Team management is not always easy. Most of the time it means navigating different personalities, work habits and motivations while balancing your own tasks and keeping the company goals in mind. It takes a lot of work to get this right, but we've put together a few secrets that are aimed to help every manager, from seasoned and senior through to those new to the role.
1. Keep a marathon mentality
When you step up or over into a new management position, it’s very easy to be excited about the ideas you have. This enthusiasm is definitely a good thing but it's very important to pace yourself. Before you start any major projects, give yourself time to understand your role and the inner workings of your team and team members.
As a team manager, you may not always have the luxury of time and quick changes are sometimes essential. Still, take the time to consult with and understand your team to make sure you don't throw the baby out with the bath water. If you've got big ideas that you can't work on just yet, make a note of them somewhere you will remember and come back to them when you've settled in to your position.
2. Set realistic expectations
As a manager, you use your knowledge of the big picture to move your team toward each goal. Nothing encourages a team more than success, no matter how small a victory it is. In the same way, a team can become discouraged if you set goals they can never meet.
If you want to create a new policy, set a new objective or make a change, you need to understand whether or not you’ve set realistic expectations. This might mean looking at your allocated budget or the workload of those whose help you'll need. But also remember that even the biggest projects that seem hard to achieve can be broken down into more manageable tasks. It may take longer to reach the end goal but those little wins along the way will be a great morale boost for the team.
3. Know what your team does
If you’re looking to make a change or want to see what changes are needed, sit down with your employees to find out how they do what they do. It's important team management skill to make sure you understand their role before you go about changing it.
Ask them questions about what problems they have to deal with and possible solutions. They may have some insight that you can't see from your office.
4. Find real motivators
The promise of a raise might propel some employees toward the finish line, but others might not be moved by money. There are lots of different motivators that you should consider, such as the chance to work from home, some extra personal time or even just verbal appreciation of the effort they put in.
When you discover the real motivators for each individual you can use this information to encourage your team when they're in a slump.
5. Explain why
It's difficult for employees to conquer a challenge if they don't understand why they are doing it. Take the time to explain the reasoning behind any changes or ambitions. Always paint the bigger picture and make sure your team know how their work contributes and propels the company towards its goals.
Likewise, feedback is essential. Effective team management includes sitting down with your employees to tell them how they did or did not meet your expectations so they know how to improve.
6. Develop independent workers
An independent worker is an effective worker. You want to develop your team to be educated about what they do, enthused about what the company does and empowered to best help customers.
You hold the authority to give them the necessary resources. Equip your team with proper training, excellent tools and adequate resources so that they can work to the best of their abilities. On your part, you also need to delegate work effectively and avoid micromanaging. If you don't let them run with their ideas they will never learn to fly.
7. Recognise your employees' talents
Each employee will bring a different skill set to the company and respond to different employee recognition strategies.
They all have their own employee strengths that, if nurtured in the right way, can be used to benefit the company.
It's on you, as their manager, to identify and draw out these talents. Once identified, you can work with the employee to figure out the best way to use their skills and what additional training they might want or need to take it to the next level.
8. Focus on team culture
Your relationship with each employee is important, but the way the whole team interacts is vital. You'll find that teams who enjoy coming to work have more motivation. Of course, team culture is not something you can force; it will evolve naturally on its own but you can steer it in the right direction by being aware of opportunities when they arise and involving the whole team.
9. Be a model
When you step into a managerial position, your team will take cues from your attitude, enthusiasm and work ethic - or lack thereof. In the same way that attitudes trickle down, so does behaviour. For example, if you want everyone to be on time to team meetings, show up early yourself.
Practice what you preach or your employees won't be happy when you expect from them what you don't give yourself.
10. Keep your door open
Avoid being the last to know about issues with projects or between team members by making yourself approachable. Learn to listen first before responding and show respect for what your employees say when they do come to you. In this age of remote offices, letting employees know you're available takes more than just leaving your office door open.
You have to encourage them to come to you with any questions and remind them that, even if you are not available right now, you will do everything you can to make time for them.
Lead and they will follow
A business is only as good as its employees and employees thrive when their leader has effective team management skills. For new managers - and even for some of the old hands - it can be daunting to lead a new team. However, with a little effort and few of these secrets you'll realise it's just about having confidence in your ability to lead your team to success.
In the words of Simon Sinek:
'When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.'
[This post was originally published in 2014 but we've since updated it.]