If you’re just out of college and considering taking a leadership role, or if you’re managing a team for the very first time, knowing what to do can be tricky. Good leaders focus on supporting their team to reach their collective and individual goals. Support means kindness and compassion, but it also means making 1,000 decisions—both small and large—every day. It’s not a role for the wishy-washy.
If you’re a new leader, there are four basic things you must know to manage your team, whether your team is sourced from manufacturing labour hire, freelancers, or even senior management, and whether the team you manage are part time or full time.
1. Lead: You are the Boss
To lead for the first time, you have to think of yourself as a director, not a dictator. You aren’t a ruler and no one has handed you a crown. You are a part of your team just like everyone else, and you should work with your team to accomplish your collective goals. But, you are the boss. That means that your team will look to you to direct them on what needs to be done. When a decision needs to be made, you must make it.
Some leaders think of themselves as a captain. Of course, there are many sorts of captains, and the term captain is often associated with pirates who bark orders to their crew. Think instead about the captain of an airplane; they are civil and respectful, yet assertive and bold in terms of their leadership style. They respect their team, and they aren’t afraid to ask for advice, but they also direct the different tasks during takeoff, cruising, and landing, and everyone aboard their flights listens for their directions and immediately follows them.
Don’t be afraid to take the lead. A lot of new managers fail because they can’t make decisions or crack under pressure. Be the boss.
2. Don’t Micromanage
It’s important you allow people to “own their task” as nobody likes to be micromanaged. In fact, in some company cultures micromanagement is considered a form of implicit bullying and even emotional abuse. When employees take ownership for their work, they do a better job. They feel pride in what they do, and they are more committed to it. As a leader, you want your team to feel like their work is important, and more importantly, that it’s theirs.
That said, it’s important you retain your role as the directional leader that provides tasks for people to complete, but once a task has been set, leave it for the other person to complete. If you start micromanaging someone they will start resenting you and your leadership. This behavior infers a lack of trust and respect; it also suggests you feel they require hand-holding, which feels patronizing and demeaning. The last thing you want as a leader is for your team to feel like you don’t respect them.
3. Use both the Carrot and the Stick
You may have heard the metaphor about the carrot and the stick, which describes the polar forces of motivation theory. In psychology, there are two broad types of people; those who prioritize moving toward pleasure and those who prioritize getting away from pain.
Of course, most people have a mixture of both, but there is normally one predominant force that motivates a person – and it’s different for everyone. Get to know your team and see what makes them take action; is it the possibility of reward or is it the fear of being fired?
That said, you should never rule through fear. Make sure your employees feel that you support them, and that you have their back. While we’re talking in metaphors, never throw an employee under the bus. If you have their back, they will have yours. That’s the purpose of teamwork!
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4. Work Collaboratively with Your Team
The important thing to remember is that, as a team, you should be making decisions together, standing side by side as teammates—not sitting at opposite ends of the table like adversaries debating and arguing over who does what. Just because you have the authority to be the final decision maker doesn’t mean you aren’t part of your team. It’s important that you don’t just stand back and give orders. Work with your team, and find ways to support them every step of the way.
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