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Are You Managing Your Team as a Team

August 1, 2009 by Ruth Gmehlin, Partner, Trillium Teams Inc

If your team is to work at maximum efficiency and achieve its full potential, all of your employees need to work together as a well-functioning team. This means using effective team management skills.

Being an effective manager and effective team management skills are not always the same thing. You may have different teams that need to be managed in different ways. For instance, it is just as important to manage your senior management team as it is to manage your more junior staff members. The following are a set of six simple guidelines to keep in mind as you think about managing your team more effectively.

1. Roles: Ensure Everybody Knows Their Role and Set Clear Lines of Responsibility

As basic as this may seem, this is one of the most common challenges facing teams today. As new team members are added, and with work loads constantly changing and shifting, taking some time out of the schedule to clarify not only individual roles, but how each role meshes with the greater role of the team can be a great way to increase team efficiency and clear up misunderstandings before they happen.

2. Goals: Set and Communicate Clear Goals

It is important to clearly communicate the corporate goals, departmental goals, team goals as well as the individual goals. When was the last time you checked in with everyone on your team to make sure these are all in line and clearly understood by everyone?

3. Involvement: When Appropriate, Involve All Team Members in Decision Making

This is the greatest tool you have as a manager to motivate and empower your team to achieve beyond expectation, so make use of it as much as possible. As an example, using facilitation techniques at your next team meeting when an important decision needs to be made will encourage a forum for people to bring their collective ideas to the table, rather than a simple vote, and results in obtaining a mutually agreed upon outcome. If everyone has had the opportunity to voice their opinion and the team has agreed upon the decision together, the chances of that decision being enforced are so much greater.

A common role arrangement for meetings could be to have the manager use a chair approach to start the meeting, deal with the agenda, direct the communication and information sharing portion of the session, then switch to a facilitative approach to be able to get feedback from the team, problem solve or make decisions together.

4. Diversity: Encourage and Promote Diversity along with Ways to Manage and Resolve Differences

A good manager will suggest processes for the group to follow, and seek ratification for any changes necessary from the team. Part of the role of the manager is to empower team members, and only intervene when group dynamics are hindering productivity. This should only be necessary when team members become dysfunctional; do not forget that in the process of collaboration, conflict is a natural component of reaching a consensus. To the extent that the situation allows, rely on the team to decide to what degree and depth issues need to be discussed.

5. Listen: Be a Ready and Willing Listener and Ensure Regular Reviews

Appropriate team managing may involve a great deal of one on one work with individual members. Being able to really listen coupled with providing regular reviews is a skill that must be actively developed.

Some interesting strategies you may want to try the next time you are faced with a difficult conversation:

  • Try to understand the feeling a person is expressing in addition to the intellectual content. If you can avoid getting emotionally involved yourself, you can take time to understand first and defer evaluation until later. When in a situation where you believe the other viewpoint is wrong or irrelevant, indicating simple acceptance, not necessarily agreement; can go a long way to resolving a conversation.
  • In the listening stage, try to limit the expression of your views since these may influence or inhibit the other person. If they genuinely appear to solicit your viewpoint, be truthful in your reply.
  • Finally, if possible, allow the time for a discussion to truly run its course, without interruption, as this can go a long way to resolving a situation and limit distress down the road.

6. Motivate: Motivate Team Members and Reward Initiative

Each employee has different motivators; it is important to reward your team members both individually and collectively as appropriate. As well, remember to be actively involved; encourage your team to take new training and pursue their personal development needs as this will ensure a dynamic and continuously evolving team.