When thinking back over my career so far, I’ve noticed certain parts that stand out. Some of those involve being stressed. Periods of stress that had me sleeping poorly, thinking about work continuously and feeling anxious.
Surprisingly, the times when I experienced the most stress were not during the most high profile projects, tightest deadlines or when dealing with the most senior people. The times I felt the most stressed were when I lacked support from my manager.
Your team need your support so they don’t feel the same way.
1. Support your team by reviewing their work frequently
Don’t be a seagull manager, only meeting with your team when there is a crisis. Don’t leave your team working on the big report for two months and then review it right at the end. Be sure to check in with your team early and often.
Leaving your team to work alone until you come in and criticise their work will lead to increased stress and failure. Book regular progress meetings to understand how your team members are going.
2. Support your team by standing up for them
Sometimes, people will attack your team. Whilst it is important that you try to understand any issues, your default position should be that you stand up for your team
Of course, you can’t just ignore problems your team may have caused. However, your team needs to see that you are willing to stick up for them, when needed. If your team sees you back off or contradict them at the first sign of conflict, they’ll begin to feel exposed.
3. Support your team by communicating accountability
When you delegate accountability for a function of your team, it needs to be communicated clearly. The worst thing you can do is tell your team member that they are accountable, but not tell anybody else. This puts them in a situation where they have to convince others that they are in charge.
Make it easy for your team member when you delegate accountability to them. Tell the team member they are accountable. Then tell the people they are working with. This removes a lot of infighting that can occur as part of delegating accountability.
4. Support your team by setting standards
Working in a team without any set standards is difficult for everybody. It’s difficult for the leader, because the team members will produce variable outcomes. It’s difficult for team members because they don’t have direction.
You need to support your team by setting standards for the work that you do. If your team works on technical tasks, make sure technical standards are in place. On creative tasks, standardise the process, rather than the creative output. This will increase their confidence and give them some “guard rails” to follow.
5. Support your team by being available
Some leaders are difficult to contact. Sometimes this is the nature of their position. Regardless, you need to ensure that you provide your team with frequent opportunities to talk to you.
Set times when you will be available and stick to them. Make yourself available to your team so they have opportunities to discuss and confirm things with you.
You may think that you are showing trust by allowing your team just to “get on with it” without you. Your team may just feel like you’re never around and don’t care about them.
6. Support your team by developing their skills
A team that isn’t learning is stagnating. Teams that aren’t given opportunities to develop their skills may suffer from a lack of confidence to perform at their best.
It’s up to you to provide opportunities to learn, through mentoring, training or on the job coaching. Targeting areas where team members are lacking confidence is a good starting point.
Cross training your team is also very important. Cross-skilling means spreading skills and experience throughout your team. This removes the problem of “Tim is the only person who knows anything about this and he just quit.” Oops.
Cross training also allows your team members to work with colleagues to solve problems, rather than feeling like they’re the only person who can understand them.
Unsupported team members are stressed team members. If you want your team to run efficiently and produce good work, you’ll need to delegate. Delegation can be stressful if you fail to support your people at the same time.
You need to remove the feelings of exposure that some of your team members will feel when tackling hard tasks or dealing with senior people. When a team member seems stressed, think about how you may be contributing to this problem. It is usually not because they are “weak” or “ineffective”. It begins with leadership.