Leading a team can be inspiring, rewarding and exhausting. Busy working environments can leave little time for team leaders to check-in with team members and ensure they’re feeling happy, creative and on track. But with these 6 simple and effective team management tips, there’s an alternative.
How to Achieve Effective Team Management
With good communication channels and plenty of opportunities to give feedback, you can provide your team with a strong support system. With this, team leaders can develop accountability, trust, and a less hierarchical approach.
Here are our six tips for achieving a happier and more productive team via some supportive workflows:
1. Be transparent
Transparent working environments have been found to make teams more accountable, happy and creative.
It sounds like a big claim but transparent environments help to develop a feeling of mutual respect between team members and team leaders. Via open and consistent communication, transparent and authentic workplaces help employees to feel secure in their positions. In turn, team members feel more free to contribute ideas and suggestions, enhancing creativity.
Marc de Grandpre, senior VP of Marketing at KIND Healthy Snacks, believes that transparency in the workplace is hugely important. Marc explains how they use transparency for effective team management at their company:
“How can your company learn, grow and succeed if people are afraid to be themselves, voice their opinions and genuinely show that they care about the brand and team? Having the company become a sort of safe space allows for brilliant ideas to flow and for problems in your company to be flagged and addressed head-on.”
Marc and his team aim to make all employees feel in the loop, respected and valued. Consequently, they found that each team member felt happier in their job, while also more creative and loyal.
Using transparent tools
James Hannam, team management consultant, agrees that transparency is a cornerstone to high-functioning teams. James explains that on his projects, teams use MeisterTask to achieve effective team and project management. They do this by providing team members with an overview of projects and responsibilities, via their shared project boards:
“If all of your team members can have a high-level of visibility over the project, while also understanding the part they are playing at any given time, you will foster a sense of responsibility, creating accountability among team members.”
Each task within each project is assigned to a specific team member, making everyone’s responsibilities clear. This also enables team members to understand the role they’re playing within the bigger picture. With all tasks and responsibilities displayed transparently, team leaders can take a less hands-on approach, knowing each task will be seen through by the assigned person.
Like the sound of transparency in the workplace? You could even consider taking it one step further with transparent emails, which our friends at Buffer are advocating for.
2. Keep communicating
You must have heard this one before: the basis of a cooperative and productive team is communication. By showing your team that you’re available to provide advice, you’ll position yourself as someone they can rely on for support.
The aim is to create an environment in which team leaders feel able to provide honest and constructive feedback. However, team members should also feel confident to voice concerns and communicate well with one another, in order to collaborate.
For teams with members working remotely, Google Hangouts can provide an ideal way to ensure some face-to-face time is achieved. If your team is working across time zones and you’d like to set up a standing appointment for calls, it’s important to find a time which works for everyone involved. By not always holding calls at inconvenient times for the remote team member, they’ll be more open (and awake) to honestly and accurately communicate with you. Effective team management relies on reciprocal respect, so considerate calling hours is one way to demonstrate this.
Another great communication tool is Slack. Lots of companies are already using this, as regardless of whether your team is working remotely or all in one office, it’s a great way to cut down on emails and build a positive and friendly working culture.
At MeisterLabs we’ve recently started a ‘stand up’ Slack channel. In the ‘stand up’, everyone begins their day by sharing what they’ll be working on. This helps to prevent siphoning between different teams and gives team leaders a good idea about what everyone will be focusing on that day. This also allows team leaders to jump in and offer support when useful.
3. Provide valuable feedback
Providing feedback to team members is one of the best ways you can support them to develop professionally and personally.
Jean-François Manzoni, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Development at IMD International, explains:
“You do your star a disservice if you fail to help her figure out how she can continue to grow”
Even if you have no negative feedback to give, make sure you hold regular opportunities to check-in. This way, you can still provide advice on how you feel your team members are progressing. Equally, these discussions provide a good opportunity for you to voice any concerns and constructive feedback on how you think a certain area of work could be improved. As a result, these conversations can be had before letting the issue spiral into something unmanageable.
Underachievement can often be caused by complex reasons. Having clear and regular opportunities to give and receive feedback will help team members to share issues that could otherwise get in the way of a team member achieving their full potential.
Feedback can be difficult but it is an essential part of effective team management. When summarizing her advice on how to give effective feedback, Belle Beth Cooper said:
“If you’re finding a conversation difficult or nerve-wracking, remember that your aim in providing feedback is to help your team members succeed and grow.”
So although feedback conversations can be difficult, especially in non-hierarchical organizations, they’re important and necessary for the development of team members and the success of your wider team.
4. Encourage collaboration
Inevitably, your team members will be happier if they can get along well with one another. As an added bonus, they’ll perform better too.
To achieve this, make sure you’re encouraging team members to collaborate. On your team, there will likely be a whole bunch of diverse skills. Make sure these different skillsets are utilized by ensuring everyone is aware of the ongoing projects. That way, team members can jump in to collaborate where they feel they can help. On our marketing team, for example, I’ll often draw on support from the SEO specialist while creating the content strategy. Equally, if I know the SEO specialist is coming up with text for a PPC campaign, I’ll offer to help.
Use Google Drive
In our marketing team we use the Google Docs upload feature within MeisterTask to share documents via the relevant task. This means that the issue of having multiple versions of the same document is a thing of the past, and team members will always be working on the most up-to-date version. We then use the commenting feature on each task to leave relevant feedback, questions or updates on how the task is developing.
Try mind mapping
For a less linear take on collaborative working, try using a collaborative mind map. With MindMeister, multiple users are able to access mind maps at the same time, meaning team members can add their ideas, feedback or vote up or down on options. This can all be done in real-time, whether in a meeting together, working in a different company office or entirely remotely.
Generating ideas collaboratively while mind mapping has been found to boost creativity, as it integrates both the linear, convergent (left-brain) thinking with divergent, non-linear (right-brain) thinking. This engages the whole mind in processing and creating new information, using our visual, spatial and kinesthetic senses to come up with new ideas and boosting our creativity.
5. Trust your team to do their job
When I asked Michael Hollauf, MeisterLabs’ CEO, what his advice would be to other team leaders, he said it would be to always recognize when to delegate tasks.
Companies hire competent staff for a reason and effective team management shouldn’t mean micro-management. If you’ve hired staff for a specialist area like programming, you need to know when to just leave them to do their job.
Sometimes it can be hard to let go. Especially if you’ve been working on a project for a while but need a team member to take it over. With MeisterTask, try using the Watching feature, where you can add yourself as a ‘watcher’. Becoming a ‘watcher’ allows you to remain in the loop with how the task is progressing and any related discussions.
Michael Kranner, MeisterLabs’ Growth Marketer, explains how this function helps to effeciently run the Growth team here at MeisterLabs:
“at every stage, the experiment task is assigned to one specific person…Other team members can “watch” the task’s progression, keeping everyone in the loop with how the experiment is developing… As experiments develop we move the tasks between the sections. All team members “watching” the experiment are notified about the move.
By allowing “watchers” to keep an eye on progression, the feature allows team leaders to entrust team members to get on with their tasks or projects alone while feeling able to jump in to query or help when useful.
6. Prevent team burn-out
As a team leader, you’re in a great position to set positive boundaries of work, play and relaxation. In a recent article on managing work notifications, Belle Beth Cooper argues that it is the responsibility of employers to set the precedent about when and where team members should be switching off from work entirely. This could mean, for example, by not being expected to check emails late at night.
Of course, this can be difficult. Particularly in teams where members work flexibly and might prefer to start early or work late, to save time elsewhere. However, encouraging team members to set themselves some working limits, to sleep well and avoid burn-out, is important.
With MeisterTask and Slack, our main communication channels at MeisterLabs, you can choose which notifications to receive. I’ll only receive a push Slack notification on my laptop if I’ve been mentioned or have received a direct message. Similarly, as Belle Beth Cooper suggests, team members can try setting their phones to “do not disturb” mode when finishing for the night, so they’re able to switch off, relax and rejuvenate.
So those are our 6 tips to mastering effective team management through some productive and supportive workflows.
Every organization is different, so it would be great to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.