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6 Big Ways Managers Kill Their Teams

Running a team at work is difficult. Creating a high-performing team is next to impossible. It is the very rare manager/leader who is successful at achieving truly reliable, high performance on a consistent basis. Think Nick Saban at Alabama or Bill Belichick at New England.

Their ability to create winning teams at the highest level, year over year is rare. Why aren’t there other coaches competing like that?

You might not be building a Super Bowl winning team, but you can get better at creating a more effective team environment. One way to get there is to STOP doing certain things before you start doing others.

In this article, we’re going to map out 6 big things you can stop doing right now. Clear these obstacles, then begin the journey to creating a better team atmosphere.

Dealing with People

A big error that many managers make is picking favorites within the team. Favoritism can destroy a team environment. There will usually be a superstar on your team. Someone will rise above the crowd and make themselves seem special. I don’t say this lightly.

The challenge for the manager is to avoid showing this person some level of favoritism. The favoritism can appear in different ways. Examples are a special time with you, special assignments, private talks after a team meeting, or more overtly just being treated differently in the group.

I dealt with a recent situation where a senior leader had recruited a favorite. Once this person was on the team, she became a snitch; running to the boss any time anyone else said or did something she thought the boss would not like. This person was pleasant enough. She acted friendly but was ultimately discovered to be the mole.

When matters got very serious, up to and including the firing of the boss, this person was left behind having been exposed as a favorite that got lots of special treatment. Resentment is high. The spirit of teamwork has been shattered.

A new boss will have some mending to do to regain everyone’s trust. Stop having favorites at work.

Achieving Clarity

Your team needs to be clear about its purpose and plan. Leaders must paint a good picture of what the team is supposed to be about and where he/she wants them to go.

Too often managers get busy doing the work along with their team. Not enough time is spent creating the vision and keeping it updated. Sure things change. So should the vision.

jest flying in tight formation
Flying in tight formation

Managers need to stop allowing themselves to get so busy that they forget the vision. If you forget it or walk away from it, what is your team supposed to do? Stop letting people flounder for direction.

Speaking in Mixed Messages

Communication is so important for effective teams. Saying one thing then doing something else undermines your ability to communicate properly.

Nail down your own sense of purpose. Then you can walk the talk. I often coach the principle of being able to respond not react to situations. When you go see your doctor, if you respond to the medications they prescribe, you’re getting better. But if you react, you’ve got bigger problems.

The same is true at work, day by day. If you react to the things going on, you are probably creating more confusion. As a result, people are left asking themselves “What did he mean?” or “Is she still behind this project?”

If you respond to the moment, you are helping clarify the task, purpose, and vision. Therefore, one way to become a better responder is to stay focused on the mission, vision, and purpose.

Stop reacting to things. Start responding.

Negative Feedback

Nothing kills desired behavior like negative feedback when the person has done exactly what was asked for. Unfortunately, I see this very often in large, complex organizations where the compensation program does not align well with actual performance measures.

I had one client whose leadership worked 364 days to promote great principles like empowerment, inclusion, diversity, and teamwork. Yet when the annual review came around they relied on an antiquated forced ranking system.

Within any given team, somebody was going to end up near the bottom of that scale. The motivation went down the drain when the ranking notifications were issued. Further, if you were an employee receiving one of those lower rankings, it could take years to climb back up the scale.

Stop allowing ancillary systems and procedures to undermine your effort for high performance.

Celebrating Wins

When people work hard, they deserve to have a little fun. Celebrating wins is a great way to do that. However, a funny thing happens along the way to victory.

Managers who are ‘all business’ seldom choose to acknowledge the win. I ask all my executive coaching clients how they celebrate a win? Sadly, many say “I don’t.” When I ask why, they say the result is expected of them.

OK, I get that. You were hired to achieve great things. I can’t argue there. But having a team responsible for the results changes the equation. THEY need to experience the celebration, not you. (Although it wouldn’t hurt my more straight laced clients to loosen up a bit.)

Stop being so Stoic. Celebrate the wins!

Modeling Behavior

The best leaders model the exact thing they want from their team. If you want honesty, be honest. If you want trust, become trustworthy. Looking for reliability? Then stand by your words. So on and so on.

Modeling the behavior you desire from the team comes from the top. It again comes down to walk the talk. You can spout ideas and concepts all day long, but you have to demonstrate the meaning and the action by the way you work.

Stop undermining your effort with your own bad behavior.

Much More

There are so many other things to consider here. However, mastering these six should go a long way toward restoring team performance.

My team and I have developed the Team Trust Model to help leaders with a framework for resolving issues at work.

trust at work

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