This is the part first of a number of upcoming articles on how to manage team effectively
The biggest challenge for a team manager is to allow space for individual creativity while also keeping the objectives of team intact.
A team comprise of many members with individual aspirations. Even though teams work for a common business objective, often team members would also like to exercise a certain individual control over their work.
In many companies these days, the term "team member" has been replaced by “resource”. While a "team member" sounds like an important part of team, resource often indicate machine like, replaceable part. It also means that people with similar skill sets are interchangeable.
I find this practice to treating team members as machine parts “sad”. This is probably the reason why teams don’t do as well as they should and there is no much widespread dissatisfaction with the job.
Calling a person as a resource is probably easy to the “resourcing department”. They do not have to sift through the qualities, skills and aspiration of individuals. They just type in skill set values and the system throws up a number of names. Then they just pick any match. Frankly this is how many companies work these days.
A good manager however does not treat people as resources. He or she never thinks that people with same skills have the same potential ( unlike the resource department) which hands over people to him without doing detailed analysis.
In one of a project , one colleague of mine had equal business skills then me. But he had better skill at leading and doing the procedural work ( like liaising with other departments). I thus assumed the technical role while leaving the things that he was good at to him. Because of this division we were able to perform in our roles very well and thus project was completed well on time.
A good manager never underestimates the potential of a team member to develop in a particular role. For example, a team member in my team had great documentation skills. She loved writing, creating charts and colorful presentations. She loved documentation over doing technical stuff . The manager then assigned the task of documentation to her which was in addition to her usual work. No doubt she did fine in both the tasks.
A good manager goes beyond the proposed skill set to find out hidden aspirations and motives. He interviews the employees before they join the team to understand if they bring any special personal quality to the team. He knows that the individual possesses the required skill set but also would like to understand , what additional contribution can the team member make. Having a strong individuality and also aligning it to team objectives makes a stronger and a better performing team.
Once such person is drafted in the team, the manager outlines suitable tasks in addition to the job role he has hired her for . Thus a manager is able to exploit the qualities of an individual and not a resource.
What is your opinion on allowing/encouraging the individuality in teams ? I would love to hear your thoughts