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10 Ways to Improve Team Management Skills and Boost Performance

10 Ways to Improve Team Management Skills and Boost Performance

I have spent the majority of my life as an entrepreneur, as did my father, grandfather and great-grandfather. It just seemed to be something in our genes that made us want to stretch out our wings and do our own thing.

But a few years ago, I sold my businesses and got tired of the golf 5 days a week. Not to mention that health insurance as well as other costs where going up and my income wasn’t. So I decided to take a job as a manager with a fortune 500 company. Here I would get income, benefits and a taste of corporate life that I had never experienced.

I lasted two months! In my opinion, the management style hurt productivity much more than it helped. As a manager, I was expected to rule my team with an iron fist. It was literally in their handbook that no matter how good an employee was, there was no such thing as a perfect employee so I was to address the most minor issues with the best employees. This never helped team cohesiveness and frankly created resentment between management and employee.

So after two months, I walked into the bosses office and said that I was not fit for the corporate culture at this company. Despite never telling me I had done a good job, he started offering me incentives to stay, more pay, a better position etc… But I knew that this was the companies culture from the beginning and it wasn’t going to change, so I politely declined and started my own affiliate marketing business.

Now over the years I have owned and operated many different types of businesses with the number of employees ranging from 1 (me), to over 400 and plenty in-between, I have tried many different management styles and while depending on the business and who your employees are, some management styles worked better than others. But generally, I have found ten relatively simple ways to improve team management skills and boost productivity.

I have found that if you’re an owner, high level executive or just a manager of a single team of people these ten tips can boost productivity in almost every situation:

1. Be Clear About Your Goals and Write Them Down

Now this part in particular needs to be written by the owner or CEO, as the lower level managers will take those goals and apply them to their own teams of people.

Note that this doesn’t mean writing down “We are going to make widgets and become the most profitable widget maker in the world.” Anyone could come up with that. Your goals must be clear and attainable and have ways to measure progress. A much clearer goal would be to increase profits by 10% in a year. You can then have specific goals for the managers of different departments.

For example the goal for the marketing manager may be to find new and more efficient ways of marketing so that your marketing efforts reach 5% more customers with the same budget. The production manager may have some good ideas about streamlining production to increase productivity. A goal for the sales manager maybe to break into a new or untapped market.

The important thing is that your overall goals are clear, all of your managers are on board and know what is expected of them and that you continuously monitor each departments progress. This process should be repeated by your managers to their team members.

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2. Come up with Objectives

Now this may sound the same a coming up with goals, but it’s not.

Goals can be thought of as the end result, where you want to be. Objectives are the steps you must take to reach the goals. Take a look at this article to know their differences:

Goals vs Objectives: How to Use Them to Become Successful in Life?

For example. a goal might be to increase customer satisfaction and the objectives to getting there might include faster shipping times, easier returns and improvements in customer service etc.

4. Hire Competent People, Then Get out of Their Way

As a manager, your boss or senior executive should have gone over the companies goals so that you have a good understanding of where the company wants to be. A good manager should set out clear goals for the department with reasonable, attainable and measurable goals. You can then take the goals that have been set for your department and give them to each employee according to their skill level.

Now you may have noticed the second part of the tip was to “get out of their way.” This is only if you hired the people who have the correct skills. Part of your job as a manager is to check on and measure progress of your employees. If you are finding someone who just can’t seem to keep up, try setting them up with a mentor, or even beak down their job responsibilities so they don’t seem overwhelming.

But the bottom line is that you have a responsibility to the company to get your part of the overall mission finished on time and done well, otherwise it reflex on you as a manager. While no one likes it, termination maybe the only solution.

5. Have Regular Meetings with Your Staff

Problems, issues and bottlenecks will inevitably arise in any organization. Part of your job as a manager is to identify the issues and correct them before they become problems.

Having regular productive meetings with your staff is key to identifying problems before they get out of control.

Let’s just say that your employees are having a hard time shipping items on time because they can’t get them from the warehouse soon enough. This is where you earn your money!

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What you don’t want is people from the shipping department calling up the warehouse and it turning into a screaming match. It’s time for a meeting with the warehouse manager. Perhaps the issue is that they aren’t getting reliable predictions about the number of units being sold each month. Now we have identified the problem, a lack of communication between sales and warehouse.

Almost all issues arise because of a lack (or problem with) communication. A good manager will be the go between for the team and the managers of the other teams. As long as cool heads prevail, you can almost always come up with a solution that satisfies everyone.

6. Use the “Sandwich” Method When Dealing with Problems That Arise from Otherwise Good Employees

Everyone makes mistakes, some are small and can be dealt with a memo to the team or a quick word with the offending employee. However, an otherwise excellent employee can make a major mistake that can cause a serious disruption to your units responsibility. These types of problems need to be addressed by you, the manager.

As long as this is a one time occurrence and the employee has not had issues in the past. The sandwich approach is the the best.

Start by explaining that the employee is valuable to the organization and that their work has generally been a positive influence in the company.

Next address the problem that occurred and what steps could be taken to avoid simular problem in the future.

Close the conversation by reiterating the value the employee has to the company and reinforce the steps that will be taken to avoid the problem again.

7. Always Remember That Examples Work Better Than Positive Reinforcement or Negative Reinforcement

The carrot and the stick has always been a resource for managing employees. You can use the carrot to entice your employees to do what you want, or you can use the stick to punish the employees for not doing what was expected of them. Or you can be an example of whats expected of them.[1]

As I said before, everyone screws up, including you. When you do screw up, take responsibility for it!

Part of your job as a manager is to be an example to those you manage. Be open about your mistakes and the steps you are taking to avoid doing the same thing in the future. After all, you can’t expect your employees to admit mistakes if you’re not the example.

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There should be a process in place for when things like this happens. Acknowledge the problem, analyze the root cause of the problem, implement procedures to avoid reoccurrence of the mistake, evaluate the solution you’ve come up with and, if it works, move on.

8. Be Smart About Building Your Team

As a manager, you have to deal with a lot of different situations, people and personalities. You also are going to be given new and sometimes more responsibilities, including things like budgeting, forecasts, presentations and payroll. So think seriously about your own strengths and weaknesses so you can hire accordingly.

You want people who will complement your strengths and help you with your weaknesses. There’s an old saying that you should “hire slow and fire quickly “.[2] It’s a good thing to keep in mind, take your time to find the right person for the job.

Once you have trained them and given them all the tools for the job, then you can evaluate them. If for whatever reason they aren’t living up to expectations (that you were clear about!) Then, it might be best to terminate them quickly and search for a new person.

I see so many situations where a person is hired for a job that they aren’t qualified for or just can’t do a good job at and they stay there year after year. Keeping the wrong people will hurt your team, inspire resentment with the other team members and you’ll spend a lot more time babysitting instead of focusing on more important things.

This actually goes back to taking responsibility for your mistakes. You’ve identified the mistake of hiring the wrong person, so solve it quickly, rectify it by hiring the right person and move on.

9. Maintain a Positive Attitude and Promote It Within Your Team

We’ve all had that grumpy boss or coworker who never seemed to care much. Did you respect and look up to them? Of course not, people are naturally attracted to others who have an upbeat positive attitude.

Having a positive attitude will make your job as a manager so much easier just because people are much more likely to follow you.

As for your team, encourage team building activities. We know that not everyone will like or even get along with everyone else. So use team building exercises as a way to make sure that your team stays goal orientated.

10. Don’t Forget to Use Positive Reinforcement

Often, we get too caught up in what we are doing. After all, as managers, we are usually juggling several different issues, problems and deadlines all at once, that we forget to just say “thank you”.

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Don’t have the attitude that your employees are just doing their jobs. That project deadline that got pushed up, the unexpected project that got dropped on your teams lap make everyone’s life harder. Especially yours, you now have one more ball to juggle.

So when that project gets done on time or you made the new deadline, don’t forget to show gratitude to your team who were the ones that really made it possible. Yes, you still have 4 balls juggling in the air, but just like having a positive attitude makes you a more effective leader.

Positive reinforcement strengthens that manager employee relationship.[3] It can take many different forms, and will vary by company, some may allow an extra day of PTO, gift cards, public recognition or just a private acknowledgement from you the boss, whatever form it takes it’s important that their achievements are appreciated.

The Bottom Line

Managers have multiple responsibilities and jobs to preform, and I can guarantee that one of the most important tasks of management is to utilize all the company’s assets in the most efficient and productive way possible.

If you manage employees, then they represent a large company asset that you have an obligation to run as productively as possible.

By giving your employees the proper training up-front and practicing good communication techniques, you can minimize the time you spend fixing mistakes and focus on delivering on-time projects and new business. This can mean a huge increase in productivity at minimal costs.

I don’t know any boss that wouldn’t like to see a boost in performance that takes little to no investment. So set yourself up for success with these 10 tips to improve team management skills and boost performance.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

David Carpenter

Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership

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Last Updated on February 25, 2020

How to Create a To-Do List that Super Boosts Your Productivity

How to Create a To-Do List that Super Boosts Your Productivity

It’s 6:00 am. You have just woken up and are ready to take a shower. After the showering, it’s time to eat breakfast, catch the news by reading the morning paper, and then start your work.

You are feeling wonderful, relaxed, and happy. You have very high expectations for the day and you want to be as productive as possible.

Fast forward to 2 pm the same day. You are working in a rush and you barely had a chance to take a lunch break.

You start to feel a bit stressed and tired because of the busy schedule. Besides, it seems that you have to go back to certain tasks and fix them, because you didn’t have time to focus on them properly.

The day which started so fine has turned into a stressful one. You just jump from one task to another – as quickly as possible – without doing anything properly.

You wish you’d find a reset button, so that you could start your day from all over – with a different strategy.

What you probably experienced was this: you planned your day the night before and you felt you were on top of your tasks.

However, things started to go wrong when you kept adding tasks after each other to your list and finally your task list was many miles long. Your to do list also contained tasks which were pretty much impossible to get done in one day.

The other point which contributed to your hectic and stressful day was not understanding how much time completing a particular task would take and when to execute the task. If you had this information, it would have been easier to figure out the right timing for executing the task.

Finally, there really wasn’t any flexibility in your plans. You forgot to add a buffer between tasks and understand that certain tasks are much larger than what they seem outside.

But you know what – these reasons alone weren’t the main reason for your stress and busyness …

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What People Are Wrong About a To-Do List

Do you really know what you are supposed to do?

How much time did you actually spent on planning your day – was it just 5 minutes while the television set was distracting you?

If so, then this was probably the biggest reason why your day became so stressful.

When you plan your days, you should truly understand the tasks you are about to do – and what it takes to accomplish them. This is necessary especially with important tasks, because you are able to make progress with the tasks that matter the most.

The lack of time spent on planning will also be shown as too many big tasks stuffed to your daily list. If you haven’t broken down the task into smaller pieces, it’s probable that you are not going to get them done during the day. This in turn makes you to beat yourself for not completing your task list.

Finally, don’t treat creating a task list just like some secondary thing that you try to do as quickly as possible. In fact, when you pay more attention to your next day’s task list, the more likely is the list going to be realistic and less stressful for you.

Components of a Good To-Do List

When I talk about a good task list, I consider these characteristics to be part of it:

Balanced

The task list contains both important and less important tasks. Let’s face it: although we all would like to work on just important tasks ( e.g. goal related ones), we have to take care of the less important tasks as well (like running errands, taking care of your household or other everyday stuff).

Enough Flexibility

What happens when you have planned a task, but you are unable to take care of it? Do you have a plan B in place? If not, try to figure out the alternative action you can take in these scenarios.

Time for Transitions

Understand that transition times also eat your time. Make sure that when you plan your task list, this time is also included in your plans. Adding some extra buffer between tasks will make your list more flexible and realistic.

Not Too Many Tasks for One Day

Giving you an exact figure on how many tasks you should have on your daily list is difficult. It depends on your situation. But I’m willing to say that anything between 5-10 tasks should be enough for a day.

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Understand that certain tasks are very quick to take care of, so it’s easier to include more tasks on certain days. Just make sure that there are also important tasks on the list so that you are able to move on with your bigger projects.

Shield of Protection

Build a shield of protection around your task list, so that as few tasks as possible can land to your list and that the number of items on your list won’t increase during the day.

In the first case, try to eliminate the sources for your tasks. This is done by reducing your commitments and limiting the projects you have. The fact is that the more commitments (or projects) you have, the more likely they are going to end up as tasks for your daily list.

In the second case, make your list a closed one. I learned this concept by reading Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management by Mark Forster. In order to create a closed task list, all you have to do is to draw a line under the last task on the list. When you have done this, you are not allowed to add any new tasks to your list during the day. This ensures that the number of tasks is actually decreasing as the day goes on.

How to Create a To-Do List That Boosts Your Productivity

To make a list that you can actually accomplish the next day, do the following:

1. Eliminate the Tasks

Go through your commitments and decide if you really need each one.

For instance, I was an active member of our local computer club in my hometown, but then I realized that I don’t have enough time for that activity anymore. Although I’m still a member of the club, I don’t participate in its activities anymore. This has eliminated the tasks related to that commitment.

2. Take Your Time to Plan the List

Don’t rush creating your task list – spend some time on the planning phase. If required, “isolate yourself” for the planning part by going to a separate room in your home (or even going outside your home). This way, you can actually think the tasks thorough before you enter them onto your list.

Try to spend at least 15 minutes with your list when you plan it.

3. Move Important Tasks to the Beginning

When planning your day, make sure that the important tasks are at the beginning of your list. This ensures that you get those tasks done as quickly as possible.

For instance, as a blogger, I make sure I have the content creation tasks at the beginning of my list. As soon as I wake up, I attack those tasks immediately and they get done before I go to work.

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4. Track the Recurring Tasks

You might have recurring tasks on your list, but do you know how much time they take to accomplish?

If you don’t, make sure you do some time tracking to figure it out. This helps you to plan your day better, as you know how much time a task takes and if there is a certain time slot in your daily schedule, when the task could be executed.

5. Batch Similar Tasks

Look at your list and find out if there are similar tasks that you can batch-process. This way, you can get certain tasks off your list faster and easier.

6. Define the Tasks in More Detail

Don’t just include a task like “build a website” on your list; make sure you have broken the task to smaller pieces. The smaller the tasks are, the easier it is to take accomplish them.

7. Do Some Prep Work in Advance

Make sure that you prepare for certain tasks in advance.

For instance, I write the outlines for my guests post on Sundays, so that it’s easier (and faster) for me to start writing the actual posts when I wake up. With a little bit of prep work, I speed things up and make sure tasks get done when the right day comes.

8. Automate the Maintenance

Naturally, you could use a pen and paper approach to your task list, but try to take advantage of technology too. In fact, try to find a tool that takes care of the maintenance of your task list for you. My preferred tool is Nozbe, but there are other task management applications that you can try too.

9. Know Your Task Types and Your Schedule

Finally, when you plan your day, ask yourself these questions:

What else do I have on the schedule?

This question refers to your personal schedule. For instance, if you are traveling, make sure that your list reflects to this fact. Don’t try to “overstuff” your list with too many tasks, since it’s more likely you get only a fraction of them done.

Is the task a gatekeeper?

This question asks if the task is blocking other tasks to be executed.

Every once in a while, we might have a task, which has to be taken care of first. After you have done that, only then you can take care of the sequential tasks.

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When you focus on creating your task list in a focused manner, you’ll be able to spot the gatekeepers easily.

Do I have icebergs on my list?

This question asks if your task is actually much bigger than what it seems. Sometimes when you start working on a task, you’ll soon realize that it’s much bigger than what you initially thought (compare them to icebergs, where only the tip of the iceberg is above the sea level, but the majority of the ice is below the water).

Once again, when you focus enough on your task list during the creation phase, it’s easier to spot these “icebergs” and split the tasks into smaller, much more manageable chunks.

Is the task distraction-proof?

This final question asks if the task is distraction-proof. Not all the tasks are created equal: some tolerate more distraction, while others require your full attention.

For instance, I can check my Twitter stream or do simple blog maintenance even when I’m around my family. These tasks are distraction-proof and I can take care of them – even if I don’t have my full attention on them.

The Bottom Line

If you still have a hard time of achieving your daily tasks, make sure that you analyze the reasons why this happened. If anything, do not beat yourself up for not finishing your task list.

No one is perfect and we can learn from our mistakes.

It takes a bit practice to create a “smiling” task list. However, once you learn to put all the pieces together, things are going to look much better!

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Featured photo credit: Jacqueline Kelly via unsplash.com

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