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Published on January 14, 2020

9 Effective Team Management Strategies

9 Effective Team Management Strategies

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 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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