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9 Effective Team Management Strategies

9 Effective Team Management Strategies
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So, you’ve been promoted to manager and now you are responsible for a team. Whereas before, you only had to worry about your own work, you are now in charge of an entire project, and every aspect of it as well.

It can seem an overwhelming task, but there are some effective team management strategies that you can employ to make your life easier.

So what exactly is “team management”? For our purposes, we can define it as:

Team management is the ability to organize and coordinate a group of individuals in order to achieve a desired outcome, goal or task.

In the traditional business model, organizations were typically set up in a hierarchy with each person in the organization having a well-defined role and set of responsibilities. In today’s world, organizations are becoming much flatter, with more of an emphasis on cross-functional and cooperative problem solving.

This change in organizational structure also has an impact on team management, management techniques and management strategies. It has become less and less acceptable to this new generation in the workforce to answer to and follow an authoritarian leader. Today’s leader is much more likely to be viewed as a “facilitator” than a traditional team leader.

So, with this new reality in mind, here are 9 effective team management strategies for today’s corporate culture.

1. Establishing and Maintaining Trust

That trust is essential to effective team management should come as a surprise to no one.

Trust is an essential component to any relationship personal or professional. In a group setting, it’s important that the individual members have trust in the leader. Trust to do the right thing, deliver what was promised and to support the individuals on the team.

You can build trust a number of ways including, acknowledging a job well done and pitching in to help when team members struggle.

Similarly as a team leader, you need to be able to trust in the team for much of the same reasons. That they will deliver work on time and in a professional manner. That they share the same goals of both the team and organization and that they will do the “right thing” by the team.

Now, there’s one more aspect of trust that important for team management, and that’s trust between team members.

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In order for any team to be effective, the members need to have trust in one another to:

  • Deliver on promises
  • Put the needs of the team first
  • Understand how their individual actions affect the team as a whole
  • Be able to count on one another to help each other out

It can take some time to establish trust and the bonds that accompany it. But there are some things you can do to promote it:

  • Be tolerant of mistakes. They are bound to happen especially if people are new to the team. Providing an atmosphere that allows team members to admit mistakes without fear of retribution encourages open communication.
  • Encourage open communication. Being tolerant of mistakes is a good start however, it takes more than that. Actively seek out input from your team members. Have weekly brainstorming sessions that are completely non-judgmental. Utilize team building exercises.
  • Be flexible. Lose the mindset that says we do it this way because we’ve always done it this way. If someone comes up with a better solution and you’re receptive, it will encourage others to come up with better solutions too.
  • Be transparent. Nothing kills trust like keeping secrets.

2. Develop Relationships

One of the often-overlooked team management strategies is to develop relationships with those you manage. It’s just a fact of life that people do a better job and work harder for people they like.

Now, we’re not saying that you have to invite them to your house for Sunday dinner. But a beer after work, a lunch or a pizza party where you get to know your team members better is a good start.

And again, this is another area where you want to encourage your team members to develop relationships with one another. Try scheduling team building exercises on a weekly or monthly basis (note: schedule these during work hours, they are work related). Bowling and dart leagues are good too. Really, almost any cooperative team activity can strengthen relationships.

3. Use Team Management Apps and Tools

I recommend using these in any team setting, but they can be especially helpful for “virtual teams” where members are working from remote locations.

Basically, a team management tool is a platform open to everyone on the team.[1] Each member of the team is assigned their task, the progress of which can be followed and monitored. This allows for the team to know exactly where the project stands at any given moment. It’s very useful in pinpointing exactly where problems and bottlenecks are occurring in the system so that corrective action can be taken quickly.

They are also a good way for team members to coordinate their work with one another. If Sally is waiting for John to finish his project but sees that it’s still two weeks out, she can switch her focus, help out with the delay or be assigned a new task.

As you can see, when used properly team management tools can contribute to intergroup communication as well as improve efficiencies.

Get inspired by these 5 Project Management Tools to Get Your Team on Track

4. Know How to Retain Your Best Employees

Certainly, money is a motivating factor, but it’s not nearly as high on the list as you may believe, in fact:[2]

Studies have shown that 89 percent of bosses believe employees quit because they want more money. As much as any boss would love this statistic to be true (because it basically pardons any manager from wrongdoing) it’s simply not true. Only 12 percent of employees actually leave an organization for more money.

Moreover:[3]

79 percent of people who quit their jobs cite ‘lack of appreciation’ as their reason for leaving. As the saying goes, people don’t leave companies. They leave bosses.

So, what can we take away from these studies?

First, while no one would argue that money isn’t a factor, it’s not nearly as important as most people think. For most employees and team members, having a positive work environment is much more important.

So, start by creating a supportive atmosphere that encourages participation and rewards initiative. This will go a long way towards employee retention.

5. Know Your Role as a Leader

Good team management strategy requires that you know your role as a leader.

The role of a leader is, by nature dynamic, it changes both situationally and over time. In simple terms, know when to lead and when to step back.

Micromanaging is a nightmare for talented and motivated employees. A large part of job satisfaction is tied into the employee’s “ownership” of their work. Micromanaging stifles creativity and strips ownership from the team member.

Now, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t intervene when problems arise. After all, one of the advantages of the above mentioned team management software is the ability spot issues early before they become major problems.

So, when is it appropriate to step into a situation and when is it okay to leave it alone? While there is no hard and fast rule, a good plan of action is to:

  1. Inquire – Note, that I didn’t say intervene. The first step is to inquire with the team member to get a better understanding of the nature of the problem. Is it a personal issue, a training issue, too much on their plate?
  2. Evaluate – Is this a problem that will get worse without intervention? Is it a temporary hiccup?
  3. Decide on an action – Will shifting a portion of the workload to another team member help? How about letting them take a personal day for issues at home? Or, maybe no action is required which is still an action.
  4. Monitor – What effect did your decision have on the issue and adjust accordingly.

6. Take Advantage of Other People’s Knowledge and Skill Sets

A good team management strategy is always to use people’s skills and abilities as efficiently as possible. And as a leader, you need to recognize that you aren’t fully aware of everyone’s knowledge base.

The whole point of having a team is to take advantage of the different skill sets each team member has. While this may seem obvious, what many managers forget is that people’s expertise and skill sets can overlap.

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For example, when my team set up my latest online product, it didn’t do so well. So, I got everyone in a room to discuss it. As it turned out, it was my mistake. I had let my marketing team set the price points for the product and its various upsells and downsells. My marketing team had never dealt with this type of product before, but the team who built the product had done it many times. It was the programmers who pointed out that the pricing structure was all wrong.

Long story short, we changed the pricing structure and it’s now one of our best-selling products.

So, the moral of the story is that while people do have expertise in a field, don’t discount the fact that their experiences can give them insights that bleed over into other areas.

7. Define Roles Within the Team

We’re not talking job responsibilities like programming, marketing and development. We’re talking about defining roles within the team.

Everyone in a team has a different personality. Some are always “chipper” and are good for morale and rallying the troops. Others are good at keeping things organized and coordinated. Some people have good communication skills while others don’t.

Some roles within the team can include:

  • Champion – someone who enjoys promoting ideas, rallying the group, and driving change.
  • Creator – someone who enjoys generating ideas, designing solutions, and tackling creative challenges.
  • Implementer – someone who is adept at taking charge of the daily work activities and administrative tasks.
  • Facilitator – someone who does well managing relationships, both within the team and externally; they are the glue that holds everything together.[4]

Using each person’s unique personality traits will foster cohesiveness and synergy within the team.

8. Set the Example

All the team management strategies in the world are useless unless you set the example.

It seems so obvious that you need to “practice what you preach”, but I’ve seen too many examples of leaders with the attitude of “do what I say, not what I do”.

It doesn’t work for the parent who tells a child not to smoke when they do. And it doesn’t work for a leader who expects others to work late when they don’t.

Leaders also need to show the integrity that they want the team to have. Start by admitting your mistakes when you’re wrong. When interacting with team members, do so with professionalism, dignity and respect.

In short, be the type of team leader who’s worthy of having followers.

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9. Provide and Take Feedback

Feedback can be hard, both for the giver and the receiver. But hard doesn’t mean it shouldn’t’ be done.

Feedback is an essential tool for everyone’s professional growth. It allows us to both focus on the areas we need to improve and helps us define our strengths.

So, why is giving or receiving feedback so difficult?

The answer lies in human nature.

For the one receiving the feedback, especially negative feedback, it can feel like a personal attack, and the natural reaction is to get defensive or put up a wall. Neither of which is very helpful for the team, individual and team leader.

For the person giving the feedback, it can be even worse. It’s tough to tell anyone that they need to change or improve. You run the risk of creating an emotional response or even worse, long term resentment that can hurt morale. This is how leaders start to justify attitudes like “it’s not so bad” or “it will get better” that hurt both team and professional growth.

But the real problem arises because the employee is not given a chance to improve. If the employee doesn’t have the chance to improve their performance, it will impact both the results of the team and their career. This is the definition of a failed leadership strategy.

So, we’ve established that both giving and receiving feedback is difficult but, there are some things you can do to make it easier.

  • Give them a heads up – “Gary, I’d like to talk with you about that project, would you get the file and meet me”. This lets them know what’s happening and gives them a chance to collect their thought.
  • Ask questions first – Avoid the urge to “get it over with” and start by asking questions like “How do you think it’s going, what issues do you see?” This lets them have a chance to give you their perspective.
  • Talk about the work, not the person – Telling someone that they have a bad attitude is a guaranteed way to have them shut down and get defensive. But, explaining that there’s a communication issue and here’s what we are going to do to solve it is much less personal.
  • Ask them to give you some feedback – This helps with the perceived power imbalance of the interaction, making it more of a two-way street. Ask them what you can do to make their job easier? What do they see as your weaknesses? Do they have any suggestions that they think would be helpful?

Want some more tips on how to give and take feedback effectively? These articles can help:

The Bottom Line

Managing a team is never an easy task, it’s an ever-changing dynamic that requires constant monitoring, revisions, re-adaptations and support.

Just like the engine in a car that requires constant oil to support the health and functionality of the entire system, having the effective team management strategies will keep your team running smoothly.

More Team Management Tips

Featured photo credit: Marvin Meyer via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Clockify: 20 best team management software
[2] Office Vibe: 10 Shocking Statistics About Disengaged Employees
[3] OC Tanner Learning Group White Paper: Performance Accelerated
[4] CaliperCorp: 10 Best Practices for Effective Team Building

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David Carpenter

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

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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