“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” – Michael Jordan
Team management skills are essential for every leader and they require constant fine-tuning as the working world, organisations, and team members evolve. Effective team management abilities can unlock the potential in employees through a shared understanding of expectations and the development of productive working practices.
In this article, you can learn what team management really means and why team management is important, and find examples of how to manage a team effectively and develop your team management skills.
What is team management?
Team management is the process of organising, leading, and controlling a group of individuals to achieve a common goal (or set of goals). This includes tasks such as setting objectives, delegating tasks, providing resources and support, monitoring progress, and making adjustments as needed.
Effective team management involves a range of skills like clear communication, strong leadership, and the ability to motivate and inspire team members to work together effectively. A good team manager successfully lifts up team members so that they feel propelled to perform at their best and invested in developing their professional skill set.
Every team manager will adopt a different management style, which is governed by a range of factors such as the company's culture, policies, employee skill levels, and staff engagement. Good team managers typically incorporate a range of strong leadership traits too.
Recognising your personal management and leadership approach and understanding what aligns with your team's needs is a crucial part of managing a team.
Why is effective team management important?
There are several reasons why team management is critical at work. By managing a team effectively, you can:
Improve job satisfaction: Teams that are well-managed tend to have a better working environment, which leads to greater job satisfaction for team members.
Enhance employees' productivity: When employees are able to work efficiently and effectively, this leads to increased productivity and improved performance.
Increase employee retention: Higher employee retention rates are beneficial for both the team and the organisation as a whole.
Improve adaptability to change: Teams that are able to adapt to changes in the work environment more easily are likely to enjoy continued success.
Improve communication: Clear and open communication helps to build trust and understanding among team members.
Enhance problem-solving: Well-managed teams are able to identify and solve problems more quickly, which leads to improved performance and increased competitiveness.
Improve decision-making: Teams with an effective leader are able to make better decisions because they have a clear understanding of their goals and objectives and are able to share ideas and perspectives.
What makes an excellent manager?
It takes a range of skills and abilities to become an excellent manager. The general consensus is that a democratic management style is the bar to aim for, as it empowers employees and includes them in the decision-making process.
Strong managers can:
Inspire and motivate a team to achieve their goals
Create a vision and provide direction
Think strategically and anticipate future challenges
Make sound decisions with a clear understanding of the organisation's objectives
Identify and solve problems quickly and effectively
Think creatively and devise innovative solutions
Understand and manage their own emotions and the emotions of others
Continuously learn and improve their skills
Treat team members fairly and consistently
Create a positive and productive work environment
Support team members and provide growth and development opportunities
7 examples of how to be an effective team manager
Team management skills come with time. You can quite easily familiarise yourself with leadership theory and other schools of thought on management, but the skillset only develops with practice.
Here are 7 ways to cultivate your management skills, with examples from the workplace:
1. Prioritise transparency
A transparent work environment has a host of benefits. It helps build trust and credibility among the team, with other leaders, stakeholders, and departments. It also promotes open communication, which can lead to better innovation, problem-solving, and decision-making as team members develop more confidence to share ideas and solutions.
Transparency can also help to improve accountability, which is particularly important in high-compliance environments and can reduce the risk of misconduct or errors.
Example of transparency: Direct messaging a team member a task request can create confusion, lower-employee morale, and dampen productivity because it silos the person from the wider project. They can't see how they fit into the puzzle, and they may feel like a spare part. However, using a project management system to clearly display objectives, milestones, and how each person is contributing to the project offers clarity on responsibilities. It creates a sense of accountability and purpose and the team member is more likely to produce quality work they are proud of.
2. Maintain effective communication
Transparency and communication go hand in hand and are essential for a smooth operation. Communication is a two-way street, too. It's not limited to conveying information, it's also about listening.
Effective communication always starts with listening. Firstly, there is active listening which goes beyond hearing what someone has to say. It's about being an active participant in the communication process by being fully present and seeking to understand, rather than respond.
Secondly, there is reflective listening, which is where you repeat what a person has just said to check that you've understood. It reaffirms that you're on the same page and makes the speaker feel heard and valued.
Example of effective communication: Let's say you're on a call with a team member and you verbally brief them on a task. You ask them if they've understood and they say yes, but you can't be sure. Ask the person an open-ended question, like “so I can check I've briefed you correctly, can you please tell me what the expectations of this task are?”. Then listen. By framing the question around checking your understanding, rather than evaluating their competency, you remove all feelings of threat and judgement. Plus, by listening to what they have to say, you'll quickly identify if they've understood and can swiftly identify how to assist them.
3. Provide constructive feedback and recognition
An Oak Engage survey found that 75% of employees believe that feedback is valuable and has an impact on their performance. Providing feedback isn't a tick-box activity. It's a fundamental activity for learning and improving confidence, which will help staff to become better professionals.
The survey also found that 39% of employees don't feel appreciated at work, which can lead to low morale, burnout, and disengagement. Offering recognition of accomplishments in feedback sessions is likely to increase motivation and productivity, as staff feel valued and appreciated.
Example of constructive feedback and recognition: In your next one-to-one, provide specific and actionable feedback to an employee on a project or task they've completed. Point out what they did well, then provide a specific example of areas they could improve on - with suggestions and resources. To go above and beyond, praise publicly, such as by acknowledging the person's contribution in a team meeting. The employee will understand their strengths and areas of improvement and this will encourage them to continue to work hard and improve their performance.
4. Provide a clear vision
According to a Hypercontext report, the most important part of a manager's role is to keep the team on track to achieve goals. If the team meets its goals, the manager can meet their goals, and it all contributes to the business's success.
A clear vision provides direction and purpose for the company and helps employees to understand how their work fits into the overall strategy of the organisation. It also helps to create a sense of shared purpose and motivation among employees, which can lead to increased engagement and productivity.
Example of a clear vision: The objectives and key results (OKR) methodology is an effective leadership tool for setting and achieving goals. OKRs facilitate a clear vision of what needs to be accomplished and what steps must be taken to accomplish it. This approach helps to align the company's efforts and create a sense of direction and momentum towards achieving the goals. The company will have an OKR and, as a manager, one of the company's key results will be your objectives. And one of your key results will be a team member's objective.
5. Delegate carefully
Delegation is an essential part of team management as you can't, and shouldn't, do everything yourself. Plus, delegating to your team creates a sense of empowerment, builds trust, and aids professional development.
Before you delegate, consider Barrow and Sharma's five rights of delegation:
Right task: What are the right tasks to delegate?
Right circumstance: Are the right resources and supervision available?
Right person: Do the potential delegates have the requisite knowledge and experience to complete the tasks?
Right supervision: Is there someone to provide feedback and evaluate the task following completion?
Right direction and communication: Can delegators communicate performance expectations precisely and directly?
Remember, delegation isn't simply passing off work to another. If the five rights of delegation aren't considered, employees may feel overwhelmed which can lead to burnout.
Example of delegating carefully: Before you delegate a task, evaluate whether the task is suitable for the potential delegate. Consider their skill set, their learning and development goals, and how much capacity is available. Then, when delegating the work, clearly explain the task and its objectives and supply any necessary resources and information. Also, assign specific responsibilities and deadlines for completion. You've now given the team member the authority and autonomy to complete the task, and need to provide guidance, support, and regular check-ins to ensure the task is on track.
6. Focus on serving, not managing
A 2013 Academy of Management study found that when bosses “serve” their employees, everything improves. The study suggests that if managers lead by caring for people and putting employees' needs before their own, business profits will take care of themselves.
According to the study, the best leadership style is not micromanaging to ensure that plans stay on track. Instead, a “servant” leader asks their reports what they can do for them, how they can help, and what they need.
When managers show care and concern for their employees, it leads to increased teamwork, loyalty, and dedication to the business. This leadership style is contagious, as employees tend to emulate the qualities of their managers, creating a culture of servant leadership and driving the business as a whole.
Example of servant leadership: It's your job to make sure that your team thrives. Regularly check in with your team members and ask them if there is anything you can do to help. If there's something you can assist with, don't reveal all the answers straight away. If you do this, they won't have the chance to think for themselves. Instead, offer a response, but remove a key detail and ask them if anything else could be added or considered. Your job is to drop breadcrumbs and encourage them to think on their feet, so that they actively learn and gain confidence.
7. Encourage team collaboration
Team collaboration allows individuals to combine their unique skills, knowledge, and perspectives to achieve a common goal. Collaboration leads to more efficient problem-solving, decision-making, and the ability to come up with new ideas and solutions. When team members collaborate they are able to share the workload, which can lead to increased productivity and improve the overall performance of the team.
Additionally, collaboration helps to promote a positive work culture and employee engagement. When team members work together, they are able to build strong relationships and trust, which can lead to better communication, cooperation, and support. This can also lead to improved job satisfaction and motivation and reduce employee turnover.
Example of team collaboration: Team collaboration can be difficult in a world where remote working is very prevalent. Be innovative with your solutions for effective collaboration and obtain feedback and ideas from your team. For example, consider the right cadence for meeting up in person, evaluate how you can create space for a virtual water-cooler chat, and review the tools and apps available for effective collaborative working.
Team management skills are highly sought after in the workplace and fundamental for any leadership position. If you want to make sure that you're showcasing your team management abilities in the best light on your CV, take advantage of our free cv review service.