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The manager and the team


Ruth Spellman, CEO of Investors in People, describes the managerial skills required to foster the essential relationship between manager and team.

A simple definition of teamwork is a group of people working together to achieve a common goal. Yet developing a team - a successful team - is a complex task that requires certain skills. In a work environment, the responsibility of developing teams usually lies with the manager, and it is arguably one of the most pivotal roles a modern day manager has to play.

So what is it that makes a manager a good team-developer? First and foremost, it is important to stress that managers need to be good team players themselves in order to be good team-developers. Managers who are remote figures of authority, locked away behind closed doors, lack the interaction with team members required to recognise and develop individual skills As a consequence, they are unable to synchronise these skills within the team unit.

If a team is to work to its full potential, open communication is a must. Over time, all members of a team should develop the confidence to express ideas and suggest areas for improvement. Some of the most innovative ideas develop from mundane concepts through solid team work and open forums for discussion. Managers should make themselves approachable and accessible. A manager should be viewed as an integral part of the team, not just a voice that issues commands and deadlines. Managers who work openly and closely with associates are also more likely to identify and deal with matters as they arise and before they become issues.

Managers should also lead by example. The level of commitment, enthusiasm and willingness to work as a team shown by the manager should become the model against which rest of the team develop and assess their own behaviour.

In response to the question about whether some people are more natural team players than others, I would answer that this is indeed the case. Some people prefer to work alone, and that may allow them to be more productive or efficient. However, the skill in the manager is to identify these employees at an early stage, and then focus on encouraging these individuals to see themselves as inclusive to the team and a vital part of the overall picture. After all, working as part of a team is an important skill to develop, and most working environments now necessitate this.

Whether an organisation consists of two or two thousand employees, a degree of teamwork is almost always essential if it is to operate proficiently. The importance of creating a strong team is outlined in the words of Arnold Brown and Edith Weiner – authors of ‘Super Managing’:

"... Work constantly at gaining and maintaining the consent of those who work for you. In years to come, authority to govern will increasingly flow from below as the workforce continues to become more educated, more highly skilled and more concerned with individual feelings of control."

It is this ethos of gaining consent – not just from seniors and peers, but from juniors – and cultivating the ability to make salient decisions, that managers should be looking to encourage in the teams they develop.


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