As a manager, you’ll usually be judged by others on the outputs of your team, so it’s crucial for both you and your organisation that you get the best from them. One of the most important things to remember however is that you can’t manage your team as a single entity. While it might be true that ‘there’s no ‘I’ in team’, there are certainly plenty of ‘individuals’ and it’s up to you as their manager to ensure they all perform at their best and pull together towards the same aim.
There are a number of areas you can address to get the best from your team, from designing a support structure and avoiding micromanagement to creating a work environment that’s good to work in and conducive to productivity.
Understanding the different work styles of your team members
Everyone has a different working style and you should accommodate these where possible to play to people’s strengths. For example, if a team member seems to leave tasks until the last minute, try giving them a number of smaller tasks with shorter deadlines, so they can bash their way through them ‘just in time’. However, if someone else on the team tends to become overwhelmed by a long task list, try to stagger the work over longer timelines so they don’t become stressed. With flexible scheduling, the same work should still get done in the same amount of time, but your team should enjoy their work more.
In addition, try to find out what makes the people in your team ‘tick’ – what they like and dislike about their job, how they cope with stress or boredom and so on. You can do this through work style assessment with conversations either informally or at appraisals, or you could simply keep an eye out for how people behave at work. When you know what types of task suit people best, you can take this into account when delegating their working schedule.
Encourage a healthy work-life balance
Everyone has a life outside work and it’s important not to see going above and beyond with extra work hours as a sign of greater dedication to the job. If you think there’s an issue when someone consistently leaves on time, perhaps consider your own work-life balance instead! It should actually ring more alarm bells if someone in your team is consistently spending additional hours in the office. Check whether they are struggling with workload or have other issues you can help with. If people become too stressed or tired they won’t be as productive, so it’s in your interests to promote and support the benefits of healthy work-life balance.
Make sure everyone knows what they are doing
Your team members need to understand what they are doing and why, and how to do it. They may need some support or training – especially if this is a new task involving problem solving – and clear guidance on what they are trying to achieve. You should also spend time to help staff understand where their work fits in the wider picture of your organisation’s goals so they can see how their efforts will have an impact. Set expectations and deadlines, have a system in place to check progress and offer support, but don’t be an overbearing boss. Also be mindful of your team’s other responsibilities to avoid overloading them unnecessarily.
Avoiding the negative effects of micromanagement
As a manager, you have a job of your own to do, and it doesn’t involve sitting on the shoulder of team members, watching everything they do.
Once you’ve developed an understanding of how each member of your team works, you should have the confidence to delegate tasks and then stay ‘hands off’ unless they ask for help. Stay focused on outcomes rather than process and keep an eye on the big picture, not the small details.
Make sure you’re available for support if needed though. If a team member feels like they have been abandoned to their fate they’re likely to get stressed and worried about whether they’re doing the right thing.
Schedule some catch-up meetings with team members, individually or as a group, to check on progress so you can give a steer if needed. Resist the urge to cancel those meetings if time is pressured, even if team members say everything is OK – ongoing support and reassurance even when things are going well can be appreciated and you may pick up issues that haven’t been noticed.
Also resist taking over tasks if you think team members are struggling – if you keep taking control, they will never get a chance to improve their skills and gain experience, which will be more of a problem for you in the long run. If you think there are issues, check whether they need specialist support or training to do the work they’ve been tasked with.
How to lead by example in the workplace
When you’re delegating work make sure you hang on to those tasks that really do need your input, and keep the team up to date on what you’re doing. They’ll be interested to see how everything fits together. Also let them know if there will be times when you are facing extra pressure so they understand if your door is shut for a short while. Don’t leave staff to cope on their own if they need you, no matter how busy you are – a few moments of your time may make a huge difference to someone else’s working day. Communication is always important but it becomes even more crucial when you’re all under pressure, so keep those lines open.
Ask your team what they think – brainstorming ideas
Everyone on the team will have ideas and opinions, so try to encourage some sharing via group discussion. While a project and its aims may be dictated to you and your team, you can still look at the best ways to complete it together. You could even have a brainstorm to generate ideas and then pass them back up the chain on how the team can support the organisation’s overall objectives. If something can’t be done explain why, and discuss further how an idea could be adapted to make it possible.
These kinds of conversation will help team members feel valued and an important part of the team and you’ll no doubt receive some cracking creative ideas from time to time. And don’t just take ideas from the more experienced staff; new starters can also come at a problem with fresh eyes and a different experience base, so take advantage of that too.
Don’t just try to get the best – offer the best
Remember that your team members deserve the best support if you want to get the best from them. Appraisals and regular one-to-ones are a great way to keep in touch with how your staff are getting on in their job and how they feel about work. Make sure you help them access any relevant coaching, training or education, and also support them to grow their ambitions beyond their current role, if that’s what they’d like to do. Similarly, make sure staff who are content in their current role are also supported with refresher courses, to ensure they stay up to date and feel valued.
Getting the best out of your team isn’t just about you and what you want them to achieve, it’s about all of you getting the best out of the time you spend at work too.