General Electric’s former CEO, Jack Welch, is famous for saying “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”
And it’s true that when you become a leader who wants to succeed, you also need to change the way you see work so it becomes less self-centric. As a leader your success is not judged only on your own output and results, but on the productivity and performance of the people you manage.
Empowering staff is an essential part of a manager’s job and assist them to reach their potential and it is an aspiration any manager should have. It’s also important to remember how tricky management can be, because it requires dealing with different types of people and they all have their own personalities, goals, behaviours and motivations. This means there’s no single encompassing solution when it comes to managing a team.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for the best way to manage a team, there are seven effective approaches that managers can adopt to support their staff, help them be productive and achieve their potential.
1. Using authority positively
While using authority in a negative way can have an adverse effect on performance, managers who are able to use their authority positively (like asserting their expectation that their staff achieves high standards) can help a team reach their potential.
This is sometimes referred to as the power of expectations - or the ‘Pygmalion effect’.
The Pygmalion effect looks at the expectations of the manager of their employees, and how those expectations will be communicated to them (consciously or unconsciously). They will then perform in line with the managerial expectations they have picked up - whether they know it or not - from their manager.
This means managers can use their authority to inspire better performance from team members by making sure they have an established and well communicated expectations.
Sometimes experienced staff might be stuck in a ‘complacent’ phase, where they are good at their job and feeling comfortable but are not pushing themselves to achieve more. In this case, setting higher expectations of those employees will push them forward, help advance them and be better for the team and overall performance.
2. Good communication skills
The importance of clear communication cannot be underestimated when leading a team.
The inability to communicate effectively with a team can be the cause of numerous problems, from a general lack of team efficiency and productiveness, to feelings of resentment or a lack of confidence in the manager’s ability to lead the team.
Good communication is vital to both the ability to manage the team effectively and to the team’s ability to achieve their potential.
Communication should always be done clearly, concisely and presented in an honest and genuine way. Make sure to deliver important information from higher up promptly and to all team members at the same time, to avoid raising employee concerns that some information is kept from them.
Having regular one-on-one and effective team meetings is a good way to maintain continuous and open communication and a regular time and place for the team members to discuss anything that’s on their mind. It’s also a good chance to let them know that their work is important to you and to the business.
Another important aspect of communication is, of course, listening. Encourage team discussions, where everyone can contribute. In one-on-one meetings always ask if there’s anything they would like to raise and discuss and allow Q&A at the end of presentations.
3. Turn failure into an opportunity to learn
Not fearing failure is a key to success. Taking risks is essential in order to move a business forward, but not all risks pay off in the end and they might result in failure.
It is important that as a manager you do not blame people when things go wrong and instead focus on what can be learned from the experience, how you would have done things differently, what was done right and ensure that this is perceived as a chance to learn and improve in the future instead of wallow in the present failure to achieve the goal.
Make sure you let your team know that they should not stop to try to step out of the comport zone to try new things in the future, even if they may lead to an unsuccessful attempt.
4. Commend effort
Many managers don’t realise how important and needed their praise and feedback is important to their team members. It’s best to make sure to praise all achievements (proportionally). This will help boost morale, build the person’s confidence, and will drive them to make an effort and push themselves further in the future.
Praise is not limited to results achieved but also to effort put in. If a lot of effort went into a project that eventually didn’t reach the desired result, the work and effort put into it should always be acknowledged and commended.
Giving praise should not be limited to one-on-one meetings but can and should also be done in team meetings and other situations where the praise can be shared with more people. Employees will appreciate the chance to shine in front of colleagues. Not only will this make them feel proud of their work and confident, it will also ensure you do not look threatened by other high-performers.
5. Develop existing strengths
Managers tend to focus on trying to improve on the weaknesses of team members, which is indeed important, but it’s also essential to identify their strengths and develop those further. Staff members are likely to take pride in what they are best at, and would enjoy developing these skills with a view to becoming the best at them in the company.
You can use your one-on-one meetings to ask your team members what they feel are their strongest abilities and skills and how they would like to develop them further. This can include specific training or a qualification that the company can provide.
6. Maintain an open environment
A key aspect of good management is being available and accessible to your team and fostering an open atmosphere, in which employees can come to you with problems or concerns. This will enable you to address issues early on and nip problems in the bud.
Being available and providing support will send a message to your team that they can approach you regarding their career plan, personal development and also view you as a mentor.
7. Develop yourself and your team
Part of the encouragement and seeing the potential in your team members means you should look out for opportunities for them to advance in the workplace when those arise, or to push individuals in the direction of joining a project that will benefit from their skills and knowledge. This will also help them demonstrate their abilities to better help them progress to the next level of their career. Make sure your team is aware of how they can progress within the company and let them know what they can do to reach it.
Progress is an essential and even critical part of any business or individual. In order to progress, ensure you and your team are offered relevant and practical training and development options. Run a performance gap analysis with your team to find out what training meets the needs required for the individual and the business.
Also, as a manager you need to keep evolving and developing your management abilities and style. Training will provide you with the tools to help not only yourself but also your team to improve and succeed.
EEF offers online management and leadership courses, tailored for managers at different level, to help your and your team to advance in your abilities and performance and to progress in your career.