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5 ways managers can make (or break) a team
Illustration by Justin Alm

5 min read

5 ways managers can make (or break) a team

Good managers can make a company, bad managers can break it. If you're a manager, here are five things to keep in mind.

Have you ever thought of your office as a classroom? It seems a bit silly, but a classroom bears a compelling likeness to an office environment, save for the increased autonomy of adulthood. Barron Rosborough of SnackNation explains the parallels between the two and the extremely influential role of managers in the workplace. 

The head of a classroom is usually the ranking adult, in an office it’s the leadership team—I’ll leave it to you to imagine who serves what role because every team dynamic is different.

After leadership comes the managers, who are most akin to classroom officers—peers imbued with responsibility and a degree of power to fulfill their duty. Then, there are the rest of the students, who altogether manage to create a suitable learning environment.

It’s not a very complex analogy, but the way it works is intriguing because of the interplay of these relationships. Especially the surprising amount of sway the classroom officers (or managers) wield to shape the experience of the rest of the students (or employees).

In both personal and group interactions, managers have the ability to make or break the employee experience. They can enrich or and erode the company’s culture.

Here are five examples of how this might play out in your organization:

Good managers keep talent (bad managers don’t)

Managers are one of the top four reasons that employees voluntarily leave the company they work at, according to a recent Gallup report.

Hiring and training good managers can make all the difference between keeping and attracting top talent, and losing your best people to the competition. It’s especially important for leadership to recognize how managers handle pressure, since they’re in the middle of leadership and their team.

A manager needs to know how to handle the stress of being the junction between the sometimes competing needs of the company and employees. As a matter of personal experience, when a manager projects too much of the pressure they’re feeling from the top, it can quickly lead to employee burnout and disillusionment.

Keeping business goals and the wellbeing of your team in mind can make a huge difference. This helps a manager connect with their team and build the type of relationships that allow them to effectively manage expectations on both sides of the aisle.

The hero complex

Managers who try to do too much take away from the growth of their team. This is a trait that’s especially common in first-time managers.

Leadership should look for signs of managers  who take on a lot of work (to prove that they can get the job done) but underutilize their team.

If this behaviour is allowed to continue, at a certain point it becomes untenable for both the manager and their team. Employees will begin to feel like they’re not being utilized to their full potential and grow bored with the work, while the manager will quickly become overwhelmed.

One of the most important things to instill in a manager is trusting your team to use their individual and unique skills and talents to reach team goals. The team should be reaching goals as a collective. (If you’re interested, learn more about how to build teamwork in the workplace.)

The micro-manager

Much in the vein of the hero, the micro-manager doesn’t do the work themselves, but meticulously oversees every single detail.

Hovering over shoulders and popping up for frequent impromptu updates on a project can lead to discord between a manager and their team. If that lack of trust is allowed to grow, it will degrade the relationship between the manager and their team members.

It stymies the growth of the employee by limiting their autonomy instead of empowering them, plus it’s incredibly inconvenient and distracting. Managers should be clear about their goals and expectations, then let employees do what they were hired to do. Be clear that you’re on hand to offer support and then trust that the team member will ask for help if needed.

The “I” in team

“I” and “we” are two big words despite having only three letters between them. When it’s time to give and take credit for the work of your team, the word “I” can be toxic.

From the top to the bottom, attempting to take credit for a team effort is rife with complications. Team success is individual success, and that’s especially true of managers.

Managers should give credit where it’s due, celebrate individual milestones within the team, and celebrate the group as a whole. Recognition is a critical skill for managing a team. Knowing how and when to give praise can make your team stronger and more productive.

The good example

The list of things you shouldn’t do when you’re leading a team is lengthy, but there are only a few simple things to keep in mind when you’re looking for (or preparing to become) a good manager:

  • Staying positive and empathizing
  • Communicating early and often
  • Building a relationship
  • Leading by example
  • Setting clear goals
  • Giving recognition

About the author

Barron Rosborough is a seasoned digital marketer and writer from Los Angeles, CA. He writes on topics ranging from wellness to leadership (and everything in between). He is currently the Digital Marketing Coordinator at SnackNation, a curated healthy snack subscription service for offices and homes. Follow us on twitter @SnackNation!

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