Hey Manager – Could You Be Too Much Into This Team Thing?

Yes, collaboration is important, but could you be hurting your team?
Yes, collaboration is important, but could you be hurting your team?
Image Credit: Werkheim

Yea! It’s time to work on a team! How many times have you heard someone say this to you? As managers of a team, we are expected use our manager skills to lead by example and so we are the ones who are supposed to be able to show our team what it means to work successfully as a part of a team. We’ve all been to the manager training courses where we’ve been taught about the power of working in teams. Sure seems like we should do this all the time, right? Well, actually not…

The Problem With Teams

Ready for a tough question? Would you consider yourself a “bad team player”? I suspect that most of us would answer this question with a resounding “no!”. Most often this label would be applied to someone who refuses to collaborate with the rest of the team. However, it turns out that it can also be applied to those managers who are in the process of burning out. This burn out can be caused by a number of different things, the most common are trying to accommodate every request for assistance that they get or trying to attend more meetings than is humanly possible.

In the past, managers would have spent their time working side-by-side with members of their team. However, in today’s workplace they now find themselves spending 85% of their time collaborating with multiple teams. These collaborations take on many different forms: email, conference calls, meetings, and instant messaging at all times of day. The demands on a manager’s time have gone up by 50% during the past decade. Managers are starting to feel overwhelmed. Some of our qualities that should be seen as being beneficial can turn against us when used in a team setting. These include our need to help other people, our desire to be in control, or our desire to be viewed by the rest of our team as being an expert in something.

The main problem that we are facing is that our desire to help other people means that we’re going to end up saying yes to nonessential work. The people who study such things refer to our actions in taking on too much work as being “identify drivers”. The reason that we do them is because we see them as strengthening our status with team members or our self-regard. The problem with these actions is that they are the ones that prevent us from taking on too much work. If it turns out that you are the type of manager who never says no, then everyone with a problem is going to be coming to you looking for help.

How To Get Your Life Back

Ok, so clearly we may have a problem here. What should a manager be doing to fix it? It’s actually pretty simple: we’re going to have to get good at developing some new skills. One such skill is going to be the ability to evaluate the importance of what we are working on Yes, I understand that everything that we are doing is important; however, you are going to have to become better at realizing that some things are more important than other things. When you find something that is more important than whatever you are currently working on, you are going to have to master the ability to put what you are working on aside and work on what really matters.

Another feature of many managers is the desire for a sense of closure. We really want to be able to wrap things up before we move on to our next task. However, in the world of working on teams this is something that is not always possible. What we are going to have to develop is the ability to deal with some ambiguity in our lives as the team projects that we are a part of advance step-by-step. No, this is not going to be an easy adjustment for most of us, but since this is the way that the world works we need to take the time to get used to it.

If we can change just a few of our destructive behaviors then we can regain between 18% – 24% of the time that we are currently spending collaborating. Another skill that we need to develop is the ability to learn to live with not having all of the information that we need to make perfect decisions. We are going to have to learn how to live with unknowns. We need to understand that they are going to be affecting the decisions that we make. What we are going to want to be able to do as managers is to make the best decisions possible and then move on forward. More information will always become available later one and when it does we will need to be able to adapt.

What All Of This Means For You

As a manager we can get a lot of work done by ourselves. However, if we are willing to engage in some team building and work as a member of a team we can get even more work accomplished. However, it turns out that there are some downsides to this teaming thing. We need to be the ones who can show the members of our team the value of working in teams, but we also need to be careful to not trip ourselves up.

Working as a member of a team can be a good thing for our company. However, if the way that we are going about working on teams is causing us to become burned out, then we really are not helping anyone out. In the past we would work with a couple of colleagues. Now we find ourselves working as a member of many different teams. The qualities that used to serve us well can now turn out to be a real liability when we are working as a member of a team. We need to be able to evaluate the importance of what we are working on and switch gears if what we are doing is not the most important task at hand. We also have to learn how to live without a sense of closure. Team projects can go on and on and not wrap-up for a long time. We may also find that we don’t have all of the information that we feel that we need in order to make a good decision. We need to learn to make the best decision possible and then move on.

Being a team player will always be an important part of being a manager. However, we need to understand as with everything else in life, there are limits to what we should be doing when we are a part of a team. What we need to understand is that if we say “yes” to too many requests then we’ll just end up getting bogged down and we won’t be able to get the really important stuff accomplished. Take a step back and evaluate how good of a team player you really are. If you need to learn how to say “no”, then do so and watch your productivity soar!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: As a team player, is there anything that you can do to create a sense of closure for the project that the team is working on?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Let’s face it, the job of a manager is very much both team- and direction-focused. Managers are the ones who need to use their manager skills to set the course, ensure consistency and develop and reinforce core values for their teams. After you get that part of the job taken care of things become considerably easier. The rest of the job is simply to hire great people and get out of their way. In order to be a successful manager, it’s going to take a great team standing behind you. What can you do to make this happen?