You have to be willing to listen, to care, and to help. It’s no longer about just you and your career.
You have a responsibility to your team’s career path, their overall success, and the success of what you are delivering to the world - whether it’s marketing, a product, or a service.
I’m often asked how and why our team works so well together. When that question is asked, I have to think really hard and look back at where we started and what we are today.
I often say, “I don’t know, we just do and I got lucky,” but, I wasn’t giving myself or my team enough credit.
So, I wanted to sit down and really think about how we got there.
That is what this blog is about and I hope you find these practices we’ve put in place helpful.
First, let’s talk about who I am. Everyone who knows me knows I have a very strong personality. To be quite honest, this personality used to get me in trouble.
Personalities aren’t something you’re born with, they are things that are taught and developed over time.
I was born in Oklahoma and lived there until I was 13. I have a very large family (over 20 cousins) on my mom’s side and every single one of us have these strong personalities.
The family saying was “You don’t mess with an Abrams,” and you most certainly did not want to get on our bad side.
Over the years, however, I’ve learned (and am still learning) that although this tough personality has gotten me pretty far, I don’t need to lead with it, but instead, use it only when necessary.
Today, when I need to pull out the tough personality, it usually means it’s time to go to bat for my team; to put them before myself and to make sure they are taken care of.
But, while I’ll always put the team first and go to bat for them, every team member still has to be willing to work hard; to see themselves as part of a family and to see the bigger picture.
When you work together to accomplish goals, everyone on the team blossoms.
Management is handling different types of personalities, including your own, and bringing out the best of each person on your team.
Almost always, it’s how you manage the emotions, not necessarily the actual job tactics or performance that makes you a strong manager.
So, how do you get there? You can start by putting the following six practices into place:
1. Putting “We Before Me” When Faced With Conflict
Reflect back to a conflict you’ve had that didn’t go exactly as you liked.
You might have recognized that there were two very different entities involved: you and someone you disagreed with, but, there is also a third entity at play, and that is the relationship between the two of you.
Even in a conflict, if both sides are committed to making that relationship better, you can work together as a team. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for one person to only see what is best for them and not what is best for the relationship or the company.
This is when things get complicated.
When you are on a team, just like the good ‘ol days of high school sports, you have to put the good of that team before yourself.
Again, your success in a company is not about how fast you can advance your personal career, but how quickly you can advance your entire team.
Not to mention, if you always worry about yourself and cannot see another person’s point of view, it’s going to take a very long time for you to advance personally. If you are the type of person who has difficulty detaching yourself from the emotions of conflict and struggle in doing this, I highly recommend reading the book “Emotional Agility.”
It has really helped me learn better ways of coping with difficult situations whether with co-workers, clients, or even personal relationships.
Furthermore, it’s natural to want to protect yourself in conflict; to point the finger and, even worse, throw someone under the bus to advance especially if your life hasn’t always been easy.
Sometimes these tactics work; I’ve seen them work, but only in the short term and eventually people catch on.
I often say, “All the dirty laundry comes out in the wash, sometimes you just need stronger detergent.”
At the end of the day, you must be willing to put “we before me,” and if you can’t, it might be time to think about going out on your own.
There is nothing more damaging to a company or a team than someone who isn’t willing to put the company and the relationship with co-workers before themselves.
2. Build Trust
Trust is another big factor in building a successful team.
If your team doesn’t trust you, they won’t believe anything that comes out of your mouth.
Gaining it doesn’t happen by talking to them about what you’re going to do or what you’re not going to do. The ol’ “actions speak louder than words” saying really rings true here.
You have to be 100% willing to follow your words with action. You can’t make promises you can’t keep, so you really have to understand what power you have as a manager before promise something. If you promise a raise or a job promotion and you actually don’t have the authority to make those decisions, then you may lose the trust of that person.
Trust also comes from being vulnerable and authentic.
When you show vulnerability, you’re more likely to break down walls and get to the meat of the issues.
It’s only then when you can start to solve problems and get your team where it needs to be.
3. Leave Your Ego At the Door
There is nothing more irritating to me than someone with an ego. They stand in the way of growth.
Egos come from people thinking their journey is more important than the person in front of them, but the fact is, no matter your experience, age, tenure, or previous job titles, you are no better than any one person on your team.
You are where you are because of the help of others. You didn’t get this far without leaning on someone for support. So, instead of using your ego to overpower someone, use your confidence and knowledge to help support your team, just like someone did for you to get you where you are today.
4. Accept Accountability
In my humble opinion, the most challenging aspect of management is getting people to accept accountability in a way that is good for the team; and the company.
Accountability is the obligation or willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own work or actions in any given scenario. When a person lacks accountability, it usually stems from another, lack of processes, or not having access to the right tools.
Your job as a manager is to get to the root of the problem and give constructive criticism. That, however, can be hard if someone isn’t willing to accept accountability.
If it’s a disagreement on who owned a mistake, you have to go into it knowing it’s never about who’s right or wrong. How someone feels is never wrong as you can’t control feelings, but, what you can do, is guide them on how to take accountability.
Everyone owns a part of the mistake, even managers.
A happy and successful team is formed when every person owns a part of that mistake and works together to solve for it so it doesn’t happen again.
If someone on your team isn’t willing to put their ego aside and listen to understand, instead of listening to respond, or, worse, points the blame on something or someone else, then you have bigger issues to solve.
Most importantly, if and when issues arise or a mistake is made, you absolutely cannot expect the issue to go away on its own. If you do nothing, the problem will only get worse.
Helping someone realize their lack of accountability goes beyond just talking to them about it.
You need to have clear examples of situations where it was lacking and then provide feedback on how they could have handled it in a more effective way. Give examples on how they can handle a future situation differently.
Last thought on this - if people don’t have the right tools to do their job, they will never accept accountability and will consistently blame incorrect processes on their inability to succeed.
Recognizing what you can do as a manager to enable your team be successful is the first step in making sure they can take control and responsibility of their own performance .
Outside of that, I highly recommend having a weekly retrospective meeting with your entire team to discuss two things: what could we have done better & what did we do well.
5. “I’m not here to make friends, I’m here to do my job”
I’ve always gone back and forth with this statement, but for the most part, I’ve always believed it to be nonsense.
It’s probably because I have built solid, lasting friendships at almost every place I have ever worked.
Scratch that, I have at least one solid friend from every job I’ve ever had - even from my very first job as a bus person at Perkins.
That being said, you don’t always have to like your coworkers as much as you like your friends, but you do have to respect them.
Respect their time, emotions, flaws, and strengths.
When you genuinely respect all of those qualities in your coworkers, these relationships become assets.
If you’re able to respect every aspect of another’s personalities, you’re more likely to work without resentment.
Your relationships at work are like a marriage. You may never agree fully with someone’s point of view or perception, but you do have to respect their feelings and where they are coming from.
And for those who are married - this couldn’t be more true, right??
6. Don’t Complain Unless You Have a Solution
We’ve all had jobs where there is one person who is a constant complainer. Their intentions are usually in the right place, but it can be hard for them to come to the table with solutions.
It is the job of the manager to help guide the constant complainer into living in the solution.
These individuals can bring the morale of your team down, but as their manager, it’s important to listen to learn and not listen to respond.
Let them vent, but help them find a solution on their own. Don’t solve problems for your team and never do the work for them. When you help them think in solutions and actually let them do it, you’ll find that the complaints become less and less frequent.
This can be done in three steps:
Get them to specify exactly what is bothering them.
If they are struggling with being clear on the problem, ask them to take a day to think about it.
In the heat of the moment, emotions can get the best of people, which causes them to say things they don’t mean.
Taking a pause or a “time out” will allow them to reflect on where the anger or frustration is coming from. After you allow them to think about what’s bothering them, make time to really hear their side of things. Schedule a one-hour meeting face-to-face or via video conference.
Don’t encourage communication via email or Slack.
It’s human nature to want to have your voice heard immediately, and in today’s fast-paced environment, the easiest way is usually either via email or messenger (i.e Slack).
If a team member is handling frustrations or problems via email, messenger, or text messages, intervene immediately and put a stop to it.
Encourage a breather. Get involved, listen, and give advice on how they can better handle the situation and encourage them to handle it offline.
Peel back the layers.
Encourage your team to dig deep and recognize what is truly causing their frustration.
Sometimes, it can be something going on in their personal lives that is affecting their mood. We can’t control what happens in someone’s personal life, but we can have a better understanding on how it can bleed into work.
Help your team members cope with change.
When you work at a company that is growing fast, there are many changes that take place.
Sometimes those changes are shared openly with everyone in the organization and sometimes they aren’t. The only thing you have control over is how you respond to those changes.
As a manager, it’s important to help people understand what they can change and what they simply have to let go of, but it’s also your responsibility to help your team members understand why change is necessary, how it affects their role positively.
If you go into a meeting and tell your team that XYZ is happening and you’re complaining about it or you’re negative, your entire team will be anxious, complain, and won’t see the bigger picture.
All great managers need to be experts at bringing out the talent in the people who surround them.
We all have flaws and areas of improvement, but you succeed when you’re able to get the best out of each person on your team.
Fully knowing and understanding each person means that you invested the time it takes to know how they are wired. You know how to motivate them to excel beyond what you expect from them.
After all, we want team members to go above and beyond for the company, but they won’t if they don’t feel valued, important and have trust in you, as their manager.