4 steps to bring your team back to LIFE

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Don’t set them up for failure, let them experience success


So there I was with a shiny new job, excited, ready to deliver and impress. On the first day, I’m greeted by a team of demotivated and unfocused employees. I am a strong believer in “hiring the right people and then letting them do their job” but different circumstances call for different management styles.

Once in a while a manager may find himself with a team that needs a little hand holding, and it may be necessary to be completely immersed in what the team is working on, to ensure they understand the vision that the manager wants to translate.

A hands-on-management style may be viewed as time consuming and the number one killer of creativity and innovation, but a manager must adapt different leadership styles to maximise employees’ performance, and thus get the best outcomes.   

Various situations can make a manager hands-on. For example, when teams are at various levels of development which means you have an extremely young and fresh team and a very old team that is demotivated. As a manager, you will have to be more involved in the day-to-day operations to be able to gauge employee abilities, attitudes and future plans.

To drive change and implement a vision, a manager should be hands-on. Change requires a strategic shift in how employees view and do things. The manager will have to be the driving force behind change by being the example, providing guidance when needed and constant communication to enforce the same.

Thirdly, when a manager needs to build company spirit or culture and/or create focus or emphasis on critical issues.

Micro-managing verses hands-on manager

Micro-management involves dictating, re-doing work already done by others and asking to see all communication before it is sent out to other departments. It also entails not letting the team have ownership of their work and being involved in the smallest detail of a project, whilst treating experienced team members like juniors who are less experienced ones. Micro-management leads to a demotivated, switched off team with no creativity, passion or positivity. Hands-on management involves clearly communicating and giving feedback, and adjusting to fit the context when dealing with employees – giving the less experience employees more time and giving the more important projects more time as well.

Back to my problem; I have inherited a demotivated team, they have not grown for several years and all their creativity has been killed off by routine work and un-communicated expectations. Where do I start? How do I implement my hands-on-management style to bring my team back to life?

1. Don’t set them up for failure, let them experience success

Setting realistic measurable objectives that clearly define what success will look like, for every little project, for each employee will go a long way in ensuring your employees experience success. Grow their competencies and confidence with each little success.

2. Coach more, and do less

Rather than spending your time doing the work yourself or monitoring every detail of how the work is being done, invest your time in clearly communicating expectations at the outset and in making sure that you and your staff members are on the same page about how work will unfold. Checking on progress, serve as a resource, creating accountability and learning afterwards. Allow the team to make decisions but guide them by helping them to reason out the correct answers. Questions such as, what does the policy state on the same? Do we have funding? Is there a gap?

3. Check in regularly

Regularly touching base with each of your staff members about their work will keep you focused on their results. This will create a place for you to check on how projects are coming, give feedback, and agree on prioritisation. This will also enable you to understand your team as you will be privy to what drives each individual, training gaps, strengths and weaknesses, ensuring you optimize on their capabilities.

4. Take on concerns forthrightly

When work isn’t progressing as you would like or a staff member isn’t approaching her job in the way you would expect, talk about it. Do not be afraid of difficult conversations. Talk about it whether that means giving simple feedback, working to develop a staff member’s skills, or tackling a serious performance issue or a staff member’s fundamental fit the role. It is important to be honest and clear.

Hands-on leadership is not micromanagement or perfectionism. Instead, such leaders blend leadership and management by providing regular feedback, conducting employee coaching sessions, demonstrating by example, keeping communication open, clear and honest and sometimes taking part in business operations, such as answering customer phone calls. A strong hands-on leader invites feedback and responds to employee comments or concerns.


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