The 3 Pillars Of Team Management For Enhanced Productivity
Your team will die someday. Sounds dark but it’s inevitable. It’s the final stage of any team’s lifecycle, happens with or without warning, and leaves marks on everyone involved.
But a team, dead or alive, is not measured by its lifespan but by the quality of results it produces, which is driven by talent and leadership. The talent part is simple: gather skilled individuals to work toward a common goal. What’s often lacking is coordination, a practice that managers are responsible for.
In 2015, Gallup studied the characteristics of great managers and found that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement. It shows that, as a manager, you play a crucial role in your team’s operation. You’re like the chief conductor of an orchestra and your role is to set the tempo and manage the dynamics of your final product.
In this article, I cover three principles of team management that’ll help you ensure rhythm, boost performance, and transform your team’s quality of life.
The 3 Pillars of team management for enhanced productivity
While team management fundamentally requires strategy and design, there are three elements that particularly impact the quality of your team’s output: communication, environment, and systems. These elements are essential for gathering, cooperating, and innovating in groups of any size.
1. Simplify Communication
As a leader, you want your team to make solid contributions that can drive growth. The key to this is simplifying communication. You have to create an open atmosphere that enables people to share their ideas and give and receive feedback. This builds a sense of community and shows people that they’re a valuable part of your team, which will ultimately improve participation. Additionally, feedback can clarify uncertainties and improve the quality of your team’s work.
Technology has made it easier to establish strong communication channels. But choosing the right channel can also get tricky. It’s important to adopt a few specific channels for different needs and make them accessible to the right people. For remote teams, Zoom might serve as a good medium for bonding, while Slack can allow for long-term, referenceable conversations. GitHub can enable code reviews, while design feedback can arrive on Figma. Notion can provide workflow updates, while Hubspot’s Sales Hub can deliver information on sales. Whatever your choice, build a culture that emphasizes useful feedback and clear, timely communication.
Good communication is built on respect. When your people feel respected, they’ll advocate for your company and offer better ideas. If, on the other hand, they feel stifled, they become disengaged and take a robotic approach to work. This hampers creativity and discourages people from having honest conversations with each other, which is important for holding people accountable. It also dampens creativity and innovation, both of which are necessary for growth.
2. Design Healthy Work Environments
Before Stewart Wolf and John Bruhn documented the importance of community in well-being, quality of life was perceived more as a product of genetics and lifestyle choices. In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell writes that “Wolf and Bruhn had to convince the medical establishment to think about health and heart attacks in an entirely new way: they had to get them to realize that they wouldn’t be able to understand why someone was healthy if all they did was think about an individual’s personal choices or actions in isolation. They had to look beyond the individual. They had to understand the culture he or she was a part of, and who their friends and families were, and what town their families came from. They had to appreciate the idea that the values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are.”
We often score performance according to individual output. That makes sense. After all, we’re all employed to deliver specific results with our skills. But it’s easy to focus solely on the individual and ignore the fact that community is an important dynamic for any team’s success. When people have a sense of community at work, they become more engaged with your vision. That sense of community is something you can only cultivate within a healthy work environment.
Our work environment impacts our well-being, a truth that mirrors what Wolf and Bruhn outlined in their findings. It also fuels a feeling of trust and cooperation, which can result in increased productivity. You can, of course, achieve set goals in an unhealthy workplace. But that’s a costly affair that only limits progress and leads to high turnover rates and hiring expenses.
There are many ways to design your work environment, including taking a values-based approach to hiring, practising transparency, designing people-first policies, creating shared experiences, and accelerating the pace of team development to ensure that you manage market and industry changes. Your work environment is a reflection of the values and beliefs that exist in your organization, and designing it allows you to change the prevalent behaviours and attitudes that don’t move your team forward. Great managers create the right environment for engagement. It requires patience and consistency and, when done right, can rewire the entire direction of your team and generate better results for your company.
3. Work With Systems
One of the biggest misconceptions about productivity is that you simply need to set goals, make them SMART, present them to your team, and expect everyone to pull their weight into delivering quality results. Not to discredit goals, but we both know they’re mostly great for setting direction. They’re heavy on the what, not the how question, on plans rather than action. When you define your needs without creating systems for how they’ll be achieved, you risk overworking and crippling the productivity of your team.
Systems serve as roadmaps toward set goals, smoothening your work process and enabling order, autonomy, and accountability. It’s why, for instance, tools like content frameworks are non-negotiable for strong content teams. Frameworks are practical blueprints for developing content. They clarify needs, responsibilities, and the process required for producing a piece. They also save time and elevate output. These are all characteristics of a good system, and it’s what makes them so valuable.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to building systems. For you, small-scale systems might be effective. For a different manager, a more complex system might drive better results. Regardless, the best systems are designed with clear goals for the work to be done and strengthened with the right resources, data from previous work, and a good understanding of the people involved.
Of course, there are obstacles to designing and implementing a system.
It might be challenging to build entirely new systems for projects your team has never explored. As a manager, you have to ensure that your objectives are well-defined. Clarity breeds efficiency and allows you to ask simple but important questions about the best course of action. Craft a practical path forward and adjust as you go.
Another hurdle is a delay in the system. Take, for instance, a content framework that includes design in its workflow. If the assigned designer suddenly goes under the weather or is simply inaccessible for their scheduled work, the publishing process for a piece might be delayed. One way to deal with this challenge is to build flexible systems, which make it easier to withstand disturbances. Ultimately, your systems should outline emergency plans, allow for alternatives, and be constantly reviewed and refined as you grow and gather new information about your business.
Monotony and resistance are also common challenges in implementing a system. Team members might perceive systems as causing creative drain or resist new systems they’re unfamiliar with. This is why you have to set good communication standards for sharing changes, receiving feedback, and reminding team members that systems are for ensuring progress. They don’t replace the process of creative ideation. In some cases, you might need to eliminate or automate tasks that complicate your process. It’ll save you time to focus on more creative and strategic work. After all, enhanced productivity means being efficient with resources, getting more done with the less or same amount of input, and maximizing productivity without sacrificing quality.
Productivity is about value creation. For value to be created, you have to pay attention to that value creation process. You have to engage your team with a fitting management model and coordinate with the right material and social resources to deliver on set objectives.
No team is immortal. But you can extend your team’s lifespan through better policies and frameworks designed with clear goals and values. You can transform your team’s quality of life by making communication easier, building practical systems, and creating a work environment that fosters collaboration and innovation.