10 Things Higher Education Doesn’t Teach You about Being a Manager

There is more to being a leader or managing a team than what you “thought” you knew. Follow along as  the most impactful leadership and management lessons learned by many along the way are described. Hopefully, they will help you transition into a leadership and management role in a more authentic way.

  1. It is impossible to know it all. You don’t have to know all the answers because that is not your job. As a manager, it’s your job to guide your team on how to come up with solutions and provide them with the support and resources they need when they run into a jam. If you don’t have the answer, be the one who can point them in the right direction. That will get you more credibility than pretending to know something when you really don’t.
  2. You need guts, grits, and technique if you want to enable change. There is a certain level of risk in store if you want to challenge the status quo as a new leader. Do yourself a favor and make changes slowly with a well thought out plan. Understand the business landscape, assess the personalities involved, and align change with what the business wants not with what “you think” they need. Without this, it will be hard for you to gain change supporters and adopters.
  3. You are the leader and you are there to serve people. Sitting behind your desk may get some work done but it doesn’t boost your overall leader credibility. People want to see you and talk to you. Even if you are an introvert, there are ways you can incorporate time to be present and available for those you lead. You’d be surprised how many leaders in the workplace take for granted greeting team members in their everyday interactions. Generate credibility points daily by walking over to someone on your team, say “Hello” and get some insight on what makes their professional world move or crash.
  4. Stay humble and never get too comfortable in any given role. You heard the adage what goes up must come down. Well the same is true in the workplace. Nothing stays the same forever. Those in leadership positions get demoted and those in lower rank positions get promoted. Avoid the stress of change and always be ready for the next chapter.
  5. Stay involved without micromanaging. If you are a leader that prefers to hone in on details, being cc’ed on emails, and is rarely satisfied with your team’s work, say to yourself right now – “My name is <enter your name> and I am a micro manager.” The inability to delegate decisions makes employees feel that you don’t trust them. Give team members the freedom to make decisions, as well as make mistakes. When you feel the results are consistently disappointing, or the stakes are too high for making mistakes, shift your approach. For starters, spend your time making sure team members are clear on the desired “outcomes” and provide debrief opportunities with staff to foster learning and accountability.
  6. Work diligently to understand the demographics of your team and how they work best. Consider how you can minimize group think and improve inclusion to foster innovation and overall team excellence. Nurture a diversity mindset but also encourage and reinforce meaningful diversity actions.
  7. Once you are responsible for a team of people, it is no longer about what you can do on your own but what you can accomplish through people. You are tasked to prove how well you can support a team and guide them towards the finish line collectively. You are not trying to create replicas of you but nurturing individuals to capitalize on the strengths of each other to become better individually and collectively.
  8. Build rapport with each individual team member but don’t stop there. Assess each one’s strengths and weaknesses and build experiences where they can grow individually and as a whole. Teach them how to be accountable. Support their day-to-day activities but also help them understand the big picture. Push them to break through status quo and provide brainstorming moments where they can share new ideas while you listen. This will not happen consistently if you wait for it to happen. You will have to create the opportunities for them to develop and soar.
  9. Busy does not mean better. Many managers scurry in the workplace giving off a perception that they are working on important matters. But if we peel back the curtain, they are “doing” a lot with no meaningful outcomes. Sometimes caught up in a collage of tactics that aren’t anchored to a solid strategy. What are you busy doing? Is the busy aligned to your highest goals? Does you busy get you anywhere meaningful? If not, think about it and shift accordingly.
  10. Don’t pretend that mistakes don’t happen to you, if you are the leader. Managers don’t walk on water. They make mistakes. Own up to errors and show your human side. People respect that and tend to trust those who don’t hide behind the superman or superwoman illusion. The best you can do is to learn from your mistakes and hope it doesn’t happen too often. Embrace it. Learn from it. Grow from it. Team trust is built up by it.

Strategies That Level Up Team Bonding to Team Building

According to Inc. Magazine, businesses find high-performing teams critical because “people must work closely together, wear many hats and work effectively across the organization to get tasks accomplished quickly enough to remain competitive.”

Because teamwork is so critical to a business’ success, understanding the differences between team-bonding and team-building activities are important, as well as, understanding where you get the most value for your efforts.

What are team bonding events?

It is very common for organizations to plan events to get the team together to get to know each other and bond. Common workplace “bonding events” can include a day of cooking, a day of ropes, brunch cruise, bowling, paintball, etc. These type of activities are best represented as team building icebreakers because they use the power of play to create a relaxed environment to nurture connections outside of the normal day-to-day work dynamics. 

Team bonding is a good start but not enough.

Team bonding injects fun into the business environment. Typically, it’s a one-shot relationship booster used to encourage people to do something different together and to connect outside of work.

Surely, you get the benefits of being together at team bonding events but you get little in the way of other team boosting benefits. Outside of building rapport, they don’t do much for solving team related challenges or catapulting team growth. At best, these type of events are band aid treatments to serious team challenges.

If your goal is to building a strong team, your goal is to go beyond the “bonding events” and produce “building experiences” that leverage rapport to build a cohesive and functional team. If team bonding doesn’t have a clear goal and guidance, it can be a waste of time.  To reap team value you will have to consider adding the following elements.

You get more with team building.

Team building represents acknowledging the strengths of a team, increasing its productivity and improving the overall functioning of all team members. Team members learn how to work with each other and respect the contributions of each co-worker. It builds and develops important soft skills, such as communication and conflict resolution. It may have some elements of team bonding, but that is not the core, it goes much deeper into the core and can truly change the behaviors that affect workplace performance.

Five Differences between Team Bonding and Team Building

Four Ways to Level up from Team Bonding to Team Building

You want your team to perform well in the workplace not just at team bonding events. So, use the planned team bonding event as a jump start to meaningful team building opportunities. Use the following basic guidelines during your team building planning process.

1. Craft team building goals.

List the team improvement goals that need to be fulfilled. If your team needs to loosen up a bit and build rapport outside of work, team bonding wins out. But if your team needs to work on improving its performance and developing deeper connections, you want to add additional events that accomplish that goal.

2. Use a team building facilitator.

Someone should be designated to ensure team building objectives are met. Make sure it is someone who can read the room, create opportunities for team building success and move everyone toward meeting your team building goals.

3. Be intentional about team interaction. 

If you are taking valuable time away from the office, you don’t want to leave team interaction to chance. With intentional interaction, you increase familiarity, collaboration and trust. Focus on the team dynamics in addition the fun side of the activity. Make sure everyone gets the opportunity to get to know each other better. Consider how “everyone” will get to build rapport at the event? Will there be limited engagement between groups? If so, what can be done to change that?

4. Provide several opportunities to build team skills.

Use team building to work on improving team performance and developing deeper connections. Ensure your activities provide reflection time and activities for team members to learn how to better communicate, be innovative, collaborate, use critical thinking and leadership skills.

How do you ensure successful team building activities in your organization? Comment below and share your ideas.