Half of the employees who quit their jobs do it because of their boss. Maybe their manager isn’t doing enough to make them feel engaged, or they feel overworked and directly blame the manager. Either way, bad team management can clearly have a huge impact, even on employees who love their job.
Thankfully, the same is true of good team management.
Every manager wants to be a great manager. Sometimes there are just a few tools missing from their toolbox in order to get there. With that in mind, here are six things you can do to better manage your team.
Open communication makes for better team management
Great team management depends on good communication.
Ever played a game of telephone? Then you know just how warbled a message can get after just a few interpretations. Misunderstandings, however small, can create blockers and frustration within your team. It can lead to reports feeling like they don’t know what’s expected of them and incorrect status updates that jeopardize your alignment.
To start improving communication within your team define a purpose for each one of your communication channels. If you’re using Slack, email, and comments within your workflow interchangeably, something’s bound to get lost in translation. Decide how feedback, status updates, and more should be communicated and make that information available. From there, you can provide clear guidelines for each communication channel. How long does everyone have to give feedback? How are decisions made, finalized, and communicated? When you have the answers to these questions, communication becomes that much simpler.
Transparent leaders make their processes, decisions, actions, and communications in an open, honest way. There are two main reasons for this. First, transparency creates trust. When your team knows you have nothing to hide, they’re more likely to accept your decisions and trust your judgment. Second, it opens your processes to collaboration. You might be surprised by how invested your team will be in improving the way they do things if it’s all out in the open.
This radical transparency takes practice. You might feel anxious about making so much of what you do public; you’re opening yourself up to scrutiny. Your reports may ask you some uncomfortable or difficult questions. But coming up with answers to these questions helps you solidify your position, and sometimes it might bring up something important you missed.
One of the main benefits of this transparency is it encourages your reports to be just as transparent with you. If you show them that you’re comfortable enough to involve them in your day-to-day, they’ll be more interested in doing the same.
That said, it’s important to balance the importance of transparency and confidentiality. If someone on your team comes to you with a problem they want to keep confidential, you shouldn’t tell everyone about it for transparency’s sake.
Give (and take) feedback the right way
These are the two sides of the feedback coin. A crucial part of team management is the ability to give them feedback they can act on. Good feedback is calculated, actionable, and directive. That means you measure the things you say, doing so with empathy and care. Your feedback also shouldn’t feel like a dead-end; “I don’t like this” doesn’t get anyone anywhere. “I don’t think this works because…” is a much better way of saying the same thing. And finally, if your feedback actually gives your report a direction to follow — “have you tried doing X?” — it’ll empower them and make them feel like you’ve got their back.
Now the flip side of feedback is you have to be good at taking it. Handling criticism isn’t easy, but a leader has to be better at it than most. If your reports don’t feel like they can give you honest feedback, it’ll make it difficult for you to know how they’re doing. If they’re hiding how they truly feel, any initiatives you pursue are built on flawed information.
You can share clear feedback guidelines to mitigate this. By framing this as an attempt to help your reports improve their feedback skills, you’re more likely to get buy-in. This means you’ll actually get feedback you can use from them. Also, try setting up clear channels for giving feedback, maybe with a specific window. You might set up a one-on-one meeting with each of your reports once a week, where they’re free to give you feedback on anything you’ve been doing. This allows you to give it your full attention, shift from feedback to outcomes, and generally be in the right mindset for whatever they throw your way.
Know your team management style
Every leader is different. Management styles can generally be split into three categories: autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire. One isn’t necessarily better than the others, but they all have their advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a quick run-down:
Autocratic managers try to maintain control over every single decision. These leaders don’t really go after group consensus or feedback from their reports.
- How this style wins: Decisions are made quickly, processes are simple and effective.
- Where it can improve: Collaboration is discouraged and work quality can really suffer as a result of micromanagement.
Managers with this style actively promote collaboration within their teams. Power is more distributed and team members are encouraged to participate in the decision-making process.
- How this style wins: Builds strong relationships between team members and facilitates problem-solving complex issues.
- Where it can improve: Collaborative decision-making means longer turnarounds, and some things might fall through the cracks as they’re de-prioritized for lack of time.
These managers don’t make decisions. They delegate pretty much everything and team members are responsible for making decisions and getting things done.
- How this style wins: teams of experts are free to make decisions that are in line with their experience and knowledge.
- Where it can improve: confusing processes and muddled leadership can give the impression laissez-faire managers aren’t doing much.
Which one of these sounds more like you? Figuring out your team management style gives you a better idea of what you’re doing well and what you can work on. The best way to improve your leadership is to take a little bit of each style, tailoring your response to each situation.
Upgrade your team management skills with the team coordination workflow
A workflow is a map for getting routine work done. Whatever tasks are part of your team’s day-to-day, they’re part of a workflow — everything from managing a software development backlog to escalating customer support requests.
The team coordination workflow covers everything that you and your team do together. It’s how you keep visibility on their deadlines, manage workloads, and communicate with each other. If something isn’t going right with your team, it’s often because your workflow isn’t working.
There are a few ways you can optimize your team coordination workflow:
- Reduce meetings: How many meetings have you been in that felt like a total waste of time? By promoting asynchronous communication channels, you’re saving everyone time and making the meetings you do keep more important.
- Automate feedback and reporting: Being great at feedback is one thing. Getting it from point A to point B smoothly is another. Use automation and tool integrations to streamline that process.
- Delegate and monitor progress from a single tool: When your team’s working across multiple tools, trying to delegate work requires jumping from one to another or sending countless emails. By integrating your tools, you’re creating streamlined channels for delegation and progress reports.
A workflow management solution gives your team the ability to work at their best, crushing the barriers that used to exist between you and them.
Manage better, faster, and stronger
If team management was easy, everyone would do it. Leadership is tough. It requires responsibility, transparency, integrity, and a whole suite of other characteristics ending in “y.” When you’re a leader, you’re responsible for helping your team do their best work. With these tips in hand, you’ll be keeping your employees engaged, and you’ll have the tools to turn it around when they’re not.