Managing a team is a very fine art and many attempts to keep people in line actually make things worse. Fortunately, there some very simple things that you can do that will dramatically improve your team’s attitudes and productivity. Here are our top three.
1. Make sure you’re making progress
Do you know what the single biggest motivator is in the workplace? It’s the feeling that you’re making progress on meaningful work. When a project in which you’ve invested time and energy is stalled, scrapped or forgotten about, it creates a feeling of loss that is so demotivating for employees that it dramatically outweighs concrete benefits like pay rises.
This means that, if you start a new initiative, you must be prepared to see it through. You’ll need to check in with people to see how they are getting on and show that you are engaged and interested in what they have to say. You’ll need to provide them with essential time and resources and ensure that have opportunity to brief you or the team on their progress and achievements. And never, ever, ask someone to prepare you a presentation or report that doesn’t get read, shown or fed back on. It’s the fastest way to drive bright and ambitious people onto a competitor’s payroll.
Bear in mind, though, that progress does not equal meetings. The vast majority of meetings are, in fact, the enemy of progress: they take up valuable time that could be used to get things done. Instead, focus on making yourself available to your team so that they can approach you to talk through problems and find solutions as they arise. Get people to report back regularly on what they’ve achieved so far and share these progress updates with the team. It’s far more galvanising to see things move than to talk about why they haven’t.
2. Highlight others’ success
Some managers seem to labour under the peculiar misconception that giving credit or praise to their team members somehow diminishes their authority or achievements as leader of that team. Nothing could be further from the truth. Actively highlighting and thanking people for doing good things makes them feel rewarded, gratified and inspired to work hard.
The realisation that you are taking close and appreciative notice of their work means that employees are more likely to keep trying to improve – a far more effective way of encouraging people to be conscientious than nitpicking errors, which will quickly get their backs up.
What’s more, creating a culture in which people aren’t always covering themselves and scrambling for credit will do wonders for your team as a whole. Once people feel comfortable highlighting each other’s successes and giving credit where it’s due they also feel better able to trust and support one another. This does great things for team productivity and also makes it easier for you to identify where things are going well, as well as where they might need more work, without having to point fingers.
3. Take a step back
As Tina Fey says: “In most cases being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way.”
While it’s essential to let your team know that you’re engaged and taking notice, micromanaging how they actually do their work is highly counterproductive. Focus on outcomes and give employees plenty of space to be creative and independent. As children of domineering parents everywhere can tell you, when you try too hard to control people, they either resist you bitterly and rebel or they give in and stop thinking for themselves. Neither of these is a particularly helpful when you’re running a company.
Just as dangerously, miring yourself in the mundane will do neither you nor your company any favours. Remember all those traits that helped you get your business off the ground in the first place, like creativity, strategic thinking, vision? The minute you lose these, your business will stagnate, so do yourself and your team a favour: delegate responsibility for the stuff you don’t need to do and give yourself time, space and quietude to focus on the things that your business actually needs you for.