As a thoughtful leader, I’m sure you know that you need to support your team to help them perform at their best. However, the best ways to support your team are not always obvious. In this article, we’ll look at some good ways to make sure your people have the support they need to thrive.
When thinking back over my career, I notice certain parts that stand out. Some of those involve being extremely stressed. These periods of stress had me sleeping poorly, worrying 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 stakeholders. 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. Let’s look at how you can make it happen.
1. Support Your Team by Reviewing Work Frequently
Don’t be a seagull manager, only swooping in to meet with your team when there is a crisis. Don’t leave your team working on the big report for two months, only to review it right at the end.
It’s important that you make sure you check in with your team early and often.
Leaving your team to work alone can lead to increased stress and the potential for a lot of rework. To avoid this, you need to be available to act as a “guard rail” to help them stay on the right track.
One way to provide this support is to book regular progress meetings to understand how your team members are progressing, and if they need assistance.
Make sure that you clearly communicate the plan for reviewing your team’s work from the start. Then everyone understands the level of involvement you want to have, and there are no surprises.
2. Support Your Team by Sticking Up For Them
Sometimes, it’s natural in complex workplaces for people to criticise your team.
While it is important that you try to understand any issues, a good default position is that you stand up for your team.
It’s important that your team knows that you “have their back” and will be there to provide support.
If you don’t feel as if you can stand up for your team, then you may have trust issues which need to be addressed.
Of course, you can’t just ignore problems your team may have caused. If your team has made a mistake, you need to treat failure as a learning experience, rather than an opportunity for criticism. This way they can do better next time.
If your team sees you back away or criticise them at the first sign of conflict, they’ll begin to feel exposed. They’ll see that you aren’t there to support them when times are tough.
3. Clearly Communicate Roles and Responsibilities
Another way you can support your team is to make sure that roles and responsibilities are clear. When people are not sure what they are responsible for, there is greater potential for conflict and confusion.
When team members are confused about the roles of others in the team, this is also a bad sign. Confusion about roles and responsibilities can result in wasted effort, rework and a whole lot of frustration.
When you assign tasks to somebody, you need to communicate clearly to the whole team. The worst thing you can do is tell a team member that they are responsible for a task, but not tell anybody else. This puts them in a situation where roles and responsibilities are unclear and nobody is sure who is doing what.
Your people need to be clear about what they need to do. Otherwise, they’ll lack confidence that they are doing the right thing. This may lead to tentative behaviour, where they fail to step up and take accountability for their work.
4. Support Your Team By Setting Standards
Working in a team without any clear standards is difficult. It’s difficult for you, the leader, because team members will produce variable outcomes. It’s difficult for your team members because they don’t have a clear direction.
You need to support your team by setting standards for the work that you do. If your team does technical work, make sure technical standards are in place. For example, you can measure the number of quality issues found, or the number of units delivered in the week or month.
For creative tasks, it helps to standardise the process, rather than the output. This will increase team confidence and give them some guidelines to follow. Creative tasks are different, because the outcomes can often be subjective. For example, if you are leading a team of designers, it can be hard to measure what “good” looks like.
When you have performance standards in place, you can more easily see whether your team is meeting them. In the simple chart below, anything below the line is a cause for concern and may indicate an area where you need to provide more support.
Setting standards enables you to support your team, because you can see where team members are excelling, and where they are falling short. This means you’ll be able to help them develop skills and experience in the key areas where they need it.
5. Support Your Team By Being Available
Some leaders are difficult to contact, and being really busy is the nature of their position. Regardless, you need to ensure that you provide your team with frequent opportunities to speak to you.
If you’re too busy to speak with your team, it will be difficult to provide the right oversight and see that everything is on track. To make sure you’re available, try the following:
- Book time when you will make yourself available. Schedule time in your week where you will be available for your team to speak with you, and stick to it.
- Book 1 on 1 meetings with your team. Individual meetings with your team members give you the opportunity to coach, mentor and provide dedicated support.
- Don’t let other meetings override time with your team. Sometimes meetings with team members are seen as “optional”. Other meetings will be booked over the top and take priority. Allowing this to happen too often is a big mistake, as it tells your team that you don’t value them enough to provide the support you need.
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 training means that you are spreading skills and experience throughout your team, rather than having it sit with just one person.
Ever had this problem?
“Tim is the only person who knows anything about this and he just quit.”
“Sarah is off sick today – does anyone know how to do <complicated task>?”
Oops – cross training can help you fix this problem.
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. This can build a supportive team culture, where people feel like they can collaborate to solve the tricky problems.
Knowing how to support your team is critical in creating an environment where your team members can thrive. Use the points above to help guide you in the right direction and have your team moving in the right direction!