When it comes to managing others, there are so many factors that can influence whether or not workplace teams fail or succeed.
Each group has its own dynamic, its own character, its own preferences and strengths, dislikes and weaknesses.
Change one person in the line-up, and you can dramatically amplify or diminish the self-belief or confidence of the individual members.
Place them in a new environment or set them unfamiliar expectations or responsibilities… and the transition can either inspire or oppress, delight or provoke them.
Nevertheless, in the nearly two decades I have spent as a corporate trainer, I have learned that managing teams to express their optimal performance comes down to four critical keys.
1. Getting communication right
Teams are made up of people, and people have their own personal aspirations and individual concerns, pressures and fears. A manager has to make the time to check in and communicate with those who will be looking to him/her for direction, motivation and feedback.
Funnily enough, effective team-related communication is not just about a manager asking the right questions and listening attentively to responses… it’s also about timing. Knowing when to ask the right questions, is as important as knowing which questions to ask.
A crisis is hardly going to be the ideal time to learn about a teammate’s background, or their more personal or family circumstances. Conversely, when things are going smoothly, not inviting team members to share their professional opinions and suggestions, is a squandered opportunity for effective, team-boosting communication.
Establishing good channels of communication, and making it safe to share views and show up authentically at work, is a vital component for the health, unity and impact of a team.
2. Aligning company vision and purpose
Does a team believe their organisation is setting the right goals? Do they feel its purpose and vision are aligned?
Noone wants to work for a company that, deep down, they believe is failing to live up to, or is out of touch, with what it says it wants to accomplish.
There are those who believe that the only things employees should care about are a steady pay cheque and a stable job position. But this is a cynical and very short-sighted perspective, and produces teams who fall apart at the first sign of crisis or disagreement, or whose members simply disappear when a financially more attractive offer comes along.
In order to get the best from its people, an organisation has to continually challenge itself to ensure that what it says it stands for, is being expressed in the goals and initiatives – i.e. the purpose – that it professionally undertakes.
And managers must rely on effective communication, to ensure that awareness of such alignment reaches their team.
3. Aligning company’s and employees’ goals
This also works the other way.
A manager who has taken the time to discover each team member’s dreams and aspirations, must also demonstrate how the company’s goals are aligned with, and serve to advance, each individual’s own personal targets.
The performance momentum that this builds in terms of team members’ goodwill, focus and willingness to invest individual energy and creativity and stamina – often outside of their ‘official’ responsibilities – is immeasurable.
4. Maintaining organisational transparency
This is, perhaps the biggest hurdle to ensuring the unity and high performance of teams.
Large, long-established organisations often have a culture of secrecy baked into their structures, and the higher one rises up the ranks, the greater the ’emotional’ distance between the leadership and employees.
Just as people prefer to work with companies that have integrity, and whose initiatives, practices and stated vision all line up… they also prefer to be employed by organisations where they feel confident they know where they stand, and where the ‘higher ups’ don’t seem to be distant or making unspoken ‘deals’ or taking covert decisions about their future.
The other side of this is that people need to feel like their input and suggestions matter, and in work cultures where the leadership is on a metaphorical ‘mountain of Olympus’ while the employees are framed as powerless, insignificant cogs in a machine… resentment, mutiny and abandonment for better opportunities will be unrelenting dangers, undermining the cohesion and high performance of a team.
Managing isn’t an easy task, and getting the best out of people of varying backgrounds, abilities and aspirations is one of the hardest responsibilities to undertake.
Nevertheless, applying the four keys mentioned, over time, and with patience, persistence and dedication, will yield a team that is empowered, inspired and motivated to give its best not just when things are easy, but, even – and perhaps especially – when times are hard.
To learn more about my corporate training services and to book a free consultation, please visit: www.leonidasalexandrou.com/services/evolution/