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The Team Management Playbook: Advice for First Time & Veteran Leaders

  • Post category:Leadership
  • Reading time:10 mins read

Whether you’re preparing for your first team management role or you’ve been managing teams for years, there will always be opportunities to learn and develop existing skills. To be a great manager, you need to be comfortable adopting a wide range of personas. Over the course of an average day, you could be a mentor, a coach, a cheerleader, a confessor, a judge and jury, and a decision-maker. Talk about wearing a lot of hats! You must be able to cope with all the challenges and pressures that come with being responsible for other people, as well as yourself.

We’re about to explore various tools that will help you become a more effective team manager. To make this transfer of knowledge a bit smoother, we’ve divided them into six sections:

  1. Understanding the basics of team management roles
  2. Effective recruitment and induction
  3. Understanding team dynamics as a team manager
  4. Team effectiveness and motivation
  5. Developing and coaching your team
  6. Coping with challenging management situations

1.) Understand the basics of team management roles

Starting your journey as a manager can be daunting. It will also likely require you to rethink the way you approach your work. For instance, many first-time team managers find it difficult to transition from doing “hands-on” work to relying on others to get the job done. You may find yourself asking questions such as:

  • Can I learn how to motivate people and earn their respect?
  • How will I find time to complete my own work while managing others?
  • Will I be able to lead people who were once my peers?

In the following two articles about team management for new leaders, you can explore these issues: Seven Surprises for New Managers and Moving into Your First Management Role.

Relationships and Growth as a Team Manager

Whatever your length of experience, it’s critical to build positive working relationships with your team. You can make an indelible first impression and earn the trust of your team by setting the right tone in your first meeting. It also doesn’t hurt to learn a bit about your team in advance. You can gain an early advantage by following this five-step guide.

As a manager, you’ll likely handle a variety of situations and people each day. This article about Mitzeberg’s Management Roles looks into ten roles you might play and explains how you can develop your skills in each scenario.

It is beneficial if you have previously been a technical expert but now need to tackle new challenges such as “soft skills,” administration, and becoming a role model.

You can discover the fundamentals of managing a team in this article. From there, you can explore tools like team charters to help get your team off to a flying start, with improved communication and a united approach.

2.) Effective Recruitment and Induction

The Team Management Playbook - Recruitment

Many Hollywood figureheads agree that the most important part of directing a movie is casting the right actors. If the actors are right for the roles, there will be less need for hands-on instruction or correcting mistakes later. Effective recruitment is a similarly crucial part of team management.

Investing in new talent can be an expensive and time-consuming task. This is why it’s not a decision to take lightly. Ask yourself whether you have the right team for the changing nature of your business. This article can help you weigh the pros and cons of changing or expanding your team. Then, it would be best if you kept an eye out for these common recruitment mistakes.

Who to Recruit

You may consider recruiting internally as a team manager. After all, you’ll have a decent idea of the skills and talents of someone you already know. Furthermore, you’ve likely already invested in their development and growth. However, you mustn’t be blind to the shortcomings of internal hires. It would help if you also were wary of the Peter Principle by promoting a valued colleague beyond their level of competence.

The Interview Process

The traditional job interview is still the best way to get to know candidates and to assess their suitability. So it’s a good idea to brush up on your interview skills and mix traditional question techniques with competency-based questions and Aptitude testing.

It’s vital to recruit team members who are technically competent and share your organization’s values. You can explore this a bit further in this article.

Once you’ve made an offer and the candidate has accepted, you need to do everything in your power to make the role a success. Here’s a great article on engaging with recruits and successful induction to ensure that your hires make the strongest possible start at your organization.

Understanding Dynamics as a Team Manager

Well-rounded teams are made up of people with differing skill sets, personalities, and life experiences. This means that the individuals on your team will likely view the world in different ways. Management by Walking Around (MBWA) is a well-known and accepted method for assessing and understanding team dynamics. It is a useful way to determine how your team members behave and perform, both individually and together.

The dynamics of a group are influenced in part by how well they know one another. Has your team worked together for a while, or is it a freshly formed unit? Teams typically progress through several stages as people get to know one another and settle into their new roles. The following two articles will give you a strong understanding of these stages and what you can do to get the best from your team: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing, and Cog’s Ladder.

Decoding High Performers

The Team Management Playbook - Decoding High Performers

If you’re fortunate to have an especially talented individual on your team, make sure to check out this resource on identifying, developing, and keeping talented people. Furthermore, an individual willing to go the extra mile can have a massive positive effect on your team’s productivity and performance if you place them in the right position. You can read up on how best to handle high achievers in this article.

Depending on your line of work, you may find that some of your most valuable team members are unsociable or introverted. Understanding their strengths and weaknesses is vital when it comes to helping them, ensuring that their colleagues are happy, and maximizing their contribution.

Team Effectiveness and Motivation

To improve team effectiveness, it’s critical to have relevant data that you can collect, track, and respond to. This means identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) and drawing up plans to meet them. Make sure to convert any vague objectives into clear goals and measures that relate directly to your organization’s mission.

Tracking progress requires you to understand how your team is using its time. One way to accomplish this task is to conduct a DILO analysis, which stands for “day in the life of.” A DILO analysis helps you see if your team’s time is being used most effectively. However, you must involve your team in the data collection. They’ll feel demotivated if they think that they are being “spied on” or micromanaged.

A motivated team is typically an effective team. Remember, the better you can demonstrate sound motivational practices, such as using appropriate and effective rewards and providing meaningful work, your team will feel more motivated.

Similarly, an emotionally engaged team also tends to yield better work. The Three-Component Model of Commitment explores three factors that impact how people feel about their work organization.

However, we cannot forget about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which shows how important it is to address safety, security, and comfort and support a sense of belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization.

Developing and Coaching Your Team

Your team will experience a greater sense of satisfaction if they know that they’re growing and developing in their roles. Developing your team and understanding each individual’s developmental needs is an essential trait of a good manager. You can also employ a skills matrix to analyze your team members’ training needs.

You can improve performance via coaching, delegation, and talent management, among a plethora of other tactics.

When it comes to coaching, the Skill/Will Matrix can help you assess an individual’s skill and motivation levels – it can also help you adopt a coaching style that fits their needs.

If they have the skill and the will, selecting the right on-the-job training and cross-training can give them the experience and knowledge they need to perform a wide range of tasks beyond those specified in their job description. This, in turn, can boost their enjoyment and engagement levels.

If you lack experience in delivering or facilitating coaching, you can explore some of the basics in this article – What is Coaching?

The Team Management Playbook - Coaching

Benefits of Coaching

Coaching your team can help you build rapport, help them through business changes, develop self-awareness, and find solutions.  However, you need to be aware that it takes a lot of time and thought, so be careful to balance coaching with your other responsibilities.

The Broaden and Build Theory proposes that a happy and engaged team is more likely to be creative. The same team is also more likely to find new, improved ways of working. That being said, you should aim to produce a positive team climate. Doing so can have a major effect on your team’s development.

Handling Challenging Management Situations

You strive to create a thriving team. One that demonstrates positive collaboration has high morale and delivers successful outcomes. However, life isn’t perfect. We know that life will throw us the occasional curveball.

The life of a manager (and leader) can be delightful and rewarding when things go as planned. However, you discover your real strength as a boss when things get tough.

The challenges you face can come from internal elements or external factors that are beyond your control. For instance, you may feel overstretched because your team is growing too large. You may experience a similar feeling if your team shrinks or suffers from high turnover. Meanwhile, the wider business environment can become increasingly volatile and unpredictable.

Rivalries

The Team Management Playbook - Rivalries

It’s 100% normal for there to be elements of rivalry within teams and it often morphs into positive results. However, be aware that it can also spill over into negative behaviors. This means that you need to be confident in your conflict resolution skills and be able to identify and deal with bad behavior, such as bullying and discrimination.

Best Intentions

However, not all workplace issues are the result of malice or bad intentions. Individuals with the best intentions can find themselves in conflicts due to clashing values. There are likely totally valid reasons behind sloppy work or long-term absences, so keep an open mind as you approach such issues.

Dangerous Personality Traits

A mix of personalities in a team often brings about tension – or worse – as well as enrichment. For instance, at some point in your career, you’ll likely have to handle team members who are volatile, domineering, arrogant, narcissistic, angry, or who display any number of other “challenging” traits.

Executive Summary

Elite managers inspire their people and help them take effective action. However, team management can also be challenging, so don’t expect to get everything right the first time around. However, by focusing on the six key skill areas we’ve discussed, you can become the kind of manager that helps your team achieve their goals.

Andrew Roche

Andrew Roche is a Digital Consultant at Shift Digital. He is also pursuing an MBA in Marketing & Finance through the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University

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