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How to Manage Teams Effectively

By Edited Jul 20, 2015 1 0
Clockwork
Credit: pixbay

An effective team works like a well-oiled clock. Each tiny piece working perfectly to fulfill its role and meet the desired result.

Knowing how to manage a team is often the difference between success and failure on a project. Effective team management, whether for a small team or a large one is a skill highly sought after in every field. For new time managers trying to make others work is often a daunting task. Even for a seasoned leader, balancing teamwork is a delicate job.

The secret of building a functional group of people is simple. In essence, keeping your group members engaged and motivated is all that you need. Question is, how does one manage to do that? Search the internet on how and you will find steps which are vague to say the least.  You will find steps such as, build trust, lead by example, show confidence, and more.

Don’t despair though. Just follow the simple advice below and you won’t have any trouble building a team that always performs. 

Know your style

As a manager and leader the first thing you need to know is your leadership style. Are you the authoritative or democratic? Visionary or pace-setting? There are many styles and you have to know of your natural tendency. 

Once you learn your core style, you need to consciously join other styles in your routine. Situational leadership requires the use of different styles for you to create long-term relationships with your teams. 

Know your team

Ideally, the first step in building a successful team is the building of the team itself. You choose who you want to include, which role to assign them, and how they will complement others in your chosen group. This way you make sure that you are in-fact building a team that will work. 

Generally, the manager seldom gets the choice to vote. He or she gets a project, given a few employees and asked to deliver. In this case the very first thing you as a manager or team leader need to do is to get to know your team members. 

You don't need to conduct formal interviews or such to know your team. Try not to make this phase awkward for everyone involved. Just have a one to one informal powwow with them. 

Find out where they’ve come from, know their motivations, and understand what things are important to them. Learn their history with the company and if they have any personal issues with any other team member. These are simple things which you can find out very easily when you spend some time with them not focusing on the work at hand. Walk around the workplace as often as you can and mingle.

Co-locate your team

I know this is not feasible or even possible in most cases, but when you get the option, always co-locate your team. Placing the members in close vicinity of each other resolves many problems even before they arise.

If a team is new or spread across multiple departments, co-location would help them get to know each other better and understand the other person’s dilemma. They will be less likely to stay impassive and thinking “not my work, why should I do this?”

Your team members will start to relate to other members as human beings instead of a name on their email list. Though there is no empirical evidence that provides proof of this statement, however I have found it true in 9 teams out of 10. 

Communicate to your team

Communication has many dimensions in team-dynamics. The foremost is to have a clear goal communicated to everyone. It is important that everyone understands how his share of work is going to matter to the end goal. 

If your team consists of people coming from different departments it is better that they understand what success means instead of memorizing each role and responsibilities. This will help them make educated decisions throughout the course of the project.

Similarly you must document individual goals and expectations. Tell them clearly what actions are the "minimum requirements" for the assigned task. Let them know what they need to deliver to reach the stretch target (that reminds me, always have a stretch target). Praise them when they deliver their task, celebrate them when they deliver beyond. 

Another aspect of communication is to have open communication channels. Each member has to feel comfortable with raising their thoughts. If they find anything suspicious they are to point it out than hiding it in the fear of reprimand.

Trust your team

Before you ask your team to trust you, you need to show them that you trust them. The best way to do this is to delegate tasks. Do not try to do everything yourself, delegate. 

Just randomly giving a team member work to do is not what I am talking about. To delegate successfully, you must match tasks to people. Here is where your knowledge of your team will come into play. When you understand your people, you will know how much responsibility you can put on them. The idea is to build their confidence and to show them that you trust them to do more work. If you give them work that they cannot handle, it would have a negative effect.

Another aspect of delegation that you need to remember is accountability. No matter who you assign a task to, in the end you are the one who is responsible for it. So don't delegate blindly, only delegate when there is a growth opportunity for the person you are assigning the task to.

Delegation is a powerful weapon in your leadership skills arsenal. Use it.

Build your team

In a journal paper "Does Team Building Work?" [1], the small group research provides evidence that team building can offer positive effects on team performance.  The secret is to make the exercise relevant and engaging. 

You don't just throw in your employees at a resort for the weekend and expect them to come out a better team by sharing their deep dark fears in a boardroom with 10 other people. Each team building exercise needs a specific goal. Do you want to improve communications? Or do you want to create trust between members? Or perhaps independence is your goal? 

Each goal requires careful planning to come up with the right team building activity. You don't have to spend a fortune on these either. There are many cost-effective ways where you can plan something that fits your goal and at the same time not be too heavy on the wallet. Search around and I am sure you will find solutions aplenty. 

It is also important to debrief after the activity. Where you explain what the desired result was vs.  the one your team achieved. This way the team would appreciate the activity for what it was instead of something that is forced upon them. 

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Bibliography

  1. Cameron Klein, Deborah DiazGranados, Eduardo Salas,Huy Le, Shawn Burke, Rebecca Lyons, Gerald F. Goodwin "Does Team Building Work?." Small Group Research. 40 (2009): 181-222.

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