As a manager, one’s prime responsibility is to effectively manage a team. A well-managed team has proven to be more productive and innovative in its approach to all business issues. But managing a team is not all that easy, it requires deep insight, forethought, planning, and good leadership skills. Probably, that is one of the reasons many companies keep upgrading their manager’s knowledge and skill through team management capsules, or sessions. Before getting on with the concept of managing a team, let us understand what a team is. A team is a group of people with different skills that come together, either for a short or long period, to effectively work on assigned assignments, or perform daily operational tasks. Whether one is managing a new team, a project team, or any other team, the guidelines are alike; as the end goal of smooth, and productive operations and services has to be met.
Effective Management of a Team
Communication: A manager is responsible for ensuring that the vision of the plan borne by the senior management on paper is efficiently and successfully implemented, and becomes a ground reality. There are just a few differences in a way a new team with new members is inducted, as opposed to a new team being formed with existing employees of the company. A new team needs to be introduced, whereas a team of existing employees just need to get reacquainted (if they work in different departments). Communication is the key to resolve all issues, including a conflict. As a team head, you should understand the goals and expectations that the senior management has from you as a team manager, while you should be well-aware of all the vital information about the team you intend to lead. You should educate your team about the objectives, roles, authority, responsibilities, and deadlines.
Assessment: The team manager should assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats involved in assigning tasks to team members as well as its overall impact on the project. Make sure you delegate the work based on the skills, knowledge, and interest levels of each member. Synchronizing group development and efforts will take time, but as a team head you need to facilitate these changes at a good pace. Be very clear with instructions, ambiguous language will only give rise to confusion, and will create disharmony in the team. Make sure your team knows that with power comes responsibility and accountability. This needs to be handled delicately. The members will not take risk, even calculated ones, if they feel that their team head will not support them through a failure.
Fair Treatment: While being a part of a team, bear in mind that the group will also watch for biased treatment on your part. Being biased towards a few is natural, however, what is not expected as a team manager, is to act upon it consistently and blindly. Repeated incidents of biased behavior can have serious repercussions not only on the project, but will also cast a doubt on your ability to lead a team. Be stern where required, and soft where essential. It is a fine line, but balancing it well will reflect well on you. Make sure all your paperwork is also in place.
Conflict Management: Conflict of interest is an expected part of any organization. Clash of thoughts, ideas, processes, procedures, or even attitude can derail a project, if not handled well. However, not all conflict is bad, when well-channelized it can be highly productive. While resolving a conflict, study its causes and consequences well. Figure out the best way to resolve it, without sounding biased. Do not get involved into all conflicts, give time to the members to resolve it on their own. Let them know subtly that you trust their intelligence and experience, and have enough confidence that they will work through their conflicts. Inculcating or choosing people with more or less common shared values will ensure a good working relation among the team. Clearly define your team’s code of behavior, and workplace ethics about what is and isn’t acceptable. Personal issues, sexual misconduct, and backbiting should not be encouraged.
A team comprises a variety of people with different personality traits. Hence, managing a team requires team management and leadership skills. Gone are the days when the authoritative management style was followed. Today, people follow participatory style of management where every member of the team is involved at his level in the work. Hence, the role of a team manager has become even more crucial to achieve success, and to keep the team going stronger.
Tips for a Better Team Management Experience
Be an Excellent Team Member: You have to first be a team member before becoming a team leader. You should understand that you are a part of the same team, and follow the rules before expecting others to follow them. You should be involved in every activity of the team, and have a positive attitude towards work. A team likes a leader who walks what he talks. Hence, as a team manager you will have to set examples through your actions. It can be achieved through a simple example like punctuality, to a major achievement like introducing an innovative process.
Motivate your Team: Motivate by giving the right awards and rewards to the deserving team members. They are motivated not only by pecuniary gains but also by a few genuine words of appreciation. It is necessary that good work which benefits the company is acknowledged, and appreciated in front of the entire team. This also encourages others in the team to do well.
Manage Multilocation Teams: A team manager has to manage teams which are located at different locations. It can be a very tedious job to keep control over distant teams. Ensure that the same set of rules are applicable to all the teams. Thanks to the latest technology, you may utilize the software tools to communicate with these teams on a regular basis.
Support your Team: You will have to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of people before delegating work to them, and assure them that you will be available whenever they need your help and support. You will have to take the matter in your own hands if there is something beyond the understanding of the team members.
Encourage Development and Training: Every team member likes to develop his abilities to take up larger responsibilities in future. Meet up with your team members, and understand their development needs and inclinations. Outline a yearly training program for each one of them. Their capabilities and skills should consistently enhance with time.
Manage Stakeholders’ Perceptions: It is important that you know how the external or internal stakeholders perceive your team. You should know clearly what they expect from your team, so that you can chart your work plans accordingly. Always remember, not to take actions on unnecessary negative team criticism, or unreasonable expectations expressed by the stakeholders. You will have to learn to draw a line wherever necessary.
Plan and Meet Targets: Educate your team to plan their work to avoid unnecessary pressure and stress at the last moment. If the need arises to stand by your team, you should be able to put your foot down and defend them.
Maintain Discipline: Without discipline it will be impossible to finish the tasks within the set deadline. It will also help in maintaining a decorum in the office. Rules of the workplace are also to be maintained. For example, if your organization has a uniform, you may reprimand a team member who comes to office in a casual attire on a weekday. Team members learn by observing each other.
Hone your Skill Set: As a manager or leader you will have to keep on learning and updating your skill set. This will help you in facing conflict, trouble shooting, negotiations, etc. while handling a team effectively.
Protect the Interest of the Organization: A team manager should never put his interest before the organization’s interest. The team will think that the manager is a selfish human being with a personal agenda, and will stop co-operating with him.
Aim for Challenging Targets: It is important that the entire team is on the same page regarding the vision and goals of the team. It is advisable to have short-term quarterly goals rather than having long-term yearly ones. For example, a marketing team can have quarterly goals of completing effective field trips, and feedback for 250 customers in a particular area.
Build and Sustain a Team Culture: Every team should have their own culture which should encourage the team members to work well. Team members should also be able to voice their opinions freely in front of the manager, without any hesitation. They should not be afraid to speak their minds. An open and free forum should be provided to the team, to discuss, debate, or deliberate, on any work-related problems.
Practice Transparency: A team manager should practice transparency and honesty. Every team member should be called and informed about the decisions or strategies of the management. Hiding the information from some team members, and disseminating it to others creates unrest in the team. It also depicts favoritism on the manager’s part. The manager ends up losing the confidence of the team.
Strengthen Team Bonding: It is important that at least one team building exercise takes place in every quarter. It can be arranged at both indoor and outdoor locations. This can be done through management games, picnics, sports, outings, movies, etc. This strengthens the bond in the team, and reduces conflict.
Manage Resources Effectively: As a team manager you will have to be sensitive towards the personal problems of the team members. In case a team member is absent for a long duration, you will have to make an alternate arrangement so that the work is not hampered. For example, if a female member goes on maternity leave, you can arrange a temporary replacement till the time she is in a position to join back.
Criticize Constructively: If the need arises to be critical with any of the team members, it should be done constructively. Personal remarks should be avoided at all costs. The faltering member should not only be informed about what he lacks, but should also be given advice on increasing his capability. He should be given related trainings if necessary.
Adopt Corrective Measures: If the team members make mistakes for the first time, be calm and teach them the correct way to do the work. Firing a subordinate in front of others will not create a good image on the team manager’s part.
Be Approachable: A team manager has to be approachable. He should welcome new ideas and difference in opinions. He should not have a ‘I am always correct’ air around him. A manager should encourage his team to consult him in case of any professional or personal problems.
Be a Good Listener: To keep the team together, a manager should be a good listener. He should not jump the gun before corroborating the facts. He should not be biased. In case of a conflict he should take the side of the person who is right.
Shoulder Responsibility: If a manager avoids taking responsibility for anything that goes wrong and points at his team members, it creates a negative impression on them. It also creates disharmony among the team members.
Take Initiative: A team manager should not wait for his boss to delegate the work to him. He should be proactive in thinking about the welfare of the team, and the company at large.
Celebrate the Success of your Team: Do not forget to celebrate the success of your team by taking them out for dinner, or by giving incentives.
A good team manager is someone who knows to manage his team well, and has the ability to ensure collective success for the group. Implement the above-mentioned suggestions to manage your team effectively and efficiently.