Leading a team, whatever the size, can bring lots of challenges you’ve never had to deal with before. You may doubt your abilities to deal with them or lack the skills and knowledge to know what is the best approach.
From my experience working with hundreds of clients, here are some typical situations and suggestions on how you can react.
It’s also important to have the confidence to trust your intuition and to ask for help when it’s needed.
1. “I gave enough time and guidelines for my staff to prepare for the given tasks, but they still underperformed which lead to low work performance as a team.”
When talking about how to lead a successful team, ensuring your team have the guidance and time they need is an important starting point for delivery. However, have you also articulated what success looks like for them and been clear on what your expectations of delivery are?
A common mistake team leaders make is to assume their staff can see inside their head and understand the vision they’re trying to articulate. You can ensure that you’re all on the same page by asking them to clarify their understanding of what is needed as well as any barriers they believe might affect the success of the task.
Allowing your team to have some autonomy over the task is important. To help you feel comfortable that it’s on track you could agree on check-in points throughout the project to monitor their progress. By agreeing upfront these critical points it avoids your team feeling they are being micromanaged.
If despite all of this your team continues to underperform, hold a team review of the task. Explore the reasons for success not being achieved: what was within their control and what was outside of their influence? Creating a no-blame culture for this review is essential to enable team members to talk freely. Follow this up with individual performance reviews if appropriate.
2. “My staff don’t work up to my standards, therefore I have to take over and do extra work, this makes me have less time to do the work I am supposed to do.”
This sounds to me like classic perfectionist behaviour. The need to deliver unrealistically high standards and the fear of failing or being judged if you don’t.
Take an outsider’s view of your expectations. Is it really fair to expect that level of performance all of the time? Ask yourself what does a perfect standard look like and how would you describe failure? Now think about what achievement would be good enough. This is a realistic expectation which will allow the team to deliver and the opportunity to exceed.
By taking over the work to deliver a higher performance what message are you giving to your team? They are far less likely to put in the extra effort if you’re just going to add to it yourself. The result is they are demotivated, feel less confident in their abilities and you are stressed and overworked. Instead, challenge yourself to allow the work to stay as it is and be curious about the reaction. You could be surprised how little the extra 10% you add matters and think of all the spare time you’d have to focus on your own tasks.
3. “As a manager, I hope to maintain a good relationship with my team, but they got too comfortable and seems like they don’t listen to me anymore.
If your team isn’t listening to you then there is definitely a reason that you need to get to the bottom of. It could be they’ve lost respect for you, but it could also be that they’re unclear on what you want from them or they don’t think your ideas will work. You may feel that moving to a leadership style where you rely more on your management power or instil fear about the consequences of not listening is the answer, but it’s not.
First, you need to examine your own motivations and think about how to lead a successful team – is your need to have them respect you genuinely about what’s best for the team, or is it linked to your self-esteem and career goals? If it’s the latter then your team will know the difference and you’ll lose credibility. Secondly, ensure you’re listening too. Ask them whether there are any issues or concerns that they have and actively listen to their answers. Not only does it build your connection again but when individuals feel valued, they’re more likely to follow your lead.
4. “My mental health and daily life really got affected due to the overall performance as a team, and I am constantly worried about what my boss will think of my management skills.”
I suggest to clients that they spend some time thinking about what they’ve achieved in their career, their strengths and skills and any positive feedback they’ve had from colleagues and managers. This exercise takes the focus away from negative thinking and reminds you why you’ve achieved this management role. Having a development review with your manager is another way to take the power out of your worries and turn them into practical steps instead.
If you feel your mental health is still suffering then please don’t just ‘battle on through’ find someone to talk to about your concerns – don’t be afraid to share your worries.
5. “I tried to ask for more help from my boss, but he/she does not understand and refused to give extra support.”
An unsupportive boss makes work very frustrating and can have a detrimental effect on your career. If your boss isn’t understanding do you have a mentor, coach or someone in your network within the company that you can turn to?
Having a support network outside of your line manager is an essential element in a successful career. A boss who doesn’t support you is unlikely to advocate for you in senior meetings or suggest new opportunities for you to develop.
Ensure you take a look at yourself before deciding that your boss is totally at fault. Is there anything about your delivery or behaviours that could be affecting their opinion?
Finally, if all else fails it may be time to move area or organisation.
Want to learn more about how to build your self-confidence in the workplace? My new book ‘Good Enough’ helps women thrive, through courage, confidence and credibility.