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Ten Mistakes to Avoid as a Team Manager or Leader


If you are a team manager or team leader then make sure you avoid the following mistakes when looking to lead your team to high performance and the results you desire. The mistakes are easy to make (believe me I have made a few!) but they are all easy to either prevent or rectify.


1. When starting out with a new team do not ‘fly into task’! It is tempting to get cracking straight away and launch into the various tasks that the team have been designated to perform. Stop, think and get the team together to work on the essential basics that underpin teamwork such as purpose, specific aims, goals and objectives, roles, development plans, team member strengths, needs, expectations, rewards, review and decision making processes and stakeholder management. You can also work on behavioural styles and do a resilience assessment. Both good teambuilding exercises. There is a lot to cover before you even start to fly into task and if you do not stop and work on the basics then chaos and confusion will potentially reign!


2. Do not sit back and expect the team to work on the basics. I encountered a manager who once attempted to start the team off with some of the essential basics but left the room to allow the team to work on these team basics with the instruction that they wanted a full report when they returned! Not a great start for this team! Get involved, lead from the front but take an active and equal role when working on the basics. Everyone in the team should all be in this together!


3. Do not be overly ‘dictatorial’ and take over the start-up meeting or any meeting for that matter. Whilst the team may need direction on certain aspects of what lies ahead, it is always best to balance the direction with an appropriate degree of coaching and facilitation. Good team leadership is a balance of direction and coaching.


4. Get into the way of communicating about ‘our team’ as opposed to ‘my team’. After all you do not own the team, do you? If you want to build inclusivity, then when the team members hear you talking about ‘our team’ it does really help to build trust.


5. Do not shirk away from being ‘vulnerable’! Be ‘vulnerable’ is simply about being ‘open’ and owning up to your weaknesses and your mistakes. It is a real strength for a manager to be able to do this and again shows the team that you are ‘human’ with the result that it brings trust and support. Be prepared to openly share your responsibilities and objectives with the team and be upfront about the ones you are capable and comfortable with but also those you are going to find challenging. This builds trust and support.

6. Avoid the ‘blame game’. Too many managers are quick to ‘point the finger’ and look for ‘scapegoats’. This can totally destroy team trust and cohesion and should be avoided at all costs. When things go wrong - stop – take a ‘breather’ – and then start to seek to fully understand what may have gone wrong and get to the ‘root cause’. Be inquisitive, investigative and solutions orientated but do not play the ‘blame game’. It is weak leadership, in fact it is not even leadership of any description!


7. Do not allocate roles and responsibilities without understanding your team members’ strengths and weaknesses. This is a common mistake and you should play to the team’s strengths. If someone in the team has particular weaknesses that are needing developed as they need those skills for their role then ensure a development plan to build their capability, otherwise get people working on projects where their skills and motivations sit nicely. If you are the type of manager that allocates tasks to people you know will struggle at the task in order to show them up, then get out of management!


8. Make sure you praise and praise often! It is not difficult to say ‘thank you’ where and when it is deserved so make sure you do it. Simple praise is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) motivators that you can use. The other great motivator is to be an active listener to ensure you do a lot of listening. Also make sure you celebrate the small successes as well as the big ones!


9. Do not go long periods of time without a review of progress! It is vital that time is put in to review the team’s progress and not just the team business plan. Along with reviewing the plan make sure that the ‘team contract’ and the agreements within the contract are being implemented effectively. Ensure your review sessions are inclusive, motivational, and productive and include stakeholders where possible in order to get an ‘outsider’ view and input.


10. Do not let stress get the better of you! I have seen too many managers (and I have also suffered from this on occasion) take on too much with the result that the stress builds up and effects them both mentally and physically. Make sure you look after yourself and have coping strategies. Keep yourself fit, watch your diet, and look to manage your workload by saying ‘no’ where appropriate. If you have the trust and support of your senior manager as well as support from the team then this will go a long way to allow you to manage the stress accordingly. If you do not have this support, then it can be downward spiral for both you and the team.

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