People Innovation Excellence

The First Time Manager’s Guide to team Building : “MISMANAGING YOUR TEAMS”

There are two dangerous conditions that first-time managers often fall victim to: overmanaging and undermanaging. Let’s look at undermanaging first.

Let’s say you have a pretty inexperienced team (both in technical skills and team skills) and you manage them as if they were an autonomous team. This is a major mistake.

Inexperienced team members need much more guidance and direction from their managers or team leaders. Some first-time managers expect their team members to learn everything on their own somehow. There are examples of this being true, but not generally speaking. When you undermanage, you are setting up your team members for failure and frustration. Many managers still blame the team, even when their teams’ work assignments or projects do not come out as expected. This is pretty unethical behavior. Let me highlight this with a real example. I once overheard a first-time manager talking with her boss. The boss had expressed some alarm about how one of the manager’sprojects was going. The first-time manager replied, ‘‘I know, I am well aware of it. I cannot believe the team I have. They do not seem to know what they are doing. I suggest you speak directly to them. After all, I cannot be blamed for their mistakes.’’

Now, let’s turn our attention to the other half of mismanaging teams—overmanaging. Here you have a participative or autonomous team in every sense of the word, and the manager or team leader is acting as if it were a developing team or a work group. She makes the mistake of closely supervising and monitoring the team members when they do not need it. Overmanaging gets teams angry; as a result, they’ll do anything to get you off their backs, or, because they are so annoyed, they may undermine your efforts. They do not need all of this attention. This is a classic case of micromanaging.

Micromanaging has gotten a bad rap over the years. There is absolutely nothing wrong with micromanaging if you use it for teams that need close supervision. But there is everything wrong with it when it is used with teams that do not need to be told what to do or to be monitored closely.

Finding Balance
It is crucial that you determine which model best suits your team and that you try to provide the best management approach. When you do this, you have a management match. Matches lead to high morale and high productivity. Overmanaging and undermanaging cause many conflicts between managers and their teams and have led to the downfall of many first-time mangers. They are also two of the biggest reasons teams fail.

You may find the following point interesting and perhaps somewhat insightful when you are considering which team model to employ. When I ask my seminar groups to describe their realworld or fantasy best-team experiences, 98 percent of the time their answers relate to participative or autonomous team experiences. This may motivate you to do whatever you possibly can to get your teams to this high-performing level. Please keep in mind though that not every team can achieve the highest levels of performance, even if you and your organization encourage it. Many team members may not be able to develop the required technical or team skills.

Source : Topchik, Gary S. 2007. “The first-time manager’s guide to team building”. New York : Silver Enterprise

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