Management Skills: How To Improve Your Team Leadership

Anyone who has spent time in a large company understands the importance of a good management style. Great managers ensure that their teams complete tasks on time and within budget.

This article will review the qualities employers and employees look for in a manager. You’ll also discover some best practices to follow and apply in your workplace that will help you improve your team leadership and lead your team more effectively.

The importance of effective leadership

Not surprisingly, you can measure the impact of effective management on a company’s success. Employees who find the place where they work engaging are less likely to take time off, move to another company, and care more about the quality of the work they deliver.

The new generation of managers needs to understand how to manage remotely and use technology to get things done. It will help them become more efficient and effective at managing their teams. Here are six traits you need to adapt to manage employees effectively.

Focus on effective communication

Good managers know how to develop their communication skills to focus on effective communication. You’ll need to communicate with your employees regularly and with other managers and supervisors. They also need to know what they expect from you and the rest of your team.

In addition, a good manager listens to their team and knows what to say in response to their questions. However, effective communication isn’t one-way. Instead, it should involve everyone who has a stake in your team’s performance, whether it’s you or the new person you hired last week.

Maintaining an open communication policy also means choosing the proper channels for different situations. While Zoom meetings and other forms of teleconferencing have a lot of advantages, listening to people over a speaker does get tiring sometimes. It also distracts your team from focusing on what they’re supposed to be doing.

I am a firm advocate of cutting down on meetings that could’ve been emailed instead, especially if the topic isn’t exactly urgent.

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On the other hand, certain times warrant a Zoom call. For example, I like doing performance appraisals one-on-one. This method allows me to get more immediate feedback from employees. Kickoff meetings and closeout meetings also deserve teleconferences since this is where you get to know stakeholders and vendors, set agendas, and celebrate project milestones.

Show empathy

Listening is a crucial part of leadership. It shows respect and understanding, which will help build trust between a manager and those around them. If a manager listens to their team, they will be more receptive.

We are built to make emotional connections with other people as human beings. That ability to empathise plays a massive role in how effective a manager is.

If an employee comes at you with a suggestion, don’t dismiss them. Reserve the time to hear them out, as it will boost their morale and build their trust in you. A Center for Creative Leadership (CCI) study shows that bosses view empathic managers highly. So, be sure to listen to your team members.

According to SHRM’s annual Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey, trust between management and employees is one of the most crucial workplace factors that drive employee job satisfaction. While you might think you’re doing what you can to satisfy your employees, you can always ask for opinions and feedback.

As a manager, you can create a culture of transparency. By having open-door policies, you make employees feel secure to speak out. This way, you can foster a solid employee-manager relationship and positively impact the business.

To get the full benefits of an open-door policy, here are a few steps to follow.

If the door is open, the employee can come anytime to discuss issues. If the door is closed, then an employee must schedule a meeting first;

Let your employees speak their minds before proposing a solution, and;

Value your employees’ time by being ready with a solution. You and your team become ready for success by working out issues promptly.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) is an excellent example of a business that applies the value of empathy to its leadership style. They encourage managers to keep their doors open for employees who have questions or concerns. Managers at HP are also responsible for creating a work environment where employees can discuss their concerns without fear of being dismissed.

Inspire people

As a leader, you’re responsible for setting an example that inspires others to follow. Setting a positive example will make your employees want to emulate your behaviour. They want to learn from you and see themselves reflected in you.

You can inspire people by being positive, encouraging, and showing appreciation. When you do these things, people feel valued and respected. It leads them to work harder and perform better.

Leaders need to motivate their employees by boosting their morale and building a positive work environment. If you give your team the chance to learn from their failures, you also empower them, which leads to innovation.

Reciprocity is another way to motivate your team. Doing this to motivate the group is easy. If you give the group a little something, they are likely to give you something in return. It can be as little as free doughnuts on Friday, and in return, the team will be motivated to give their best.

Google and Facebook use the reciprocity method to both inspire and motivate their employees. They know that making their employees happy gets better business results. However, not all companies can offer fancy amenities on-site. Instead, you can inspire by recognising employees who have made significant contributions to the company.

Rewards, such as commendations and certificates, are fine, but the chance to be featured as the company’s “employee of the week” in your company intranet can boost your employees’ confidence and give them the inspiration to be even more productive.

How to Improve Your Team Leadership

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Use technology well

In-person meetings are no longer as relevant as they used to be. Now virtual meetings are the way to run a successful team. It includes using video conferencing software like Zoom or Skype, which allows you to hold face-to-face meetings with your team even if they’re thousands of miles apart.

These tools enable employees to work together remotely without traveling to one another’s location. They also allow managers to keep track of their staff’s progress.

Running a successful virtual meeting requires a few steps:

Always choose video when possible:  Compared to communicating over the phone or text, video engages more senses, gives attendees a better sense of engagement, and feels more professional;

Engage your team: Engage your team in a two-way conversation rather than a one-way presentation. Use open-ended questions to encourage dialogue, and;

Use time wisely: Time is money. Your job as a manager is to keep meetings on-topic and ensure meetings begin and end on time.

Leaders know that technology has a solution for everything – right from efficient task management and simplified collaboration to effortless reporting and time tracking. However, insisting on using technology to maintain worn-out methods of discussing and solving problems will just waste your organisation’s time, money, and effort.

Be a good listener

Good managers know when to listen and what to say when they are communicating. It is not just about being able to talk to people, but also listening to them. Having clear expectations of each team member will help you understand their individual and collective needs.

As a manager, you must listen to their employees’ ideas and suggestions. You need to understand that not everything you’ll hear will be positive. Sometimes, it will be painful — even disruptive — especially if it comes from someone who’s not yet deeply entrenched in the company culture. However, you’ll have to move past your initial reaction and see the feedback for what it is.

You can make this happen only if you keep an open mind about your organisation and your team. Even the largest companies shake things up a bit now and then. The larger the business, the more opinions a leader will get from employees. A good manager will listen, take down notes, hear out their employees, and try to get something out of the conversation.

At the same time, you need to practice active listening — the practice of paying attention to your employee, asking open-ended questions, asking for clarification if you don’t readily understand something, and repeating and paraphrasing what you’ve just heard. This ensures that both you and the employee are on the same page.

Set clear goals

Good managers are direct and specific about their expectations from employees. Instead of giving vague instructions, good managers clearly express their expectations of every employee based on their ability and capacity.

Goal-setting is one of the most crucial things you can do as a manager when you improve your team leadership skills. Without goals, there would be no direction or purpose to any work. Setting goals helps the team focus on what they need to do and why they need to do it.

How do you set and track team goals? A simple way of doing this is to use the goal system Objectives and Key Results (OKR) that Google uses to measure employee performance.

The goal system tool has two main components: Objectives and Key Results. Objectives are your goals, and they engage and inspire your employees. Always set simple objectives that everybody can understand. Key Results are metrics that track your progress towards the objective. Use only two to five Key Results per Objective. If you add more, no one will remember them.

Below is one example of OKR practice for a team that works in Customer Service.

Objective: Customer Service Superhero

Key Results:

  • Improve First Response Time from X seconds to Y seconds;
  • Increase the Number of Tickets per day from X to Y, and;
  • Maintain the Average Response time under X minutes.

By setting clear team goals, employees can understand the vision and strategy of the company, connect it to their daily tasks, and work with a better idea of what they’re building.

In Summary

A mature set of leadership skills leads to an unstoppable team. To improve your team leadership skills, you must listen, motivate, inspire and get the best out of your employees.

Overall, a good manager impacts the employers on an individual and team level. They help them achieve their true potential and encourage learning through achievements and failures. Being a good manager doesn’t happen right away. They learn new skills, work on their relationships with employees, and seek constant improvement.


About the Author

Martin Gessner is the Founder of Focus on Force. He has spent over ten years working in various Salesforce roles, including business analyst, project manager, consultant, and solutions architect.

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