Team Management - Start Here
Discover 115 Top Team Management Skills
Whether you're preparing for your first management role, or you've been managing teams for years, there'll always be something new to learn, and existing skills to develop.
To be a great manager, you need to be comfortable adopting a wide variety of personas. Over the course of a day, you could be a mentor, a coach, a cheerleader, a confessor, a judge and jury, and a decision maker! And you must be able to cope with all the challenges and pressures that come with being responsible for other people, as well as yourself.
In this article, you can explore 115 tools to help you to become an effective manager. To make it easier to navigate your way through so many useful resources, we've divided them into six sections, as follows:
- Understanding the Basics of Management Roles.
- Effective Recruitment and Induction.
- Understanding Team Dynamics.
- Team Effectiveness and Motivation.
- Developing and Coaching Your Team.
- Coping With Challenging Management Situations.
1. Understanding the Basics of Management Roles
A good starting point is to find out how good your management skills are right now, and you can do this with our interactive quiz. The insight you'll gain will help you to make the most of your strengths and to tackle your weaknesses.
It can be daunting to start out on your management journey, and it will likely require you to rethink the way you approach work. For example, it's sometimes difficult to switch from doing "hands-on" work yourself to relying on other people to get things done.
You may be asking yourself questions such as, "Can I learn how to motivate people and earn their respect?" "How will I find time to complete my own work while managing others?" or "Will I be able to lead people who were once my peers?" These are just some of the issues that you can explore in our articles, Seven Surprises for New Managers and Moving Into Your First Management Role.
Whatever your length of experience, it's vital to build positive working relationships with your people. You can make a good first impression and earn the trust of your team members by setting the right tone in your first meeting, and by learning a little bit about them in advance. Prepare early by following our five-step guide to Meeting Your New Team.
As a manager, you'll likely deal with a variety of situations and people every day. Our article, Mintzberg's Management Roles, explores 10 roles that you might play, and explains how you can develop your skills in each one.
This is particularly helpful if you have previously been a technical expert, but now need to tackle new challenges such as "soft skills," administration, and becoming a role model.
You can discover the fundamentals of managing a team with our article, Team Management Skills. Here, we introduce tools like Team Charters to help you get off to a flying start, with improved communication and a united approach.
Your job won't always be "smooth sailing," though. You'll need to learn how to identify and manage potential flashpoints on your team. You can find out how to defuse tense situations with our articles on Conflict Resolution and Managing Emotion in Your Team. (See Section 6 of this article for help with handling other challenging management situations.)
In good times and bad, we recommend that you aspire to apply the Transformational Leadership model of management. This involves a team and its manager collaborating to "raise one another to higher levels of morality and motivation." Together, you'll create a highly effective and productive team.
2. Effective Recruitment and Induction
It's said that the most important part of directing a movie is casting the right actors. If the actors are right for the roles, there will be less need for detailed instruction, or correcting mistakes, later. Effective recruitment is a similarly crucial part of team management.
Investing in new talent can be an expensive and time-consuming process, so it's not a decision to be taken lightly. Ask yourself whether you have the right team for the changing nature of your business or operating environment. Our article, When to Create a New Role, can help you to weigh up the pros and cons of changing or expanding your team. Then, keep a wary eye out for these 10 common recruitment mistakes.
You might consider recruiting from within your organization. After all, you'll have a good idea of the skills and talents of someone you already know, and you've already invested in his or her development. But don't be blind to shortcomings – beware falling victim to the Peter Principle by promoting a valued team member beyond his level of competence.
The job interview is still the best way to get to know candidates and to assess their suitability. So it's a good idea to brush up on your interview skills, and to mix traditional questioning techniques with competency-based interviewing and Aptitude Testing.
It's important to recruit team members who are not only technically competent, but who also share your organization's values. You can explore this idea further with our article, Understanding Workplace Values.
Once you've made an offer, and it's been accepted, you need to do all that you can to make the role a success. See our articles on engaging new recruits and successful induction to ensure that your hires make the strongest possible start at your organization.
3. Understanding Team Dynamics
Well-rounded teams are composed of people with differing skillsets, personalities and life experiences, so the individuals in your team will likely see the world in very different ways. The tried-and-trusted method of Management By Wandering Around (MBWA) is a useful way to find out how your team members behave and perform, both individually and together.
Their dynamics as a group will be influenced partly by how well they know one another. Has your team worked together for a while, or is it newly created? Teams usually progress through several stages as people become acquainted and settle into their new roles. Our articles, Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing and Cog's Ladder will give you a good understanding of these stages, and what you can do to get the best from them.
If you notice that you have an especially talented person on your team, be sure to read our resource on identifying, developing, and keeping talented people. And a person willing to go the extra mile can have a hugely positive effect on your team's productivity and performance, if you place her in the right position. Find out more in our article, How to Get the Best From an Extra Miler. You can also take our quiz to assess your team members' happiness.
Depending on your line of work, you may find that some of your most valuable team members are unsociable or introverted. Understanding their strengths and weaknesses, too, is crucial when it comes to helping them and their co-workers to be happy and to maximize their contribution.
4. Team Effectiveness and Motivation
To improve team effectiveness, it's important to have relevant data that you can collect, track, and respond to. So, identify key performance indicators and draw up plans to meet them. Be sure to convert any vague objectives into specific goals and measures that relate directly to your organization's priorities. Take a look at our articles on OKRs to find out how.
Tracking progress requires you to understand how your team is using its time. One way to do this is to carry out a DILO analysis. It stands for "day in the life of…" and it can help you to see if your team's time is being used in the most effective way. But it's crucial that you involve your people in this data collection – they'll feel demotivated if they think that they are being "spied on" or micromanaged.
A motivated team is usually an effective team, so take our quiz, How Good Are Your Motivation Skills? to gain an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses in this area. Remember, the better you can demonstrate good motivational practices, such as using appropriate and effective rewards, and providing meaningful work, the more motivated your people will feel.
Similarly, an emotionally engaged team tends to produce better work. The Three Component Model Of Commitment explores three factors that affect how people feel about the organization that they work for.
But don't forget the basics: Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs shows how important it is to address safety, security, and comfort, as well as to nurture a sense of belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization.
Our articles on McClelland's Human Motivation Theory and Herzberg's Motivators and Hygiene Factors will help you to consider what motivates, or demotivates, each team member as an individual – and it might not be money!
5. Developing and Coaching Your Team
Your people will feel a greater sense of satisfaction at work if they know that they are growing and developing in their roles. Learning to develop your team and understanding each individual's developmental needs is an important part of being a good manager. You can also use a Skills Matrix to analyze your team members' training needs.
You can improve performance through coaching, delegation, and talent management, among a host of other strategies. A good starting point for this is to carry out a Training Needs Assessment with your people.
When it comes to coaching, our article, The Skill/Will Matrix, can help you to asses a team member's skill and motivation levels, and may help you to adopt a coaching style that suits his needs.
If he has the skill and the will, selecting the right On-the-Job Training and Cross-Training can give him the experience and knowledge he needs to perform a wide range of tasks beyond those specified in his job description. This can boost his enjoyment and engagement at work.
If you don't have much experience of delivering or facilitating coaching, you can explore some of the basics with our article, What is Coaching?
Coaching your people can help you to build rapport, to help them through business changes, to develop self awareness, and to find solutions. But be aware that it takes a lot of time and thought, so be careful to balance coaching with your other responsibilities.
The Broaden and Build Theory suggests that a happy and engaged team is more likely to be creative, and to find new, improved ways of working. So, aim to introduce a positive team atmosphere – for example, by celebrating achievements. This can have a profound effect on your team's development.
6. Coping With Challenging Management Situations
You're striving to create a thriving team that demonstrates positive collaboration, has high morale, and delivers successful outcomes. Realistically, though, we know that life will throw us occasional curveballs!
Being a manager can be hugely enjoyable and rewarding when things are going well. But you discover your real strength as a boss when things get tough.
The challenges you face can come from within your team or from external factors beyond you or your organization's control. For example, you may be feeling overstretched because your team is growing too large or, conversely, because it is shrinking or suffering from high turnover. Meanwhile, the wider business environment can be increasingly volatile and unpredictable.
It's normal for there to be elements of rivalry or competition within teams, and often this can be channeled in positive ways. But be aware that it can also spill over into negative behaviors. So, you will need to be confident in resolving conflict, and know how to identify and deal with bad behavior, such as bullying and discrimination.
However, workplace problems are not always the result of malice or ill will. Well-intentioned people can get caught up in conflicts when their values clash. There'll likely be deeper reasons behind sloppy work or long-term absences, so try to keep an open mind as you approach each issue.
A mix of personalities in a team can bring tension – or worse – as well as enrichment. For example, at some point in your career, you'll likely have to deal with team members who are volatile, domineering, arrogant, narcissistic, angry, or who display any number of other "difficult" character traits.
Sometimes the challenges you face will be more logistical or cultural in nature. For example, you might be called upon to manage a team overseas, whether it's in South Korea, Romania, Nigeria, Brazil, or elsewhere. Take a look at our set of resources dedicated to different countries and cultures around the world to help you to build respect and understanding.
The best managers inspire their people, and help them to take effective action. However, team management can be challenging, so don't expect to get everything right first time. But, by focusing on the six key skill areas above, you can become the kind of manager that helps your team to achieve.
When you're ready to take it further, the Team Management section contains more than 280 team management tools – or more than 370 for Club members – grouped into the following sections:
- Start Here.
- Understanding Team Dynamics.
- Effective Recruitment and Induction.
- Developing Your Team.
- Coaching Your Team.
- Delegating Effectively.
- Motivating Your Team.
- Team Building Activities.
- Rewarding and Engaging Your Team.
- Improving Team Effectiveness.
- Performance Management.
- Difficult Management Situations.
- Managing Different Groups of Workers.
- Managing Different Types of Teams.
- Managing Around the World.
- Historical Management Theories.
Browse the sections that are relevant to you, and press the "+" icon next to the resources you're interested in to add them to your Personal Learning Plan.
This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter, or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career!