Are you an effective manager?

Written by
Changeboard Team

06 Jul 2011

06 Jul 2011 • by Changeboard Team

How do you develop your team?

From redundancies and downsizing, from rewards and promotion to talent management, HR managers and advisors are faced increasingly with the challenge of developing a cadre of effective managers at various levels of their organisation in the short to medium term. While in the short-term the need for effective managers can be filled through appointment of interim managers, this option does not satisfy the longer term and more comprehensive requirements of succession planning.

In situations of rapid change, it would not surprise many to learn that team leaders and managers responsible for newly-formed teams struggle often to develop a cohesive unit, instead of a collection of individuals sharing similar space in an organisation or reporting to the same manager. Becoming a manager of other peoples’ time and the human and financial resources of an organisation is not an easy role for some to assume, especially if many years previously were spent measuring success and effectiveness by the number of tasks completed as an individual.

A change in mindset

For newly appointed managers - both at the mid and senior levels, the challenge, therefore, is how to be effective in new teams. This can be even more traumatic with teams suffering from low morale, fear of job loss, high levels of resistance to change and internal team conflict. Against this backdrop, one of the main requirement of newly appointed as a manager or team leader is to develop a ‘change in mindset’.

This mindset shift requires that new managers focus on ensuring that jobs get done, rather than doing all the jobs themselves, coordinating people and budgets, not merely seeking personal gratification and publicity.

How to be more effective

You can prepare to be more effective, experience fewer pitfalls in the first 100 days and be more resilient in bouncing back from negative situations, as a newly appointed team manager. One way of doing this is by asking yourself two key questions.

  • First, “How can I get this task completed in the required timeframe?”
  • Secondly “Who can I trust to undertake/do this task?”

    In essence, as the team leader, the person responsible for managing a team, you have to be willing to delegate and not seek to do it all yourself or micro-manager members of your team. You need, therefore, to acknowledge that delegation will be an integral part of your managerial toolkit and understand what steps are involved in delegating a task or a project.

    When faced with resistance from members of your team to changes that have been proposed, it's essential that you not only understand the team and/or organisational politics, but also to identify influencers, saboteurs and passengers your team.

10 key questions for managers

Here are 10 key questions you should ask of yourself as a manager, especially if you are in your first managerial role:

  1. What are my priority/most urgent tasks this week/today?
  2. How do I set common goals and lead/get others to achieve their goals also?
  3. What are my plans for the department/team over the next quarter, six months, year, …?
  4. How do I and the team prepare for business/organisation changes over the next year?
  5. How will I deal with managing my friends who are now part of my team and those with whom I worked at the same level previously? 
  6. Where are the greatest risks to attaining a high level of performance by everyone in my team?
  7. How do I overcome personal biases to work with people with various personalities?
  8. What skills do I need for this role and which ones do I need to improve/acquire in order to be more effective?
  9. How can I reduce operating costs to many to make the team more efficient without demoralising them?
  10. What non-financial incentives can I use to reward my team?

It's essential that you ask yourself these questions even before you begin your new role. While you may not have all the answers before you start managing your team, you should strive to have those answers within the first 30 days of assuming your managerial role.

The answers you provide to those questions would go a considerable way to helping you get greater depth of clarity in understanding the demands of your role as a team manager and how you can manage the talent in your team and improve your own personal effectiveness and creditability as a manager.

Building capacity of your team

In instances where no member of the team can undertake specific tasks that you would like to delegate, your next step should be to identify ways of increasing the capability of individuals on your team. As a manager, you will need to identify new learning require by your team and be able to rank these in order of priority so as to achieve the business goals.

As manager, do not seek to escape responsibility by shifting decision-making to other members of my team. Some managers do this under the guise of ‘shared decision-making’ or ‘consultation’ in order to avoid being seen as commanding or to defer the making of potentially unpopular decisions.

Be decisive and clear about the process for such decision-making. However, be clear about where your authority ends and do not seek to upstage others or make decisions outside your scope of authority without consulting relevant managers/directors.

The question of feedback

Be willing and prepared not only to give feedback to members of your team, but be open and encourage them to give you feedback. This can be done during regular team meetings and in one to one discussions. Such feedback does not have to wait for the annual staff appraisal in order to be done.

In accepting feedback, be willing to take action to make changes if appropriate, do not yourself be resistant to change. Equally, be capable of holding fast to decisions that although not popular are the ones needed to achieve greater and longer lasting performance by your team and the success of your organisation.

Set and agree expectations

Strengthen your effectiveness as a manager in leading your team to higher levels of performance through understanding expectations of you - both from your team and your own manager. Seek to build relationships both inside and outside your organisation, especially among key influencers at all levels from front-facing to boardroom, if practical. This can allow you to establish your credibility as an effective manager and strategic planner.

Remember, the credibility you acquired in your previous role is not transferred automatically to your role as a manager. The only way to establish credibility as a team leader or manager is through your effectiveness in that role, not from delivering successes as an individual or from your previous work as a member of a team.