10 easy ways to lose your team

14 Oct

One of the most paradoxical things about management is dealing with people and team dynamics. On one hand, it gives one immense satisfaction when progress is noted. On the flip side, it may well be the most stressful assignment when it appears to be a huge tyre being rolled uphill.

Team management is a cardinal part of business success. People form the very foundation that sustains what businesses and companies achieve or strive to attain.

How you manage people and galvanize this strategic resource plays a great part in your success……or failure.

Let us look at some of the things managers do (or don’t) that estrange them from their own teams.

1. Its all about you

A leader, which a manager is, takes the front seat when things are well and even more when not. However, many a time, it is not unusual to see managers that want the limelight and glory while their team remains oblique in the background. This “I’m the man” syndrome seeks to cast the spotlight on one person at the expense of a team that has committed their best to achieve.

2. I’m the boss mentality

The other dampener is the bossy type. The type that does not seem to have come to terms with their managerial or leadership role and status. As a result, this flawed ego seeks to be massaged at all times. One way to achieve this is by flaunting the authority one derives from their position so everyone is aware who they are.

This is even used to stifle opinion because people are forced to be politically correct so as not to attract the wrath of a displeased boss. It is “my way or the highway so make up your mind, which side are you on?”

3. Not walking the talk

Competence is critical in any role. Coupled with that is the need not only for a manager to exhibit this. It is also the demand to stand for something and not fail to lead by example.

Many a time, managers are vocal on time management and work ethic for instance. Yet they do not themselves keep time or show much quality in their work or approach to work. This is what renders credence to statements such as “managers are never late, just delayed”. In most cases, especially to do with values, a leader must show the way rather breathe the law with fear and authority to enforce good practice.

4. An empty head

No one expects that a manager will know it all. In fact, it offers a perfect engagement opportunity when a leader also learns from his team.

But when a manager or leader is full of airs and radiates a “know it all” attitude, it is almost certainly an ingredient to disengage the team. It may even result in them distancing themselves and setting the manager up for failure.

Being a manager comes with inherent authority. But in no way does it mean all knowledge and wisdom is reposed in you. It is acceptable to ask where you need to. It is entirely detestable for a manager that is all “show and noise” but in reality is incompetent, insecure and uninspiring. It does turn out in some instances that managers conduct themselves in this manner as a facade to hide their ignorance, inferiority complex and insecurity.

5. Stingy with applauds

One area one can do well to improve on is applause. Most managers are very stingy when it comes to this.

Some believe that praise should not be given for what one is paid for and expected to do. Others believe it will simply slide the team into laziness and therefore whips are the best motivation.

This could not be far from the truth. Motivation is dynamic and complex. It is not “one size fits all” or expected to be done the same way all the time. There are cases that require a pat on the back for milestones and not always wait for that “big feat” to be attained. This is certainly the case when executing a project, reinforcing positive behaviour and attitude or just carrying the team when it is easier for them to feel like mere tools grinding away.

Most importantly, this praise must at all times be genuine or at least reflect a semblance of authenticity.

6. Being Impersonal

This is one prominent factor that largely goes unnoticed. In our present work culture, it has worsened due to work demands, limitations on time and the quest for KPI delivery.

In all this, the forgotten but critical fact is that at the centre of all is the staff……people.

People have personal lives, stresses and needs that they bring to work. Others manage to minimise the negative impact of these factors on their work output. Still others transfer their toxicity to the workplace and make it a nightmare for all.

The point for a Manager however is the importance of how you manage the team. I remember once calling a member of my team to enquire how they were coping in a new role. Mine was a simple question of “how are you doing?”. The response I received taught me that we must always take an interest in the “person” behind our staff to an acceptable and basic extent at least.

The information my team member shared made me appreciate the distraction I had noted in his execution of duties. After the chat, things seemed to smoothen.

I have dealt with or seen “bosses” that are informed about a team member’s bereavement or personal setback. When he or she is called or returns for work, the first question or statement is about some important report or task needed urgently!!!!

7. Low self esteem

Every manager needs to challenge themselves to keep learning and improving how they work. This helps with the necessary workplace evolution and even self development.

The absence of this leads to some of the management challenges we encounter. It appears unrelated but have you not seen managers that use intimidation, authority and duress to get things done? This ” I am the boss and have spoken” approach may just be a case of poor self esteem.

A manager that has their ego demons to face may struggle with people and team management. Especially a team consisting of vastly experienced or brilliant staff. All they are likely to see in such cases is a competitor that can take their place or expose their ineptitude.

A manager is a part of the team. Therefore it is critical that they enhance their competence through constantly learning and challenging themselves. This learning can well be bottom up and must not be downplayed.

Low self esteem will always be a knock on team management. It will not win a manager any confidence or trust with the team. The inevitable consequence is the manager exhibiting traits that alienate them from the team.

8. Lack of objectivity

One of a manager’s notorious pitfalls,especially new ones, is that of not starting on a clean slate. More often than not we pay so much attention to what our predecessors, peers or other staff have to say about our teams. Make no mistake, briefs are necessary and help one to formulate a view of their team, new or otherwise.

But the brief must in no way entail that you develop a prejudicial approach. Different people will have had varying interactions and influences. As such it becomes imperative that you formulate your own perception and determine the appropriate engagement method(s).

The danger of adopting perceptions is how it impacts your interactions with team members. I recall in a previous job when I first had the opportunity to lead a team. I was told how challenging the team I had inherited was and typically one or two members were singled out as “difficult”. From that point on, my thinking and planning tried to sideline these particular members. After all, I did not want to court any stress.

My objectivity had been clouded by the views of others. However, with time I learnt that I needed to deal with individuals as they came and at least take them on based on my independent view and assessment of them. People are different and exhibit personalities influenced by different factors. It is true that we do not go to work in these roles as psychologists or counsellors. But we do get into these roles to manage people and the least they deserve is the opportunity to be viewed as people, not tools.

When we fail to demonstrate objectivity, fairness or consistency as managers we lose the confidence of the team. This spills over to most aspects of what we do or need to do. A classic example of such a case is the view of performance management systems that need to be transparent or objective. They however quickly earn a reputation as tools or systems that work for the boss’ favorites and adversely for those in the “unappreciated” ranks.

9. Failure to just shut up

One common folly is managers believing they have to show they are wise or have solutions to everything presented to them. As a result even when team members approach them seeking a listening ear or to just air some views, the manager will chip in with an opinion possibly in belief that they have to provide answers.

The rule here is for managers to learn to be perceptive and also appreciate the basics of coaching. To listen more, talk less and let it be the team member on stage. The feeling of having gone to someone to share and pour out to a listening ear but leave unfulfilled is a negative one. It inevitably will lead to staff thinking twice about talking to you about anything at all.

It may sound crude and harsh but every manager must learn to shut up. This is one factor that could positively endear one to the team, assuring them that they have someone empathetic and accommodating even when you have not provided any solution at all.

10. Not taking time to think

So much happens in the workplace and many things that influence the environment are rarely openly discussed. It is for that simple reason that a manager must take time “out” to analyse their team and environment. What makes staff do what they do? What silent reaction is seen towards pronouncements, changes or strategy etc?

The cultural element is extremely critical and all managers must pay attention to it. They should also seek to determine the influencers, their motivation for counter-productivity and its offshoots.

Every manager must pay attention to the unspoken or corridor talk whichever form it takes. A manager must create time to observe and learn. This offers insights into the effectiveness of communication and even the approach towards managing the team.

When this does not happen, we usually see a seemingly aloof manager that is so detached from the goings-on in their midst. Even as the link with the team weakens, a manager with no time to think will not perceive this. Perhaps not until it is too late.

Thinking gives you a view of your team dynamics and also an opportunity for one to review their team management capabilities. This can result in identification of strengths, sources of negative energy and even talent.

It would then be virtually improbable for a manager to be taken by surprise when it becomes evident he or she has lost his team along the way.

These are only ten factors to study in order to avoid losing your team. Any more you can add to the list as you manage your team?


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