A team management guide (part 1)

Sue Wright

MAnTechs

In addition to the specialist knowledge necessary for a functional team to operate successfully, there are also techniques and skills essential for the successful leadership and management of any team.

What is management?

Is management a science like astro-physics or quantum mechanics i.e. the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena? Or is management an art like painting or sculpture i.e. the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

Many organisations and, in particular, science based organisations such as the pharmaceutical industry, have a real difficulty in rationalising the practice of management. However, there is a clue – “practice”. Management is possibly better defined as an interest such as squash, fishing or golf. Practitioners learn all they can about their chosen subject so they can become a better at it and people genuinely interested in managing or leading a team do the same. We all recognise these people because they are the people for whom we would prefer to work.

Team management and leadership

Many team leaders find themselves promoted into a leadership position without any training or preparation for such a big change in role. They often ask “Is there some simple checklist that can help?”

We have identified seven key elements critical to success within leadership:

1. Clarify the team mission

2. Define the objectives

3. Conduct regular appraisals

4. Implement performance reviews

5. Hold monthly meetings

6. Understand team dynamics

7. Build the right environment

Over the course of this article and the following part I will explore these aspects in more details.

“Walking the talk!”

This is a commonly used Americanism which, as is often the case, is apposite. ‘Walking the talk’ is also difficult to do, but critical. It means it is not good enough to know what to do, or be able to sound knowledgeable, you have to actually be able to do it. Following our evaluation of each aspect of successful leadership we will define some actions critical to ‘walking the talk’.

1. Clarify the team mission

One of the best ways to define a team is in terms of its objectives, targets and measures. However, first it is necessary to clearly define its mission. This is not a jargon phrase designed to sound good and mean nothing, but a simple statement of why the team exists.

Walking the talk

Develop and define a paragraph, which describes the overall function of your team – its reason for being. Discuss this with your boss, your clients and your team. Finally, review, revise and perfect the wording and ensure it genuinely represents what your team is all about.

 

“Many team leaders find themselves promoted into a leadership position without any training or preparation for such a big change in role.”

 

2. Define the objectives

Fundamental to any form of management is a clear and concise understanding of the overall objectives of the team. Next, objectives, standards, targets and measures, both for the team as a whole and the team members as individuals, need to be established. When the mission has been defined, individual objectives relating to the mission can be established.

Objectives should relate to an individual’s role within the team and their level of responsibility. Individual objectives, standards, measures and targets should be established accordingly. In effect, a performance contract can then be agreed with the individual so that both the team and the individual know exactly what has to be achieved within a given time-scale, and at what level the prescribed qualitative and quantitative standards are set.

Walking the talk

In relation to the team’s mission, develop the principle objectives necessary to support and achieve it. Allocate these to specific individuals in the team in relation to their expertise, experience and seniority. Agree targets and measures and agree ‘What good looks like’. Finally identify and agree any short-term objectives necessary to enhance skills or expertise and thereby develop individuals and hence the team’s overall capability.

3. Conduct regular appraisals

Best management practice recognises that organisational developments and improvements depend for their success on the ability and enthusiasm of the employees. Improving personal relations is also an important aspect of any quality management system. Individual members of staff need to know that their effort and commitment is being appreciated. Most good managers will readily agree to discuss workload and day to day problems with their staff, but this is not enough. Individuals require a lot more, particularly in relation to their personal performance, specific and overall progress and career direction. A few minutes giving feedback every day is helpful and beneficial, but to set aside a period of time specifically for this purpose is even more valuable.

Having identified performance levels, staff should be congratulated on their achievements in order to demonstrate interest and thereby provide motivation, as well as areas for improvement, where they could benefit from development. Best practice requires the introduction of a formal method of staff appraisal.

Walking the talk

Staff appraisals should take place on a twice-yearly basis. This is necessary to ensure accountabilities and objectives can be reviewed in the light of events that may be beyond the control of the jobholder, or reflect new priorities. In addition it may be possible to agree a means to improving performance through specific measures and/or training or development.

The interview should be designed to benefit both management and the individual and should incorporate three stages.

1. Review the individual’s performance over the period against the accountabilities, objectives, standards, measures and targets previously set

2. Modify individual objectives etc. for the forthcoming period to be consistent with the departmental objectives and ultimately incorporate current priorities

3. Discuss the individual’s performance, motivation, commitment, career direction, staff development and training needs.

At the end of the appraisal, staff should be given the opportunity to air any other points of view in relation to themselves, their manager and the work of the organisation.

 

“Individual members of staff need to know that their effort and commitment is being appreciated.”

 

4. Implement performance reviews

This is responsible for determining the relative merits of an individual’s performance over the prescribed time period and the commensurate incentive award. Each team member presents their case examining their performance relative to their accountabilities, objectives, standards and measures etc.

Fig 1: Example of a Performance Appraisal Template

Walking the talk

Regardless of whether performance review is a necessary process within your organisation, a fair and professional review system should be implemented as outlined in figure 1. This should be carried out on an annual basis, ideally done in a timescale that can provide up to date inputs to any annual performance related pay or bonus schemes that might be operated.

Hopefully, the discussion of these first few elements has provided some food for thought. Next week I will cover off the remaining key components, but feel free to feedback on what you have heard so far!

Part 2 of this article is now live on the site here.

About the author:

Sue holds an MBA from the London Business School, and has a B.Ed. Hons. from Cambridge. She worked with the Centre for High Performance Development (CHPD) for many years and is currently an independent management and leadership trainer. Sue may be contacted at sue@mantechs.com.

I would also like to acknowledge the contribution of a number of MAnTechs Associates who, through their research, practice and publications have assisted me in producing this short Team Management Guide.

Does your team have a clear mission and personal objectives?