This post was originally published on May 17, 2019, and updated most recently on April 2, 2021.
They say people leave managers, not companies — and as anyone who has had a less-than-ideal boss will testify, poor leadership can turn a tricky project into a downright nightmare. So how do you make sure you’re not one of those managers?
Managing a team isn’t just about knowing who’s doing what and when. It’s about how you deal with people on a personal level. It’s about being attentive and down-to-earth while maintaining a sense of authority. And it’s about being a clear speaker and active listener who’s also organized and supportive.
In short: It’s a balancing act. But before we dive deeper into the skills that teams need from their leaders, let’s take a quick look at common signs of poor team management.
6 Signs of poor team management
- Disorganization: We see this when managers don’t have a firm grasp of their duties and the responsibilities of their team members. Your team might notice that you often overlook important details, that you seem unsure of who’s doing what, and that your plans seem overly complicated. They might even feel like the work they’re doing isn’t effectively working toward the company vision.
- Inconsistency: Managers who don’t provide regular feedback or consistently communicate with the team leave their reports feeling directionless, underappreciated, and confused. Day to day, your team might feel like they’re playing a guessing game of what style of management and communication you’re going to provide.
- Inflexibility: When managers don’t take different personalities or working styles into account (the “my way or the highway” mentality”), they leave team members feeling misunderstood and frustrated. Teams struggle to understand how to succeed in their role.
- Conflict avoidance: Managers who avoid conflict or accountability will struggle to get their team to trust them. Team members may feel they can’t go to their boss for advice or guidance.
- Micromanagement: Micromanagers who don’t delegate work are essentially showing their team members that either they don’t trust them or they simply don’t believe in them – which builds resentment. Your team may feel incompetent, undervalued, and unmotivated to do better.
What is team management, and why is it important?
Team management is not the same as team building, which is about nurturing positive relationships among your team members. Team management is about coordinating a group of individuals.
Effective team management helps unite the team under a shared vision. Each team member understands their role, how to succeed, and what to expect from their manager and fellow team members. Team members are empowered to make choices, and self-direct, but also to come to their manager should they need help.
A great team manager is someone who’s able to strike a balance between control and trust. It’s no small task, and if it’s something you struggle with, rest assured you’re not the only one. So without further ado, here are the six skills you’ll want to learn — and master! — if you want to be the kind of team manager employees stay for.
The 6 skills great team managers have
Here are the key skills you’ll need to focus on if you want to improve your team management prowess.
1. Emotional intelligence (EQ)
People with high EQ are described as having “…the capability to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s).”
Basically, you need to cultivate a high degree of self-awareness. You also need to be good at keeping your emotions in check and reading other people’s feelings. A high EQ means you’ll be able to understand your team members on more than a surface level and manage them accordingly.
2. Organizational communication skills
Everyone works better when they’re working toward a clear goal. Being able to effectively communicate your vision helps give your team purpose and direction.
3. Team development skills
If you want your team to stick around, you have to show them you’re in it for the long haul. Good managers show their team they’re invested in their emotional and professional wellbeing. Providing opportunities for training and team-building exercises not only improves individual performance and team collaboration, but it also shows your team that you’re committed to their professional development.
4. Speaking and listening skills
Having a firm grasp on schedules, budgets, and deadlines is only half the battle. You also need to be able to communicate this information to the broader team effectively. Learning about different communication styles will enable you to speak to people in a way that’ll make them more receptive to what you’re saying.
5. Negotiation skills
As a manager, you’ll inevitably have to have difficult conversations both for yourself and on behalf of others. You’ll need to make tough decisions that not everyone will agree with — and some may actively oppose. To maintain a sense of leadership and control, you’ll need to learn how to be assertive — even when it doesn’t come naturally.
6. Delegation Skills
Part of being a good manager is knowing what you can and can’t do yourself. While I great leader does so by example, you have to realize that you can’t do all the work yourself. Being able to trust your team to do as good of a job (or better!) than you could is part of what makes a great manager. Plus, if you’re trying to complete all the work single-handedly, it’s all going to be done at a poor quality and you’ll stress yourself out for no reason. Know your team’s strengths and weaknesses and dole out tasks accordingly.
7. Project management skills
When it comes to day-to-day operations, you need to be good at aligning company objectives with your team’s goals. You have to be able to process a lot of information and then define your team’s roles and responsibilities accordingly — while making sure everyone meets quality standards and deadlines, of course.
Using project management software is one way to make the organizational side of things easier and less time-consuming. Rather than tracking down spreadsheets and status updates in email, you can manage every project and task in the app. See updates in real-time, track progress and forecast issues, and gain a level of transparency and accountability only possible with the right software. Not only does this save you time, but it also makes you look like a fantastic team manager!