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Managing teams: 5 ways to get from ‘good’ to ‘great’

An important skill that new managers need to master is the ability to weave human skills with business acumen to achieve team success. This week, our very own fearless leader Wesley Fredericks, provides practical tips on how to manage a team effectively and how to create a rewarding platform for people to develop, grow and deliver their very best.

Complex. Challenging. Chaotic. These words may describe your current experience as a new manager. In many cases people who excel at their job are promoted to a management position without having the foggiest idea of what the role entails. And while managing a team has the potential to be exciting and rewarding, it also means you’ll be dealing with people, and people can sometimes be tricky.

Volumes of books have been written on the subject of management, so the tips below are far from a comprehensive list or things you’ve never heard before. But these are the things I’m in the process of learning and wish I’d known a few years ago.

Set up a winning team:

Firstly, getting the right people in the right seats doing the right things is critical. A big part of getting this right is in your recruitment process. It can be tempting to fill a vacant position to alleviate pressure on yourself or others, but making the wrong hire can cause way more pain in the long run. When recruiting make sure you do the following:

  • Ask the right interview questions. You’ll never learn everything about a candidate in 1 interview but you can learn a lot about them by asking the right questions over multiple interviews. Read this article: “Best Interview Questions for Employers to Ask Applicants” for some great tips for interview questions:
  • Get other team members involved in the interview process. You will be surprised at the insight that other people in the organisation have and this helps when deciding on whether or not the candidate will be a good culture fit. Another spin-off of getting other team members involved is that it is a good development opportunity for them. They get to see what you do and then do it themselves.
  • Get the candidate to perform a task or a skills tests. This is a helpful way of assessing their ability and work ethic. Be sure to set up relevant tasks and advise the candidate beforehand.
  • Always check references! This is critical. Insight from previous employers is gold and can be a very useful indicator of future behaviour. Try and get hold of references that the candidate has not given you, if you can.

Having the right people is one aspect of setting your team up for success, another critical component is to make sure that you are 100% sure about what you want from each person in your team and communicating a clear set of goals and expectations. People can’t succeed if they don’t know what they are aiming for. Once you’ve communicated the goals and expectations – touch base regularly to find out how they are doing and how you can help them achieve their goals.

Learn to distinguish between urgent and important
(The Eisenhower Matrix):

You will always have a plethora of issues fired at you. The trick is to distinguish between the urgent issues and the important ones. We all know this but it’s harder to implement than one realises because we tend to gravitate towards the issues that we feel most competent dealing with. The problem is that these may not be the things that need our urgent attention. Dwight Eisenhower (34th President of the United States) came up with a really helpful decision matrix in this regard:


Read more about it here (http://www.eisenhower.me/eisenhower-matrix/)

Give constructive feedback in private. Give praise in public:

Some people thrive on constructive feedback. Others fold when they receive it. The point is to:

  • Always give feedback in a way that is constructive i.e. if the person applies your feedback they will be better at their job. Put differently, don’t just point out what they’ve done wrong, tell them how they can do it right/better.
  • Build the person up rather than break them down. Speak to them the way you would want to be spoken to.
  • Have a private session if the nature of the feedback is sensitive. There are learning moments that call for things to be addressed in a team context, but never humiliate people in front of their colleagues.

Contrastingly, when an individual or a team has done something that is worthy of recognition, celebrate them publicly! This helps build team morale and is also a positive reinforcement for the type of work ethic you want to instil in your team. Practically, make sure you have a platform to do this, i.e. regular team meetings where you can celebrate achievements.

In victory, stand back. In crisis, step up:

Your role is to set up your team for success. When they hit a target or get great customer feedback give them the credit, encourage them to celebrate and then stand back. The worst thing you can do is make the team’s success all about yourself as the manager. This can lead to resentment and frustration and will break down team morale. Make the team victories about the team. The challenge is that we often don’t take the time to celebrate success but the onus is on you as a manager to ensure that you’re aware of the victories and celebrate your team when they succeed.

Inversely, when the team is facing a crisis it’s time for you to step up. In these moments it’s your job to take responsibility, lead with conviction and shield your team from unnecessary negativity. Moments of crisis often reveal our character so it’s good for us to go through them to learn more about ourselves and use those moments to grow and develop. Importantly, when your team sees you step up in a moment of crisis it can inspire them to do the same and rise to the challenge.

Get a mentor. Be a mentor:

Having someone to bounce your challenges off is invaluable. Knowing that someone has walked through similar issues can be a massive encouragement, and we all need encouragement from time to time. Selecting a mentor is important – choose someone you trust and who has experience in areas that you need to grow in. Give them permission to say the hard things and be willing to implement what they advise you. Set a time limit to the mentoring relationship e.g. six months or one year and take time to evaluate once that period is over. If it’s working and you are both benefiting from the relationship then continue, if not then be honest and call it a day.

Similarly, it’s helpful for one’s own growth to be in a position where you are a mentor to someone else. The benefits are twofold. Firstly, you will be investing in someone else and helping them grow their own career. This is a good thing! Secondly this will force you to be sharp and to think through challenges that you may not have dealt with yet.

In summary, managing a team is always going to be complex, it will often be challenging and it will sometimes feel chaotic. That will never change. However, by constantly learning and developing you can get better at dealing with the exciting yet tumultuous role of leading a team.

Wesley Fredericks: MD of Red & Yellow
Ardent family man, lover of YouTube videos about chillies and hot stuff… and maker of great chilli sauces.