The Street Smart Law Blog

Writing 2
  • Frederick L Shelton


I once heard the analogy that trying to manage a group of people is like trying to wrangle a group of kittens. Since then, the visual of tiny, furry animals running in different directions has stayed with me and pops into my head every time I engage with a team that is trying to get something done! So what can we do to not be like those kittens?

Teams are made up of individuals who are working towards a common goal. Reaching that goal and getting a team to produce requires being able to navigate different operating styles and personalities. And that can be quite a challenge for a team leader.

Here are some simple concepts that will help clarify how to best manage a team to produce the optimum outcome:

Number 1: Be Organized

As the leader of the group, what you do, good or bad, will filter down to the entire team. Setting the example of having good organization in place will help the group be more productive. It will also enable you to better utilize your people as it will make things clearer, easier to find and will help you keep track of the many moving parts that you juggle each day.

Find ways to organize both in your physical space and digitally. Work out what programs work best for you and the group. There are many great digital applications that connect teams and track everything associated with the group. Help your team learn to use whatever organizational processes are necessary so your team runs smoothly. Be on top of your personal organization as well as that of the entire group. Set a high expectation for organization and the team will follow in your footsteps.

Number 2: Cultivate Great Communication

The ability to communicate, or lack thereof, can make or break just about anything in life. This extends to running an effective team. Your group will be as effective as its weakest link, and that means the most ineffective communicator in your group. Ensure, no demand, that every team member strives to communicate in an effective way. Why is this important? Because without good communication the lines that drive your endeavor, your project, your company, will dry up.

Bad leads to misunderstands within the group, and can extend outside the group to customers, clients, suppliers, etc. That miscommunication and those misunderstandings lead to wasted time and wasted money. It can kill a project faster than anything else. It can also create tension and trouble between team members as well.

As a team leader, you need to be sure all your team members communicate well. This is a skill that can be taught and can be learned.

What is good communication?

- Communicate in a timely manner. Answer calls, emails, inquiries, and mail quickly. Don’t leave people hanging waiting for responses.

- Answer what is being asked and leave out unnecessary communications. Don’t make things too personal or emotional, but keep things appropriate and related to the subject being discussed.

- Acknowledge what the other persons is saying, even if you don’t necessarily agree with them. Let the person know you have heard them will make them feel like you understand. Agreeing and understanding are not the same, you don’t need to agree to understand and acknowledge someone.

- Speak up and make your viewpoint known. If you have something to say, say it in an appropriate way. You can have a contrary viewpoint and state it in a way that does not create antagonism with others. This is vital when working in teams where people have different opinions. Have team members learn to respect other viewpoints.

As a team leader don’t just assume people know how to communicate but take the time to evaluate each team member and help those that are weak in this area be better. It is well worth the time invested as it will lead to a much happier and productive group.

Number 3: Train Well

One of the most important things a team leader can do it make sure his team members are properly trained. A person that is in a position for which he has not been trained has not really arrived in that position. He may be sitting in the seat, but he is not doing the job yet. Believe it or not, a person can stay in that state of not doing his job for years if he is not trained properly. This person will not feel secure and will not be able to produce what is expected of him. Training well is vital. Once someone is fully trained, he will have the confidence to do his job and he will thrive. Properly trained people are ones that produce what is expected.

So what is proper training? It is making sure the person can actually successfully produce what is required of him, on his own. Giving a person a manual to read, but never checking to see if he understood it or to see if he can apply what he knows, is not proper training. A well-trained team member is your best asset!

Number 4: Give Clear Directions

Your team takes direction from you. If you do not give clear, concise directions to your team, you will get the same result back from them – unclear and wishy-washy products and results.

To be an effective leader you need to give clear directions that your team can duplicate and follow. It is your job to be sure that individual team members are receiving your directions and that they are then able to follow them. This might seem like a very basic thing, almost “common sense”, but in reality, it is not simple. People are not likely to necessarily speak up and tell you if they don’t understand something (another reason to be sure you train them to communicate well as in number 2 above). They will wander around in confusion and do what they think you asked for, but what is not really what you wanted at all. This wastes time and money.

As the manager, you need to really make sure your team understands what you tell them and you need to look to see they are carrying out the proper actions you direct. Don’t take their word for it, but really check on the results. That way you can make any corrections that need to be made before it becomes a problem.

Number 5: Read People

Let’s face it, leading a team requires a diverse set of skills. The more tools you have at your disposal the more confident you will feel as a manager of people.

The ability to read people is a subtle, but vital ability you must cultivate as a manager. This is important for many, many reasons. The more you can identify with your people the more you can understand them. And you need to understand your team in order to lead them properly. Not everyone is the same, but you can use the same skills to work with a diverse group.

Reading people will enable you to see things that need attention in your group. If you give a directive to a group member, the ability to “read” people will let you see if that person is in agreement with what you just asked them to do. It will let you see if they are in disagreement, and that is important. If a member of your team is not in agreement with a directive, then you must handle them on that immediately.

It is likely that the disagreement will be unspoken (unless you have done Number 2 above!). Reading people will enable you to spot that unspoken disagreement and settle it so you can get the team member back on track. No one can work over a disagreement! Nothing will get done until it is settled, so understanding the subtle nuances of your team is very important as a manager.

BONUS; Number 6: Inspire Greatness

As a leader, you are the group's greatest cheerleader. You set the tone for everything the group does – so it is your job to rally the troops, to inspire them to be on board with the purpose of the group, and to motivate them to get the job done. As the team leader, you must be able to do this well.

Think back to your own experience as part of a team to a time when you were led by a leader that was unenthusiastic. How did that feel? Were you inspired to get the job done? Probably not.

Being a leader means being in touch with how you felt as a team member and taking the good and bad experiences you had with your own team leaders to heart and building a better team using those experiences in a positive way.

Good team leaders inspire and motive their teams to produce above and beyond expectations. These simple, but effective techniques will ensure your team is happy and productive. It will not only build a better team, but it will build better individuals who value themselves and their group.