Team Management – Meaning and Concept
You are a new team manager. You feel buoyed up that you are recognized as a potential leader, but are aware that you need new skills, and are a bit apprehensive as to what they are, and how to acquire them.
What are the skills you need? Here are ten essential skills that will help you make that transition.
But first, what is a team, and how does it fit with the organization?
What is Team Management?
“Team management can be defined as the role of a team manager/leader to administer and coordinate a disparate group of team members in those tasks needed to deliver a finished product to time and budget”.
You should note that there is a difference between Leadership and Management. You should aspire to be a leader, and this document sets out ten activities that will help you develop leadership skills.
The difference between leaders and managers is in the Warren G. Bennis quote that
“Leaders are people who do the right things; managers are people who do things right.”
To express it differently, Leadership involves taking a vision of the future, making the team understand it and commit to it. A manager, with the team, implements that vision.
You will need elements of both.
There are two basic approaches to team management, command and control, and constructive engagement. The first is the traditional method as described above of a boss issuing edicts to the team, monitoring performance, and assigning benefits and penalties.
It is not Leadership.
The constructive engagement approach is a more open and participative approach. The team manager expects to mentor each team member and have them willingly participate in team activities.
Constructive engagement is the more usual approach today, though the command and control approach seems to be more common in large corporates where a command and control culture is embedded.
Because you can’t do everything yourself, working in teams is the accepted way to deliver projects. Having a competent team manager is essential to the success of the project. If the manager cannot manage and motivate the team, it is highly likely that the project will fail.
Simply put, team management is the various activities used to bind a team together that help the team achieve its goals and targets.
A team is a group of individuals directed towards a common goal. They should all have the same goals and objectives and have a common approach to the task.
In the past, teams were organized in almost militaristic lines, the command, and the control model. The team leader, as the boss, defined the team goals and objectives, assigned team members to tasks, and monitored their progress.
He or she has absolute authority and will shout at them, and perhaps deliver punishments if they refuse or fail a task. In many cases, it is management by fear.
The disadvantage of this approach is that team members are demotivated and lack confidence. It will also lead to tension within the team as some members fairly or unfairly resent other members.
As a result, today sees a much more open and participative approach – the engage and create a model. The team leader or manager is more of a mentor than a boss. It is much more of a collaborative than a dictatorial environment.
Team members are encouraged to participate and put forward suggestions. This leads to more harmony, a happier workplace, and higher efficiency.
A team manager must, therefore, have a different range of skills from those of the team members. Those skills will encompass organization, motivation, development, and communication. Taken together, they are often known as team building.
Ten Essential Skills for a Leader and Team Manager
1. Personnel Development
The team leader must be open and approachable and support the development of team members in both formal and informal ways.
Operating in a team allows team members to develop their skills. If the team manager, formally or informally mentors them in the skills acquisition, they will feel valued and have a stronger sense of teamwork.
Team building is not a one-off activity with a team-building event at the beginning of the project. Team members must receive regular appreciation for their efforts. You could use perks, incentives, something as simple as a small trophy as things that are instrumental in motivating team members.
Even the best can’t do it all themselves. Delegating tasks to team members has significant benefits:
- It lightens your load
- It makes team members feel valued
- It enhances collaboration within the team
But one caveat, when you delegate, leave the team member free to do the task, do not micromanage them unless they ask you to. Micromanagement is a great demotivator.
Effective team management requires an understanding of the members of the team and how they work. Some will start new tasks immediately, some will goof around and finish in a rush to meet deadlines, and some will work steadily. Some will relish difficult tasks, and some will prefer routine mundane tasks.
Find out what each member likes and assign tasks accordingly.
5. Unifying Teams
Studies have shown that a teamwork environment will generate improved productivity and enhance creativity. There are many tools and techniques to help unify teams, but it is a process that requires consistent monitoring and reinforcement:
- Regular Team Building activities
- Mentorship with the team, link newbies with veterans
Listening is a skill not often practiced correctly. It is not just listening to your team; it is Active Listening to your team. Hear their concerns, hear their suggestions, and act accordingly to demonstrate you have listened. Make them know they have participated and been heard.
Listening is particularly crucial in multi-cultural and multi-language teams, where communications can be difficult, and because an approach is different does not automatically make it wrong.
The team leader does not have a monopoly on good ideas. Team members often have knowledge and skills the team leader is unaware of, knowledge and skills that are of value to the project.
When they put forward their thoughts, it demonstrates a commitment to the project and engagement with the team. They feel valued.
It’s easy when you are in the trenches to lose sight of the big picture. An essential part of any manager’s role is to keep team members up to date with overall progress so that they can see how their contribution is moving the project forward.
Of course, feedback can be both positive and negative. Studies have shown that positive feedback should be delivered as specific comments and actions.
Negative feedback should be delivered positively. Don’t present a doom-laden scenario, rather an opportunity to put forward recommendations and guidance on how things can come back on track.
Have a two-way conversation. Ask how team members are taking feedback.
Personal criticism is never public and should never be shared.
8. Problem Management
Every team will have problems. A manager who sees and heads off problems before they cause significant issues will make life a lot easier. Cultivate formal and informal meetings with your direct reports and team members to hear of any potential issues and have suggestions as to how they might be resolved.
Keep your eyes open for hints and straws in the wind for matters that team members might not notice or want to mention.
9. Dispute Resolution
Dispute resolution is a problematic area for most managers. The best way is to stop disputes arising in the team, but that is not always possible. The conflict between team members is emotionally draining and will affect the performance of the entire team.
While dispute resolution is more an HR matter, a manager can assist with dispute resolution
- Recognize the problem, and don’t belittle it;
- Have an open discussion in which all parties state their positions;
- It may be that the actual problem is hidden, so interrogate carefully to find it;
- Put forward and discuss a potential resolution;
- Repeat until the issue is resolved. If it can’t be decided, hand it over to HR.
10. Difficult Conversations
Difficult situations will inevitably arise from time to time, even outside dispute resolution. Again this can be a problem area for managers, but avoiding a conversation only leads to a bigger conversation later:
- Keep calm
- Keep the positives in mind
- Be open and actively listening
- Bear in mind that the objective of the conversation s a resolution.