Although teamwork is frequently the most efficient way to complete a big project, many managers struggle to lead a cohesive team. Managing individual employees along with the broader group dynamic brings confusion to team projects, causing the work and your team management capabilities to suffer. Tackle teamwork problems before they come up with these 25 tips for becoming a more effective team manager.
1. Hire the Right People for Roles
Skill gaps cause the entire team to suffer when roles are not properly filled. Evaluate each team member individually to ensure that the role properly suits the employee. If at any time during the interview process you notice a potential employee is more suited for a different position, do not hesitate to suggest switching gears. Making changes early in the hiring process guarantees a potential employee will not end up in the wrong position.
2. Get to Know Every Member of the Team
Developing a good relationship with every employee forms a strong bond throughout the entire team. Building individual relationships helps ensure mutual respect between you and every employee. Getting to know team members on an individual basis also cements your position as the group leader and the person to talk to in case of issues.
3. Play to Individual Strengths
Each member brings different skills to the group. The secret to an effective team is discovering how these individual skills work together in the best way possible. Think of team members’ abilities as unique “cogs” in your team “machine”. When these cogs are positioned correctly, the machine runs smoothly. But when they grind together, the machine comes to a halt. As a manager, your goal is to build a well-oiled machine that does not break down. Do not be afraid to adjust individual roles as you go along.
4. Establish Ground Rules
Create a reporting infrastructure so that team members knows their roles and to whom they should report a problem. If the team disagrees on an issue, decide which members get to make the final calls. Establishing ground rules for conflicts prevents arguments from getting out of hand.
5. Agree on a Team Mission
Start a team project by clearly articulating the team’s overall mission. Letting employees see the entire company vision clears up any misunderstandings about their individual roles on the project. Paint the big picture and open up the floor for discussion in case there are any questions.
6. Promote Sharing
If a shy team member is not contributing, ask their opinion on an issue to get them to speak up. Every team member should contribute to the conversation. Although public speaking may not be the employee’s strongest skill, the group needs to hear from everyone to avoid resentment over unbalanced contributions.
7. Steer the Conversation
Allow everyone to contribute when starting the brainstorming process. No idea is a bad idea when working as a team. Continuing to shoot down ideas leads to hesitation from employees previously eager to share their thoughts. The best teams have an open-door policy on sharing ideas.
However, if you find a team is running down a tangent that does not fit the project, move the conversation along. To keep team members from feeling embarrassed or annoyed, write down each idea so that you have a paper outline for the team to evaluate as a whole.
8. Map Goals and Timelines
A solid timeline keeps employees on schedule when working on a team project. By mapping out individual goals on a set timeline, individuals can see how they need to progress as the team project moves along. Without a clearly stated plan, responsibilities fall by the wayside and get lost in the shuffle.
9. Include a Teamwork Contribution Section in Performance Reviews
Go over an employee’s contribution to team goals during every performance review. Outline strengths and discuss areas for improvement. Rating performances give team members a baseline to judge how their skills continue to grow in the long run. Show that the entire company values teamwork, and the employee will value it highly as well.
10. Build the Team Relationship outside the Office
Make it a goal to get together outside of the office periodically to discuss work in a more casual setting. A lunch outing or an afternoon happy hour is a great way to get together and talk about work without infringing on employees’ personal time. Plus, creating a comfortable environment for coworkers to get to know each other will lead to a stronger bond among teammates.
11. Ensure Clear Communication
Whether utilizing direct or indirect communication, confirm that everyone is on the same page and does not have any questions. Check to make sure the team received important emails and that each employee fully understands the intended message. Try to use email and indirect communication only when absolutely necessary, as tone and message frequently become muddled when not directly discussed.
12. Be Fair
A manager should never play favorites with employees. While you are only human and individual circumstances may change your views, try to maintain a fair and even reaction to each group member. In special cases, balance the needs of the group with individual workloads and schedules. If workloads are unfairly distributed, resentment builds, and your team members lose respect for your authority.
13. Discuss How Different Opinions Will Be Resolved
Map out a solid plan for how disagreements will be handled internally. For example, if your team disagrees with a plan of action, have a voting system in place to create a fair process. By setting up a strategy for dealing with disagreements before they arise, you ensure the team learns how to deal with conflicts without resorting to anger or other unproductive responses.
14. Do not Assume Team Problems Will Magically Vanish
Notice and address the big issues as soon as they arise. Teams should expect to discuss small disagreements and resolve their issues, but when there is a larger team problem, you need to be prepared to step in and aid the team in working out a solution. Managing these problems effectively prevents a total group meltdown.
15. Create Individual Plans for Every Team Member
Individual goals keep team members from losing sight of how they should be contributing. It is easy for team members to feel as if they can “coast by” on the work of others; creating individual accountability builds a more cohesive team. If team members are feeling burdened by their workload, see if someone else can assist them in completing their part.
16. Provide Ongoing Feedback for the Group as a Whole
Have team members give you feedback on their progress to better track total team achievements. Set up times for team members to discuss their progress, and then plan a group meeting to see how the team can improve as a whole. Monitoring company goals through constant team feedback help keep projects on track.
17. Develop Effective Time-Management Skills
As a group manager, you’ll find things can get busy very fast. Plan out your schedule and find the best uses for your limited time. Prioritizing your workload keeps you from wasting time on the little issues. Try numbering your daily to-do list in order of importance to stay on schedule.
18. Don’t Ignore Struggling Employees
If you notice an employee is struggling to keep up or not contributing a fair amount of work to a project, set up a meeting to discuss how to resolve these issues. A team member may not be aware of subpar performance or may face personal issues that indirectly cause work to suffer. If problems persist, consider that the assigned job may not be a good fit for an employee’s talents.
19. Pitch in and Help
The project seems to be falling behind schedule, but every team member is overwhelmed with the workload. If this is happening to your team, discuss how you can help. While you may be there as a manager, your job is to make sure the work gets done. Contributing to the work will help build respect for you as a manager. Conversely, pushing more work onto already full plates fosters anger and resentment at your disconnect from the project.
20. Share Your Enthusiasm for Team Projects
Moods are infectious; if you continuously hold a positive viewpoint on a project, your team will follow suit. Even if you are selling something you consider boring, find a way to get excited. Discovering a new angle or creating a team challenge can help get your employees more interested in the work.
21. Delegate Responsibility
Avoid authority overlaps in team projects. While you may have the final say as the manager, assign team leaders to head up smaller goals. Teaching management skills makes your job easier in the long run and gives employees a chance to contribute more to the team.
22. Address Ongoing Interpersonal Issues
If specific group members continuously butt heads, address the issue without hesitation. You may need to move employees around to different teams, but they should be able to resolve issues professionally. Before you consider the matter closed, figure out what caused the continuous disagreements. Understanding a breakdown in communication is key to preventing future issues. If team members continue to cause problems, take them aside to discuss how they can improve communication and become a more team-oriented employee.
23. Be a Team Cheerleader
Never miss a chance to encourage your employees and congratulate them on an achievement, no matter how small. A positive response goes a long way to ensuring that teams feel appreciated. Personally, thank individuals who went above and beyond during projects. Cheering on your team nurtures a positive work environment.
24. Add Positives to Any Negatives
Remember to add plenty of positive feedback to any negative comments you may make. Discouraging employees through constant criticism serves only to tear them down. Applaud even small accomplishments and cushion criticisms by noting any moments of employee excellence to motivate improvement.
25. Commemorate Achievements Together
Celebrate as a whole when the team meets or exceeds goals and expectations. Be sure to reward good work from individuals and the entire team. Schedule a team party to commemorate a finished project. Showing you appreciate your team’s hard work and the effort put into a project adds an incentive to finish projects on time.
Effective managers know how to motivate their teams to produce stellar work, even on a tight deadline. Develop your leadership skills using these 25 tips and bring your employees together to build a stronger, more cohesive group.