Balancing act: How to effectively manage others

Cropped photo of woman's hands typing on a keyboard.

With differing personalities and working styles to contend with, managing a team can be a challenge. Make things easier with these top tips.

No matter how skilled your team are or how well they get on with each other, even the best employees require guidance and support to realise their potential. And that’s where the tried and tested qualities of a manager come in.

However experienced a manager you may be, this post will run through all the elements that make up an effective management strategy – from being clear about your expectations to getting know your team.

Quick links:

Recruit carefully

Be clear about what you expect

Give actionable feedback

Learn to listen

Encourage ideas and opinions

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Create a culture of accountability

Know your team

Be consistent

Recruit carefully

If this is your first move into management, you will probably be taking over an existing team. But when the time comes to recruit, make sure you invest enough time and resources when it comes to finding the best person for the job. Consider the following:

• Does this candidate have the right skill set?

• Do their long-term goals match those of the company?

• Is their personality a good fit for your existing team?

A team of individuals who complement each other’s skills and personalities will find it easier to work together and be more productive – with less management input needed too.

Be clear about what you expect

Everyone must have a clear understanding of their role if your team is to function optimally. Be approachable and make it easy for staff to come to you with questions. Make your expectations clear by doing the following:

• Setting clear goals and objectives

• Putting them in writing

• Keeping communication channels open

• Following up

Shot of businesspeople shaking hands in an office

When setting targets, explain why each one is important, what should be done, and when by.

Put your action plan in writing – in an office email, on the noticeboard, or in a circulated handout. Being able to refer back to your plan will help employees stay focused and aware of approaching deadlines.

Enforce deadlines consistently by diarising to follow up with each employee throughout the project and again upon completion. People who expect to be held accountable will be more productive and deliver higher completion rates.

Don’t forget to be realistic. Your team will soon lose interest if you set them unrealistic goals to strive for. Break your end goals down into smaller, achievable steps instead.

Give actionable feedback

Have you ever expected a glowing review only to be met with the phrase ‘could do better’?

These types of comments are neither motivating nor constructive. Effective feedback should provide staff with the tools to improve their performance.

Use feedback to define the next steps required so that employees know exactly what actions they need to take. Can you offer further support or training to help them on their journey?

When giving feedback, always say something good. Including a positive will boost morale and help prevent employees from becoming sour or losing interest in their duties altogether.

Learn to listen

Likewise, your team will have their own input and opinions to offer, as well as complaints to get off their chest, so listening to what they have to say in a way that they feel heard is important. Employees that feel ignored when they speak up can create an atmosphere of dissatisfaction and cause them to feel unmotivated.

Positive business meeting in boardroom

Be aware of the five aspects of good listening, as follows:

• Receiving: Pay attention, don’t interrupt the speaker and avoid relying on a rehearsed response at this stage.

• Understanding: Process the information you’ve received by asking further questions, rephrasing their message and engaging with their words.

• Remembering: Retain their information by identifying the fundamental points, turning them into a central theme or concept. Create a familiar message that you relate to something you know from previous experiences.

• Evaluating: Now you can form a response by separating fact from opinion, identifying parts of their message that were perhaps exaggerated or biased, and picking out the intent of their message.

• Responding: Now you’ll have an understanding of the speaker’s most important points, as well as the circumstances and context of their words. Be sure to address the key points they’ve made, and avoid presuming things in your answer.

Encourage ideas and opinions

As well as being a good listener, letting your employees know that they’re able to express themselves, suggest ideas and participate in discussions that can make improvements to the business as a whole, goes a long way.

Businessman laughing in meeting

Even if their suggestions aren’t in line with your own vision, it’s important to let them know that you’ve taken on their words. Avoid making discouraging comments even when you don’t agree with what they’ve said – this sends a negative message to your employees and will dissuade them from contributing in the future.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Management isn’t about doing everything on your own – it’s about being open-minded and making informed decisions that best serve the company.

When you’re struggling to resolve an office conflict, try seeking the opinions of those you trust. If a new project has you feeling out of your depth, consult with your team or bring in an expert.

Be cautious when taking advice and remember that everyone has their own biases, whether they are aware of them or not.

Create a culture of accountability

Take responsibility for your actions and make it clear that you expect the same from your team.

Don’t be quick to place blame when things go wrong. Instead, assess the factors that contributed to the outcome and identify any specific weaknesses.

CEO talking to employees

Mistakes are often a sign that you need to amend your practices or consider a different approach. Treat each mistake as a learning exercise—and your team will only become stronger and more efficient.

Always recognise hard work—even when it’s not connected to a specific achievement. By reserving praise only for project completion, you risk draining your team’s motivation.

Know your team

Taking the time to get to know your team will help you tweak your management approach to get the best from different personalities and situations.

Knowing your team will help you to:

• Utilise individual strengths

• Help employees achieve their professional goals and feel more fulfilled at work

• Recognise changes in behaviour and deal with concerns promptly

• Be sensitive to personal circumstances

• Avoid pairing up opposing personalities

• Trust your team and resist the urge to micromanage

Be consistent

Your decisions will have more credibility if you don’t allow yourself to be swayed by your emotions, personal biases, or external pressures.

Presenting a consistent front will make your life easier when it comes to dealing with difficult employees, because you are less likely to be seen as unfair or having favourites.

Teams thrive under consistent leadership, because it’s much easier to approach a manager with a question or idea if you don’t have to wait until they’re in a good mood!

People management will always be a balancing act. But it’s as much about you as it is about your employees. Follow these simple steps and you’ll be rewarded with a happier and more productive team.

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