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5 ways good managers can transform underperforming teams

05 Nov 2015

5 ways good managers can transform underperforming teams

Leadership 0 comments

This 5th of November, people all over the UK will be setting off fireworks and gathering around large bonfires. Why? Because when Guy Fawkes decided to blow up the Houses of Parliament, King James I responded by torturing him and then sentencing him – contrary to popular belief – to be hung, drawn, and quartered.

This may have been acceptable in 1606 (well, if you were the monarch), but modern-day leaders may feel more like they’re the ones being sent to their deaths when dealing with difficult teams.

So how can your managers create cohesion, inspire motivation, and instil discipline in an underachieving team? And how can you recognise someone capable of effecting this transformation?

1. Know The Team Members

What will motivate one person can demotivate the next. Some team members may want clear and succinct objectives; others may find too much guidance confining. Agreeable people may want a friendly boss, people with low self-confidence may need regular praise, and introverts may simply need a little bit of space.

This information should be taken into account when recruiting a manager. Finding someone with a high level of emotional intelligence is a must, but if their personality naturally complements those of team members, it will be even more effective in creating a positive and productive work environment.

Don’t keep information about your employees’ personalities to yourself, either. If your new manager is aware of their team members’ personalities and attitudes, they can adapt their own behaviour to match, allocate tasks to the people best-suited to them, and pair well-suited team members together for group projects.

Yet choosing the perfect manager and management style isn’t the only benefit of knowing the team. Customised training sessions and honest feedback about a person’s strengths and weaknesses can help the team develop into one that doesn’t need the same level of careful management as is currently required.

2. Think Tactical Action

Act first, think later can ruffle feathers in a prickly team, but think slowly, act after can allow people to settle into an unproductive routine. With a new manager, there will initially be expectations of change – and that should be taken advantage of in order to impact the transformation the team so desperately needs.

Find a manager who has high levels of tactical thinking but is also action-orientated, so that they can quickly put into place new routines and protocols that play to the strengths of the team and the requirements of the project.

3. Be Open to Experiments

Sometimes tactical thinking means new thinking. It’s clear that this team needs change. The problem is, a manager who only uses the tried-and-tested methods will only be using ones that have already failed, while a manager who hesitates to use something that might not succeed will find themselves missing out on lots of things that could have succeeded. Find someone who is experimental; save cautious managers for quality control.

4. Look for Self-Confidence

A certain amount of self-confidence is important for both experimenting and taking quick action. Your new manager should have enough faith in their own abilities that, should an attempt fail, they will confidently try a new approach.

Yet that’s not the only reason self-confidence is important. With underperforming teams, there’s a high risk of both conflict between team members and an unwillingness to adapt. Self-confidence will enable the manager to influence others, make and enforce quick decisions, and lead change.

5. Welcome Positivity

Your new manager has a daunting task ahead of them. They need to remain optimistic about their success and their employees’ potential, no matter how frustrating the lack of cohesion may get. By focussing on the successes to date, your new manager will be able to spread that positive viewpoint to the team members. Look for managers with a strong interest in developing others and high levels of optimism.

An underachieving team can feel like an impossible problem – yet, with the right leadership, they may still become a winning team. Look out for these five signs of a good manager, because the right person will be able to understand what individual team members need, develop team cohesion, and take both strategic and rapid action to drive real change.


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