Here are some things I’ve learned by being exposed to both good and bad team management.
- Understand team member value – No one on the team should feel underutilized. This involved some relationship building to understand each member of a project. Ultimately, once you understand how to correctly apply each team member’s talent, you get more out of them and they feel more fulfilled.
- This requires understanding that everyone on the team does, in fact, bring unique talent and can contribute value.
- If it is unclear, it is completely acceptable to talk to someone about how they see their role on the team and let them decide where their value is.
- Clear meeting objectives – While this is said over and over and over again, there is still an issue of people scheduling meetings just to have meetings and not having clear objectives for meetings that do need to happen. Let’s be clear, no one wants to be part of an unproductive meeting. So why do we have them? Begin with the end in mind and continually redirect the conversation to solve that.
- Dissenting opinions matter – You need to hear all perspectives to a problem to find the right solution, otherwise you are limiting what the team can do. Importantly, dissenting opinions add extreme value to the exploration of a project by allowing people to try on different thinking caps. (Recall any time you’ve heard someone say, “I’m going to play devil’s advocate here.”) This leads to the next point…
- People need to be heard – You must seek to understand people in order to have them understand you. It is important to convey that understanding instead of stomping on everything that doesn’t fit your vision. The purpose of a team is that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
- Distribute decision making power – The worst situation is when you get a group of people together to solve a problem but none of them feel empowered to do anything about it. As a manager this involves letting go and trusting your team. If you want your team members to do their best work you have to let them make the decisions they need to make.
- Managers are not dictators – The role of a manager in a team should be to make it easier for the team members to collaborate and accomplish their goals. This requires being proactive about asking people what they need and listening to input from your team members. A great manager lets the team make the decisions rather than makes decisions for the team.
The alternative is group think and mediocrity.
(Note: “begin with the end in mind” and “seek to understand in order to be understood” are straight out of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. There is truth here.)