Building focused and committed teams is a vital part of any successful business. But that is not an easy goal to reach, with most managers being bombarded with multiple tasks and sub-tasks daily. It is easy to get dispirited, and focus on the negative outcomes of performance, instead of looking for reasons for poor results, be it in low motivation, lack of skills or short resources for successful task completion.
When teams exist for a long time, strong relationships are formed between individuals. In business, it is important to make sure that personal matters do not overlap with professional duties. Keep communications documented, and if there is a delay in task completion, make sure there is a valid written explanation for this.
Balance is important when it comes to trust. With too much trust, processes can get out of control. When there is not enough trust, no genuine relationship can last the test of time. Without trust, the team will be performing tasks as a means to an end, not for the right reasons. Trust should be guarded and protected carefully, and never taken for granted. Once trust is lost, it is difficult to restore it.
Negativity is the natural state of many people’s minds, and unfortunately it is something others react to strongly. Just glancing at any newsfeed, it is easy to see that negative events are deemed as more important in society. The same can happen in teams where a single negative person can start spreading doom and gloom moods like a virus. Negative people who have no influence on the team are poisoning themselves; but a negative employee who influences others spreads the venom to the whole team. Managers should stop the spreading of bad attitudes as soon as they arise, and that is only possible by staying present and vigilant day to day.
Ideally managers should work psychically in the same location with their teams and be on their schedule. They should be there and ‘read’ their team, not just through the obvious signs like duty fulfillment and general attitude, but indirect actions, moods, conversations, tones, even looks. Even though personal matters and business should not mix, there are situations where the manager should be sensitive to a problem or situation unrelated to work if it has an effect on the employee.
Manipulations sometimes work to a certain extent, but with a team of intelligent individuals, manipulations can only create a distance and dissolve trust. There is a practice at our company where a person in the last stages of being prepped for a job, sits down with the manager who tells them all the negative aspects of the job: the realistic prospects of growth, promotion and raises, the difficulties they will face, the issues of uninventive tasks, and so on. This may seem like a brutal way to present reality but when the cards are on the table, the person feels free to make their own decision and knows the power is in their hands to accept things as the are or not.
In a high-stress environment, tempers sometimes fly and things are said that are quickly regretted. The more identified with outside appraisal an employee is, the more hurt they may feel by an outburst, even though essentially there is nothing personal in situations where people are pushed to the limit. A good manager knows effective means of avoiding such fiascos: take 10 conscious breaths; leave the situation until the air clears; take a pause to switch off emotions; discuss the same situation the next day, and so on. Different tools work with different people, so managers should take notes of how staff behaves in difficult situations, and what works best for them.
Everyone in the team has a role to play. Competition and experience, however, can show managers the hierarchy of skills more clearly, so they know which members are indispensable, and which can do with a bit of growth and development. In an ideal company, everyone gets what they deserve. This can only be achieved through knowing who is who in a team, and what they contribute to the common good.
Communication is the only way to know what drives the team and detect the uncontrollable strengthening of egos within a group. The vital prerequisite for growth is having something to strive for, and topping previous efforts on every new endeavor. Stroking someone’s ego to get something out of him or her is a primitive manipulation that will only work for a short period of time. The only way to keep egos in check is to mix and match, finding a balance between interesting and boring tasks, praise and discipline.
Conflict situations are often seen as negative. But they actually are what you make them: a little shock therapy can shed light on deeper issues the team is having, unearth them and bring them up for discussion. Are all the members of the team satisfied with their job, their position and duties? Is there underlying tension in the group? What are the reasons for the tension? These questions can sometimes be answered most naturally in a conflict. A good manager can help mobilize the team in tough times. It also creates an additional stimulus to bring the conflict degree from 10 to 0, which can help develop a spirit of cooperation. The manager should try to turn a nervous atmosphere into a constructive learning environment, where all parties can be aware of their weaker sides and grow from there.
Job satisfaction is the driving force behind what truly motivated employees do. If one compares a work situation to the way a car functions, job satisfaction is the motor, while other ‘carrots’ like bonuses, free sick days, awards, corporate parties and promo T-shirts are additional maintenance measures to make sure the engine is up and running. If a job becomes only a means of deriving income, the quality of the team’s work becomes lower. Managers should make sure the team is satisfied not only on the surface level, but are truly happy to do what they do.
Stress will always be a factor in managing teams. And even though it is impossible to avoid, it is possible to change one’s attitude towards stress. To learn to find positives in the hectic work of a manager may be the most difficult job of all, but without finding that silver lining, it is impossible to motivate the team in a natural way, which is the only way that works.