We spend a lot of time talking about how to do our jobs better. That is our technical jobs, the work that draws on our skill set in communication and engagement.
But if you’ve ever managed a team you, you have probably discovered that managing and leading a team takes up a lot more of your time.
Personally I have really enjoyed my roles where I have been a manager and leader, but I know for my friends and colleagues that managing and leading teams is not something everyone relishes. In fact, many have longed for roles where their technical skills were at the forefront, perhaps with one or two very proficient co-workers, and they got on with it.
If you are managing or leading a team and looking for ways to help build a happy and productive unit, here are a few ideas I found really worked when it came to engaging employees in the workplace.
- Give feedback – OMG – give feedback! Give feedback when things are going great, tell them what they are doing well and why. Thank them if they’ve gone the extra mile. Acknowledge good results. In my experience, your staff will generally do a lot more good things than bad, so if you make a point of acknowledging the good stuff, when you have to give negative feedback, it will have impact, but not damage a good worker’s confidence. One of my bosses had this down pat. I remember his one piece of negative feedback to this day – “Morgana, this work was not up to your usual standard” – BAM the negative/positive feedback combo. I was gutted, but better for it in the long run.
- Engage your team in the business values – Don’t assume your team all know or understand how their work helps deliver on the bigger picture, make the link for them. It really helps people to know how their work contributes to the business achieving success.
- Talk to your team members about their goals and ambitions – once or twice a year make a point of having a reflective conversation with your individual team members about where they are going in their careers. Make it formal if needs be, where you set agreed goals. But make it about them, and be realistic about how you and the business can support their ambitions. Not everyone needs a pay bump to feel satisfied at work.
- Teach your team new things – Learning new things doesn’t always mean out of office training, it can be giving people opportunities to be exposed to and participate in day-to-day business activities. I made a point of making sure my team members improved their financial literacy. I wanted them to be able to read and understand the financial statements for their projects, so they could give project managers good advice about cash flow projections. I included team members at all levels in workshops to develop a new content management system and website template for a suite of projects. Watching and participating in a good workshop, can be more effective learning than a day in workshop training.
- Give your team members responsibility – Few people like to be micro managed. In fact, in my experience nearly every one of my team member would have at some point in time told me they preferred to be responsible for work/project from inception to conclusion, and not just drop in for bits and pieces, preventing them from getting a full understanding of what they are doing. Of course, the level of responsibility and accountability needs to be appropriate, but let people take responsibility and focus on the outcome, not the process (i.e. let them do things their own way).
- Find ways for your team members to shine – Not all teams like award programs and they don’t need them to feel that their unique talents are being recognised. When interesting projects come up, share them around. And if someone has a unique skill, find ways for them to utilise it and even teach it to others in the team. I had a support officer who also happened to have a film and TV degree, there was no way I wasn’t going to take advantage of those skills. He loved being able to use his unique skills, and our entire business benefited from a series of funny, team videos that were made and shared at team events.
When it comes to finding ways to engage your team, think about your personality, and the wide range of personalities in your team, to find ways to make your team feel appreciated, supported and a part of the success of your business.