Your LEADERS make the difference.

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Your LEADERS make the difference.

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Maree's Blog

Exceptional teams have three key elements – the ultimate guide for HR managers


You are the HR expert responsible for the ongoing learning and development of the staff in your organisation. You know about the managers promoted to their roles due to their technical excellence. 

They are put into leadership roles because people more senior notice their exceptional technical abilities and want to reward them for their outstanding work.

However, you also know that the skills that got them into their new role are not the skills this new manager needs to manage well.

These technical experts, when promoted to lead a team, often experience doubt in their management abilities. They find the 'people stuff' more challenging than they expected.

You likely see these new managers struggle and then watch the team quietly (or loudly) start to implode.

You may observe the following with the manager and their team:

  • Missed deadlines
  • Flustered team and infighting
  • Conflict in meetings (and people turning up late to meetings)
  • Poor use of resources
  • Higher overtime indexes
  • Higher levels of sick leave
  • Higher turnover of staff
  • People are confused about who is doing what
  • Mediocre work by the team – which means this manager's boss is becoming involved

The impact on you is this team is becoming a time trap. You are supporting the manager and the team when you should be focusing on more urgent work.

This manager is not managing effectively, and the team are not performing well. The time and effort required from you are starting to drain your energy.

What's needed here, the three key elements that exceptional teams exhibit, are:

  1. Engaged leaders and teams
  2. Predictable performance
  3. Empowered individuals

You already know that engaged leaders take their teams to higher levels. And ongoing success is created with predictable performance. You also understand that empowered individuals can do far more than powerless individuals.

I'll focus on number 1—engaged leaders and teams in this newsletter.

In future newsletters, I'll talk about 2. (predictable performance) and 3. (empowered individuals).

Successful organisations overall have more engaged managers than disengaged ones leading their teams.

When the managers you look after are engaged in their role and able to engage with their team, they are more likely to lead well.

Leading well means,

  • This manager has the leadership skills to support each team member to perform at their best. 
  • There is more buy-in from the team.
  • The manager's self-doubt and overwhelm disappear, and their conviction builds.
  • The manager can build powerful connections with their team so that the typical siloed approach in ineffective teams is replaced with alignment, and the group moves in the same direction.
  • This manager and their team are certain about what they are there to do.

With 'engaged leaders', the question to consider is: does this manager have the right skills to support and get the best out of their team?

When the manager is engaged, their team is more engaged: with their peers, stakeholders, and work. Therefore, this manager will stand out for their leadership abilities.

Looking at this in terms of effectiveness, the least effective are a small number of companies I see that have a large proportion of managers who are inept at tapping into their potential or that of their team.

These managers are more concerned about doing the work and spend little time supporting their team. As a result, they are unsure about the essential elements of managing a team, and levels of engagement are low.

Trusting their team to do a good job can be challenging as the team doesn't do things the way the manager (used) to do. So this manager can turn themself into a micromanager as they hover over people, telling each team member how to do their work.

Or the manager may take the work back and do it themself.

Or the manager may do it themself from the start because it takes too long to explain what they want.

Doing any of these behaviours doesn't engage their team.

When the team starts to implode, you will need to step in.

On the other hand, many managers I work with are doing a reasonable job with their teams and working to improve. However, these managers are often overwhelmed and so busy that they often hope the team focuses on what needs to be done. The manager is busy dealing with issues that keep arising and fighting fires.

From your perspective, these managers also need your support, as their team may feel lost or neglected because their manager is too busy to support them.

Some managers are effective. The manager has a good understanding of how to manage and support their team. As a result, performance is good, and engagement is high.

This is excellent for you, as this manager needs far less support and less of your time. At this level, they only need some administrative direction in what they need to do to look after this team.

And then, there are a few exceptional managers. These managers are actively engaging their teams and tapping into everyone's potential.

The managers in this space positively impact their team members' lives in a way that person remembers years down the track.

And exceptional teams emerge.

You would love to clone this manager across all the other teams.

The skills these exceptional managers demonstrate are:

  • Being able to listen and understand what others are saying to them
  • The confidence to say, 'I don't know, what do you think?
  • Being able and willing to have difficult conversations

Too often, I've seen managers avoid having these conversations with underperformers. Team morale drops when there is perceived tolerance for poor performance. New managers often inherit personnel issues from previous managers who feared rocking the boat and couldn't/wouldn't have these difficult conversations.

  • Coaching. Having a coaching conversation means the manager is comfortable asking open questions for which they (and their team member) may not have the answer.

    Too often, managers immediately try to solve someone's problem by giving advice.

    However, people become capable faster when they think of a solution rather than relying on someone to provide them with an answer.

  • Mentoring. Mentoring is different to coaching. Mentoring is directive. It is about tapping into the manager's technical expertise and sharing their knowledge and experience with those with less experience. The manager leverages their skills and expertise to guide others. As a mentor, the manager serves as an advisor and role model.

For your organisation and the managers and teams you look after - on a scale between 1 – 10, with one being inept and ten being transformational - where would you put most of your managers?

Get in touch if you want to talk about some of your struggling managers and their teams and what they can do to Level Up.

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