The foundations of team management

Team managers are one amongst any company's key assets: both coaches and leaders, they are employees’ primary engagement factor. Their main objective? To transmit! To transmit energy, to transmit objectives, to transmit the desire, the ideas or even the skills necessary to reach goals and build a solid company culture. A vast program!

Because the field of action is so broad, it is important to go back to the basics of team management. We all know how rewarding it can be, but also how exhausting it can be when it is not mastered. To make their job easier, team managers must build solid foundations, master the most important managerial techniques and create a healthy environment. Everyone, managers, employees and company, will benefit!

So, what is the best way to lead and manage a team? What should you focus on and what should you avoid at all costs?

The most important skills of a great manager

The first question to ask yourself is, "What do I expect from my manager?" You've probably been managed before, and perhaps are still being managed right now. Draw on your experiences to ask yourself the right questions: what stood out for you in your managers' attitudes? In their way of working? What did you appreciate and what did you find disturbing, or even hindering your growth and your missions? List your memories, and take a step back: it allows you to know what your team can expect from you. What could be their doubts, their questions, their needs? How can you motivate them, reassure them, and shake them up?

The first mission of team managers is to act as a link between management and employees. They must ensure that the company's values are respected, the global strategy followed, and that messages are effectively transmitted. In order to provide all this information, while leading, the team manager must at all costs know how to orchestrate, pilot and communicate.

  1. Orchestrate and define the actions to be implemented
    The team manager must first define the actions to be implemented and identify the objectives of each person according to the company's strategy. A good manager takes care of clearly distributing the work, leads their team towards ambitious but achievable objectives. What objectives should be set? To define goals, use the OKR or SMART methods. These methods help you to identify objectives and to follow them up with your team members. This is only the first step. Next, you need to accompany your employees to ensure that the objectives set are understood and achieved. Many managers use Popwork to define and facilitate objectives of their teams. Whatever your tool or method, to achieve your team goals, keep two words in mind: communicate and motivate!

  2. Communicate intelligently
    In a world where remote work is becoming widespread, communication is the key skill for managers in 2022. First of all, this trendy soft skill requires good listening skills - managers must make sure that they understand the company's strategic bets.
    Then, good information delivery is necessary: messages must be transmitted in a clear and synthetic way to all team members. In order to avoid any misunderstanding, you must dare to be direct and know how to formulate your expectations effectively, because misunderstanding creates doubt.  As simple as it may seem, communicating clearly is difficult, one must constantly question oneself, because the human dimension is very important. "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place" said the Nobel Prize winner George Bernard Shaw.

    Good communication also involves feedback. However, feedback is only effective if it is constructive - if it enables the recipient to grow and improve in the future. Many managers do not know how to give feedback effectively. Am I giving too much feedback or not enough? Am I being too harsh or too accommodating? How do I know if the feedback I give is understood and if it has impact? How can I give negative feedback without hurting an employee's feelings? These are all questions that managers frequently ask themselves. In this article, we share 5 simple and easy to apply tips that can help you as a team manager to share better feedback.
  3. Engagement and meaning are key to motivation
    Feedback helps to engage employees, but how do you get them more engaged on a daily basis? Involve them by giving them all the autonomy they need to have the ability to make decisions. The key is to learn how to delegate effectively. Steve Jobs said, "It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people to tell us what to do.”

    Delegating well means knowing how to smartly distribute tasks to put your employees in the best possible conditions to accomplish their missions. To do this, you need to know your employees well, identify their strengths and potential, their complementarities, which will promote effective and healthy teamwork. For each mission, give context: how will this task contribute to the company's overall mission? Why is it important, not only for the company, but also for him as an employee and for you as a manager? Finally, define a framework and the boundaries of the mission to avoid any misunderstanding.

    Of course, if you delegate, really delegate! This strengthens the relationship of trust with the employee, who feels more supported, respected and challenged. On the other hand, if you delegate half-heartedly, if you stay too much in control and if you describe all the steps to reach the result, you kill the curiosity and the will of the person in front of you. You will not gain the support of your team and your interlocutors will feel hounded. To delegate well, the idea is not to give a turnkey solution, or to do the work for the other person. It is to formulate a motivating and meaningful request: "We need to send this perfectly prepared file to our client by next Wednesday. Can you work on the content tomorrow? He will be looking at the third part in particular. This file is strategic, it could create business for us: can you take care of it first? Don't hesitate if you have any questions!"

    Try and adopt a coaching posture, encourage, follow up, show that you can help if needed, and accept that the other person may do things differently than you and that it may take longer. And to make sure you don't get any surprises, give the indicators that you will use to measure the expected result. Describe the expected result, not the process of getting there.
Decision support matrix to evaluate the employees to whom to delegate an assignment.

Decision support matrix to evaluate the employees to whom to delegate an assignment. The two dimensions of the matrix are the person's ability to perform the task and his or her willingness to do so.

To ensure a follow-up without micromanaging, remember to set up management rituals. These regular meetings reassure but do not cut your team members off from their tasks. They are planned, prepared and therefore constructive. They can be 1:1, in groups, weekly or monthly. In this article we explain how to choose and plan your management rituals.

And finally, don't forget...

"Managers need to stop being afraid and over-controlling" explains Vincent Mendes, author of 7 Commandments of the Manager: for effective, engaged and aligned teams... even when remote (Ed. Dunod). "You have to create rituals, informal discussions, show empathy by taking the time to listen to the other person, to perceive their mental state.". In an era of hybrid or remote work, team managers must pay particular attention to the attitude he adopts with his interlocutors, who are undoubtedly more often alone, and therefore perhaps more easily demotivated.

Be sure to:

  • Demonstrate emotional intelligence. In 2020, the World Economic Forum added Emotional Intelligence to the top 10 Future of Work skills. This very popular soft skill today was democratized in 1995, in the essay by science journalist Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. According to him, emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage one's own emotions as well as the emotions of others, and this intelligence would have its place in the professional environment. Better perceiving one's emotions and those of others helps us to better evaluate the reactions of our interlocutors, to avoid conflicts... And today, it allows us, above all, to establish solid links, despite the distance, to be attentive to weak signals, if some employees have a drop in morale, to be able to spot any sign of tension...

  • To be flexible. In this day and age, it is difficult to be successful by being rigid. Adaptability remains an important quality to juggle the personalities of dispersed employees and new work habits. The ideal is to alternate between different forms of management (directive, persuasive, delegative, participative) depending on the context and the person you have in front of you. Know when to move from softness to firmness, from a formal exchange to a friendly discussion... Know how to say no when necessary, when it is justified of course.  The key is undoubtedly to adopt a benevolent management style that also knows how to make decisions. You have to listen and respect everyone, but you also have to master the art of deciding, without which no concrete action is possible. The idea is to learn to balance management with a good dose of flexibility and authority.
  • Track down cognitive biases. A cognitive bias is a mechanism of thought that disturbs the processing of information and distorts reality. This deceptive and false logical thinking pattern facilitates decision-making by simplifying the context: instead of relying on analytical reasoning, the brain chooses a biased view of reality based on prejudices, beliefs and categorizations that distort reasoning and therefore lead to misdiagnosis. There are more than a hundred different cognitive biases. We have chosen 5 of them to help you in your day-to-day management and better manage your team.
  • To work on the way you communicate, and to avoid any aggressiveness, sometimes multiplied tenfold by e-mails or interposed zooms. For this, active listening, democratized thanks to the Non Violent Communication method, allows you to have good reflexes: it forces you to take a step aside to better understand your way of acting and that of those around you, and to avoid being victims of cognitive bias! Therefore, to have an effective and sincere exchange, while remaining respectful of your interlocutor, NVC proposes to follow 4 steps:
    1- Observation: observe the facts, trying to remain as objective as possible and putting aside any judgment. For example: "You've been late 3 times".
    2- Emotions: identify what feelings this situation arouses? How do you feel about this delay? "I don't feel respected". Avoid using "you", use "I" instead.  The idea is to explain to the other person what you feel so that he/she can better understand your condition.
    3- Needs: the feelings we experience signal needs. "I need to know that I can count on you because this client is strategic for the future of the company.”
    4- Request: then formulate your request. This is not a demand (which is closed), but a request (which leads to an opening). The request should be concrete, positive, and negotiable: "Can we make sure this doesn't happen again?", "Could we discuss this next week?"

If as a manager you keep these tips in mind, all the odds are in your favor! The biggest challenge for team management today remains the ability to adapt quickly to the changes in our ways of working: showing intellectual humility becomes vital, listening to the requests of collaborators in need of coordination, operational and emotional support has become the priority for managers in 2022. The world is changing, and so is management!