Managing a team is about practicing a philosophy as much as it is about performing a function. As a manager, ask yourself if you are setting people up to succeed rather than setting them up to fail. The most effective managers provide their teams with the environment, the guidance and the opportunities that will allow others to succeed. A few tips:
- Be aware. An essential skill of managing is listening. This means not only hearing what your team is telling you, but listening for the things they DON’T say. Private one-on-one conversations can reveal a lot of information and insights that you may not normally be aware of.
- Identify and understand the different personalities at play. In this instance, experience is the best teacher. The person you may think is the “problem child” may not truly be the source of the problem. Skilled troublemakers are adept at deflecting attention from themselves. Learning to identify different personality types will help you discern if someone is covert or if they are simply socially awkward. Apply coaching/instructing/leading based on the individual circumstance.
- Be fair. Managers should be Switzerland. Don’t play favorites and don’t unfairly scrutinize others. Be sure to investigate all sides of a story before making a judgment on a situation. Try to maintain a consistent temperament so that team members don’t have to guess if you are Jekyl or Hyde that day.
- Provide clear direction. Unclear expectations combined with unclear direction is a formula for failure. Make statements that explain what is needed and the reason why it is needed. Refrain from making “editorial” statements either verbally or in writing. Example: “As I mentioned yesterday, please pick up that extra lens or we won’t be able to pack it before we leave” instead of “Apparently it doesn’t bother you that I’ve had to tell you twice to pick up that extra lens.”
- Build trust. Trust goes both ways. If you have hired people with adequate skills, then you must trust that they are fully capable of performing the tasks needed. Give them every opportunity to succeed – or allow them to fail in a controlled circumstance in order to learn.
- “Perfection” is relative (and subjective). Just because someone does something differently than you doesn’t mean they are doing it incorrectly. Be open to other approaches. Know that what you consider “perfect” may not be the best solution.
Recommended reference: The First Time Supervisor’s Survival Guide by George Fuller