Pick your battles: 5 top tips to manage teams

Karyl Treble
July 2, 2015

You could fill entire libraries with the plethora of literature that advises managers on the best ways to harness a team’s collective energy to make an effective, cohesive, hard-working, high performing and even, may I say, a fun bunch of people to work with. So where to even begin?

Here are my top five tips to really bring your team together.

1. Deal with conflict straight away

While it’s tempting to hide under the desk and hope the conflict magically disappears, be assured if you don’t nip it in the bud it will come back to bite you.

Take the time to listen to each person involved and identify the important issues. Once the issues are out in the open you can then start looking for solutions. But be warned unless the individuals buy into these solutions you can be in for a long and difficult road.

2. Make time for your team

Yes everyone is busy, but believe me that not taking the time to talk to your people because you are busy can result in spending an awful lot of time down the track dealing with stuff you just didn’t see coming.

When one of your employees needs to talk to you, make sure you set aside the time to do so. Put aside your work, make sure that smartphone is not in eyesight for a sneaky look, and focus on the person in front of you. This will make the world of difference to the individual, making them feel important and allowing you to actually hear what they are saying—which brings us nicely to point three.

3. Listen

I can hear you saying “but I DO, REALLY I DO!” Unless we really focus on the other person we can be easily distracted, and don’t really listen to what is actually being said. You instead think about what you want to say and construct your response in your own head. By doing this you do not hear what the other individual is saying and misunderstandings then occur.

Make sure you rephrase what has been said and seek confirmation that the rephrase has correctly captured the person’s thoughts and feelings. Oh, and a little trick I like to do is follow up with an email which reconfirms what was discussed, just in case there is any confusion. This links nicely to the nip it in the bud conversations.

4. Develop lasting solutions not knee-jerk reactions

There is almost always a quick solution to any problem that gets it off your desk and onto the next item on you’re to do list. But any knee-jerk reaction can come back and bite you on the backside, and often it does in the most unexpected way and with bigger ramifications.

Think about that person who wanted a pay increase and it in no way fitted into the company guidelines, but for whatever the reason you approved it anyway. Then down the track someone else asks and you say no, but they are aware of person A receiving the increase and all of a sudden you are having to justify that knee-jerk decision—ouch!

In our rush to fix things quickly we can often overlook the lasting solution that may take longer to develop but gives far more positive and long-term solutions, which in turn gives you a much happier workforce.

5. Pick your battles

My mother always said to me, “honey, pick your battles”. An effective manager knows how to exercise good judgement and chooses which battles are important and will give you the best outcome while retaining and growing a cohesive team. If you know it’s going to be a losing battle and the casualties may be great, step away from it and see how you can work together to come to a win/win solution.

Great managers also know how best to put their ego aside and make decisions based on the good of the many rather than the propping up of said ego. It’s not always the easiest thing to do, but if you listen and develop lasting solutions, you will see the benefits to you and your team.

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Karyl Treble
Karyl Treble manages all people and culture strategic, advisory and operational services within Ajilon’s public sector group.
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