing judgements about behaviours, and expectations about how and when and why work gets done.

Exclusion can also occur if a person chooses individualism over the collective well-being of the team, for what’s enjoyable for the individual is not necessarily what’s best for the team. If you think too much individuality is threatening the person’s status on the team, ask them to assume the role of ‘observer/listener’ in meetings, and record – for themselves – both their reactions to what’s being said, and what it’s like for them to stay quiet; to not attract attention; to not be the most important person.

Last, and most often, exclusion occurs when a person is unaware of the effect they have on others. If you believe it to be the case, ask the individual to study the behaviours of others, particularly the negative and positive effects on the group. After discussing their observations, ask the individual to compare their own behaviours against the control group.

The Self-Regulation Plan

When the person has completed the preliminary work, which is to assess their behaviours and competence levels, they can generate a change plan. The plan starts with a driving statement. E.g., “I want the team to value my work”, and is followed by a list of pertinent goals and the specific steps they’ll take in reaching them.

Make sure the steps are small ‘risers’, and the goals linked to achievable dates. On those dates, celebrate their successes and discuss their difficulties. If they are faltering, let them know you believe in them (assuming you do). It’ll give them the boost they need.

As a leader, it’s up to you to help people become powerful and to feel safe, for there can be no true accord between you and the people on your team when there is an unhealthy power imbalance and when a sense of safety is not present.

By showing others how to regulate themselves, you give them the power to lead themselves. And when you’ve done that, you can rightly say, as Gandhi did: “I must go and follow my people, for I am their leader”.





  1. Peter, I found this article very interesting and fitting. I find that many managers who are in leadership positions are not really leaders. Instead of empowering their teams and workers they constrain creativity by not inviting diverse opinions and ideas. Self-regulation here is the key. I hope those in leadership positions take this article to heart and contemplate self assessment as it will be evident that by developing leader in their team they are creating opportunities for greater success for themselves.

    1. Thank you for your comment Narmin. I’m pleased to hear that you found the article useful. It’s difficult to lead well, and I think one of the central challenges for any of us when we find ourselves in leadership positions (or simply in situations that require our leadership) is to let go of complete control, empower those around us, and welcome diverse opinions. These things go against some of our self-preservation instincts, and therefore take deliberate effort. Very best wishes for 2015.

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