Today’s post is all about team management do’s and don’ts. When you get right down to it, this post is all about respect. Earn it, but give it too. The bottom line is this: if your employees feel heard and valued, they’ll perform better. But if you try to lead only through intimidation, productivity will suffer in the long term.
In the list that follows, you’ll learn powerful strategies that will help you keep your team performing at peak. Let’s get started.
Do Master the Art of Effective Writing
Most of the communication that occurs in the modern workplace is via the written word. It follows, then, that the cornerstone of effective communication is effective writing. Think of how things have changed over the last few years. How often do you receive a phone call today compared to, say, 10 years ago?
Part of communicating effectively is creating succinct, typo-free memos, emails, white papers and other assets.
Several tools exist to aid you in this process, such as Grammarly or the Hemingway app.
But if nothing else, brushing up on grammar and the difference between words like its and it’s, to and too and effect and affect will go a long way.
Remember: your employees, partners and vendors will judge you based on any typos and grammatical errors you make.
Do Proofread Your Outgoing Communications
Always carefully edit anything you produce. You might be surprised how much difference a quick read-through can make. Even better, download a problem like TextAloud. Programs like these read your documents back to you aloud. This makes it very easy to hear typos.
Consider the word silver.
Now think of the word sliver.
Most people, when reading their own document, won’t catch that they’ve written sliver when they meant to write silver and vice versa. But software that reads your work back to you will help you catch these errors. The part of the brain that processes auditory data is different from the part of the brain you use to read and write.
On the typo side of things, software like Ginger can help you catch the most common grammatical errors.
Do Be Optimistic
Sentiment flows downhill. If you’re pessimistic, that will cast a shadow on your entire team. If your team sets out to tackle a problem with a defeatist attitude, their results are unlikely to be stellar. So when facing an uphill battle, try to stay positive. This doesn’t mean sugar coating everything—most people will pick up on that, and they’ll worry all the more. Be open about the situation and be realistic about outcomes. But at the same time, maintain a can-do attitude yourself so that your team won’t feel as if they’re expected to fail—or that they have an excuse for doing so.
Who would your employees rather come work for? Someone who’s downbeat about everything, or someone who’s upbeat?
Your attitude rubs off on your team, for better or worse. You can take steps to make sure it’s a positive aura effect and not a negative one.
Do Be One of the Guys—to an Extent
Any time you ask your team to maintain a high standard, make sure you do too. Something that erodes team confidence faster than anything else is loss of respect for the leader. Consider Mark Cuban, the ultra-successful entrepreneur. He’s fond of telling people how he responds to messes. If he sees trash on the floor in one of his establishments, he doesn’t wait for the janitor to pick it up. He does it himself. His employees see this, and they appreciate it.
Seeing their boss helping out sends a message to an employee. It says, we’re all in this together. It says, I’m not better than you. Your work is not beneath me.
The result? Higher productivity. It’s akin to putting a little bit of cash into a savings account. It pays compound interest.
On the other hand, if you make an effort to distance yourself from your employees, you may create unnecessary resentment.
Do Be Prepared
Hang out in the future, but don’t live there. Be aware of potential opportunity, but don’t get so lost in projections and upcoming meetings that you lose touch with what’s going on around you.
Be prepared, but don’t become out of touch.
Do Set Realistic Goals
Setting high standards for your team is a great thing. But don’t set up unrealistic goals. If you set goals that you know your team probably won’t hit just to see how well they do—well, your team will resent you for it. This is an ongoing program in the video game industry, for instance. It’s known as ‘crunch, and it comes down to unrealistic goals and deadlines. Crunch leads to chronic stress. This in turn can lead to overall lower productivity and even serious health issues.
We can compare team management and productivity to body building. The way to make a muscle grow is to push it slightly beyond its current capacity. The body then comes in and repairs the damage. In so doing, the muscle becomes slightly bigger and slightly stronger. Over time, a muscle can become quite large through this process, but the change day to day is small.
But if you put a large strain on the muscle sporadically, with no rhyme or reason, it doesn’t get much stronger or bigger. In fact, such chaotic training will often lead to injury.
Push your people past their comfort zones, but don’t make them want to head for the door.
Don’t Steal Credit
This is also known as Michael Scottism. Don’t steal credit from team members. If your team meets a goal or otherwise does a stand up job, let them bask in the glory. Never take personal credit for their success. Doing so will lead to resentment and lower productivity next time.
In other words, taking credit where it isn’t due can only have diminishing effects. If you report to a higher up, keep in mind that your team’s success will already reflect on you. Also, keep in mind that walls have ears. Taking personal credit, even behind closed doors, can easily get back to your employees.
Don't Blame Others When You Screw Up
All team managers make mistakes. When you do, it’s important to own up to it, and fast. If you make excuses, try to shift blame around or pass it off on someone higher up, you look bad. Plain and simple. People are very adept at detecting this, and they’ll think less of you for it.
When you make a mistake, let people know, and let them know how you intend to fix it.
Don’t Treat Your Employees Like Robots
Human beings have feelings. Some managers learn this lesson far too late in the game. They want to treat people as if they’re little units of productivity. If they see that their employees are under-performing, they try to diagnose the issue without taking emotions into account.
Sometimes, this takes the form of offering incentives. Often, it means using fear-based tactics.
If you take the time to listen to your employees and let them air any grievances, you’ll often find that they’ll return to a high productivity mode. Sometimes, people just want to feel like they’re being heard. Take a look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs. At the very bottom you find physiological needs. Your employees are meeting those just by coming to work. In essence, they’re trading their time and attention for food and shelter.
But what about the higher levels of the pyramid?
What about self-actualization and esteem?
As much as possible, enable your employees to find meaning in their work. Help them feel good about the work they do and the place they occupy in your organization. One of the best ways to promote a sense of well-being at work is make sure your employees know they’re heard and understood.
Don't Talk Over Your People
Establish a habit of active listening. In one-on-one meetings with employees, encourage them to speak their minds. Whenever possible, ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions invite the other person to speak. Leading questions, on the other hand, encourage employees to think up an answer they think you want to hear. Let’s look at an example.
Open ended: Would you tell me your thoughts about the project we just wrapped up?
Leading: What are your thoughts about the fact that productivity fell five percent over this last sprint?
Always start with open-ended questions. Then, as the conversation unfolds, move into specifics.
At the end of the day, your employee should be speaking more than you are. If you’re doing all the talking, then it’s not a meeting. It’s a lecture, rant or chewing out.
Don’t Jump to Conclusions
How many times have you seen a manager screaming at an employee because they assumed the was slacking off, only to then find out that the employee had something come up that was unavoidable? In extreme cases, the employee has just learned that a loved one is sick, has been injured or is missing. The smart play is to gather as much information as you can before jumping into action.
We hope this concise post has given you some ideas on how you can easily improve team productivity. If it has, could you consider giving us a share? Your fellow managers may find it helpful too!