As most of us are aware, managing a team is not about simply telling people what to do. Effective team management is much more about providing guidance, support and accountability. Team productivity management calls for each team member to clearly understand their role and how it fits into the overall success of a project, department, or company. The manager’s role is to facilitate a smooth transition of tasks from one employee to another throughout the project process. This includes: defining the job and its responsibilities, removing unnecessary obstacles, supporting the employee, and most importantly, holding them accountable. Think of yourself as the conductor of the symphony. It is more important that you lead then that you play an instrument.
Managers provide the clear course for success and assist team members. Just as importantly, managers should not and must not do the employee’s job or pass it on to another team member. In the short term, it may get the job done; but in the long run, it will increase frustration among other team members in addition to creating morale and productivity issues. Often managers are reluctant to hold employees responsible for getting the job done. It may seem easier to simply give the task to someone else and avoid the hassle of holding the responsible employee accountable. Just remember that at some point the problem will reemerge and will have to be dealt with.
Personally, I would prefer to utilize prevention rather than damage control. In an effort to assist managers in leading and managing teams, I developed “Five Actions For Managers,” a guide to effective team management.
Hire & train for what you need.
Often managers and supervisors hire and train based on what they would like to see employees attain, as opposed to actually seeking the specific skills needed to get the job done. Unfortunately, that strategy is rarely successful. In fact, it is many times counterproductive. An example of this is hiring a highly degreed person as an administrative assistant, when the critical job skills do not require it. Although we may prefer to have an employee with a degree it is not a necessary prerequisite and actually does not guarantee that the employee can or will do the job successfully. In my experience hiring an overqualified person increases the chance that the employee will at some point become disillusioned and bored by the administrative duties. Ultimately, that employee will only stay until they obtain a more challenging position.
Never team a problem employee with a productive employee.
This action may seem counterintuitive but in reality will always create more problems than it solves. The thought process in teaming a poor producer with a high achiever stems from a belief that the high achiever will motivate and mentor the poor performer and enhance overall productivity. In fact, what happens in the majority of cases is that the high achiever will observe the poor performer (making the same or more money but doing far less work), get frustrated with the situation and ultimately become de-motivated. Thus, the result will be two poor performers. The solution is to manage the poor performer up or out.
One on the best practices in business management is to manage consistently. Providing a stable and consistent working environment is important to employees and provides a firm foundation for their success. When I say manage consistently I do not mean managing everyone the same. Every employee has their own motivators and characteristics. Some employees are motivated by money while others are motivated by job challenges, enhanced learning, or even social interaction. Leading and managing teams successfully means finding and utilizing what motivates your team members and incorporating those elements into your management style. What is meant by “managing consistently” is to be fair and equitable in providing support as well as discipline. It means not treating people differently in similar or identical situations. A manager must never support an environment which creates inequities in job duties, support, flexibility and performance accountability, based on who he or she likes, feels more comfortable with and may have outside association with. Whether one is flexible with time or accountability, it must never be based on a personal relationship or comfort level. Inconsistent management creates perceptions of potential discriminatory practices and may open up the manager and the organization to claims and liabilities. If a manager chooses to be flexible, then they should do so for all team members equally. Learning to utilize this management strategy takes commitment and practice.
Value feedback and creative ideas.
Through the years, I have experienced an interesting phenomenon. Many organizations take the high performing sales person and promote them into the position of sales manager, neglecting the fact that the skills one needs to sell are totally different then the skills one needs to manage salespeople. An obvious flaw in this action is that those managers at times have difficulty accepting feedback and new ideas from those subordinate to themselves. After all, the idea may be coming from an individual who is new to the organization or has very little overall work experience.
Always be mindful and value alternative perspectives. Although the new employee may be limited in the organization’s culture and work habits they often bring fresh ideas and a more creative view of things. Understanding that the employee may be reluctant to express those ideas (since they are new), it is critical to display a willingness to hear and consider different approaches. Regularly ask for feedback on processes and procedures. Seek out the person actually doing the task and welcome ideas on improvements. Expressing that you have an open door policy is not enough (especially as you close the office door behind you). Remember, it is not what you say but what you do that counts.
I continue to be amazed at the fact that many managers focus far more on what is not being done than what teams do successfully. It is critical to acknowledge productivity and hard work. Most of us have heard of the “carrot or the stick”. The stick may work for a while but overall for the employee the carrot answers the all important question, “What in it for me?” Studies have shown that leaders can produce up to 10% more productivity from their teams without promotions or raises. They simply had to say “Thank You” and acknowledge good work. When managers utilize a method of equal accountability and praise employees feel a greater sense of accomplishment and common purpose. Take the time to compliment your team and celebrate success.
In summary, as mentioned initially, there is no magic to effective team management. It takes time, understanding, motivation and utilizing skills for creating the right environment for success. Hire and train for what you need, create teams that complement each other, manage consistently, value feedback/ new ideas, and celebrate success. These critical actions will return amazing dividends and help you to become and remain a manager that employees admire, respect and work hard for.
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This article was written by: Ricardo H. Correia, Human Resource Manager for Back Office Support Solutions.