It’s all terribly simple. Your manager is in that role because they have proven themselves. They have been the most adept at ‘getting stuff done’. Whether that ‘stuff’ is attainment of sales numbers, a proven ability to code software like a runaway racehorse, or an uncanny eye for design, they are in the role of manager because they have the ability, and experience, to successfully do the work.
And it’s not so simple. Achieving an objective yourself, and the ability to get a group of people to achieve those same goals, are two very different sets of skills.
But what happens when the team won’t move in the same direction, or won’t be motivated? And why don’t they? What does a hapless manager do, when their team is just not receptive to their well-meaning efforts?
We have often been in a situation when a manager tells us how hard they work to motivate, and make things easy for their team, but the team just doesn’t respond. The manager gets resentful, finding it even harder to motivate the team, and communication begins to break down as the downward spiral begins to gain momentum. Let’s examine a few things that may help alleviate this type of situation.
Firstly, we know that not everything is in the hands of their manager and it’s vital for the team to understand this little nugget. Sometimes there are systems and processes that can’t be changed for one or another reason, and if that is the case it’s even more important that the communication between manager and team stays open and without agenda. Of course if this is the case, it’s obviously the manager’s responsibility to make the issues known to the organisation, and to let the team know what they are doing to deal with the underlying issues.
Secondly, as a manager…what should you be doing to help improve the performance of a reluctant team?
Listen more than you talk. Listening to your staff will help them learn to think, discover the answers for themselves, take more responsibility and above all else it will help grow their confidence. Confident, thinking staff- who are learning- are always more productive. Always!
Ask questions and then listen, and listen some more. Ask them what they need, ask them how it could be done quicker or more efficiently, ask them what the organisation could be doing differently. Learn to ask the right questions, and then learn to put those answers into actionable items. People become motivated because they are part of the solution.
Remove the obstacles to your team’s productivity. Allocate 80% of your time to MANAGING the team. This means doing the things that empower the team to do their work. For example: help sales people get time with their customers by reducing internal meeting times, reporting writing, and general admin. Perhaps your internal, office bound team are being held up by other departments, make it easier for them to get access to the managers of those departments.
Some managers try and motivate their team to be more productive by getting into the ‘trenches with the team’ and getting their ‘hands dirty’ and working alongside the team. No, no and no again. These managers are so busy ‘doing’ the work ‘with’ the team that there is no time to manage the team. The more work they do with, and for the team, the less the team learns to do, so the manager takes on more, the team is less empowered and so on in a downward spiral. Delegation is the key to empowerment!
Keep learning! You don’t have to know everything but you need to know where to find answers. This means that as a manager you need to have an understanding of principles relating to all spheres of work from Operations to Sales, and HR to R&D. Learning never, ever stops. Allocate at least an hour a week to learning or skilling up on new practices, thinking or methods of work and make sure your team has access to training time as well. Learn enough to be able to smooth out work practices and guide them in their career development, or facilitate an external person to work on personal skills and learning objectives. A smart team is a productive team!
It takes time to learn to lead. It initially requires a good hard look at yourself and then the development of a variety of interpersonal skills. A manager in a sticky team situation, may find it tempting to make assumptions, become defensive and jump to conclusions. But the best approach is to take a moment to ask yourself how you could approach them differently. After that ask the team what you can do to make their job easier, and then plan a constructive way forward.
You are not guaranteeing change, but stepping into the world of your team and simply hearing them out, can go a long way to earning respect, and facilitating a more productive team environment.