Successful Managers Are Shit Umbrellas: Leadership 101 | Hacker Noon

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@momchilMomchil

Product Growth at Codegiant

From the desk of a brilliant weirdo #1: If you’re having a hard time getting your team on the same page, I want to let you know that you’re not alone.

I’ve been there, and many other teams as well.

In fact: 88% of remote workers face inconsistent leadership and miscommunications with other team members.

That’s why this article will tell you how to build a strong and healthy relationship within your team.

I’ll talk from my personal experience as well as from the management experience of other great managers.

Without further ado:

  • How to be a great manager?
  • Team management skills
  • Team management strategies, tips, and techniques
  • Team management styles
  • Team management tools

The best managers know their teammates’ strengths and weaknesses to a tee.

They know what’s unique about each person in their team, and how to properly utilize their strengths to produce positive results.

No employee is the same, and where one lacks, another excels.

Also, knowing how to use your team’s strengths and weaknesses accordingly will help you build a strong and healthy relationship within the team. You’ll create a team environment and culture where team members can support each other and truly work as a team.

Fine shadings of personality, though they may be invisible to some and frustrating to others, are crystal clear to and highly valued by great managers.

In order to become familiar with your teammates’ strengths and weaknesses, you gotta do more than just look at their CV and say “okay, I know them perfectly now.

A great manager will observe the behaviour of his team members inside and outside the office.

A great manager will try to understand what your interests are… do you go to any events, what music do you like to listen to, do you take notes or not, and other character-related things.

When interviewing candidates, you can ask the following question to identify their strengths:

What was the best day you’ve had in the past few months?

The things the interviewee did on that day are probably the things he enjoys doing the most.

To identify a person’s weaknesses, you just have to ask the same question but with slight tweak:

What was the worst day you’ve had at work in the past few months?

A weakness isn’t something you are bad at. We are all bad at things when we’re starting out.

A weakness is something you despise doing, something that drains the energy out of you, something that you’d avoid doing at all costs.

So, try to adjust your team members’ roles and responsibilities according to their strengths and weaknesses.

The best way to achieve a high employee retention rate is not by offering them more money. It’s proven that the most powerful trigger by far is recognition, not money.

Always give props to people who deserve it, and make it known to others.

Each individual is different though. Some people bask in public recognition while others prefer effective 1-on-1 meetings.

The number one team leader skill you need to obtain as a manager is to learn how to be a shit umbrella for your team.

You gotta protect your team members from all the nonsense that other managers, teams, and clients are throwing at them.

You’re the guy who has to say “NO” to other managers when they are trying to push more work down your team’s throat, disrupting their workflow, and totally screwing their performance.

You’re the one who has to step up when teammates get in bad arguments with each other.

As a manager, your team members look up to you. So, if you get into heated arguments with others, they’re going to do the same.

Being able to protect your team from all sort of crap is a key management skill that will help you build a great team, and foster more effective team communication. It’s definitely in the top 3 skills you need to have to be a successful manager and a team leader.

Verbal communication is another effective team leadership skill you need to master to build an effective team.

Don’t just say “you gotta do X before the end of the week.” Instead, say “guys, we gotta finish X before the end of the week otherwise Y will happen, and we don’t want that to happen, right?” You get the drill.

You don’t need to be a wordsmith, but you need to know what you gotta say and when you gotta say it to get the desired response from your teammates. A great book on the topic is “Influence” by Robert Cialdini.

Develop a thick skin

Invite feedback from your team, and don’t act like a weasel when harsh criticism punches you in the face.

In the long-term, you’ll be able to improve, and do a much better job than you’re doing right now.

Be curious and eager to learn

You can take team management courses, or any other kind of team management training you can get your hands on.

It’ll boost your confidence, and make you a much more efficient team manager… not just a manager but a leader as well.

And finally, know your teammates personality types

There’s a total of 16 personality types.

Each personality type consists of four letters. For example — INTJ.

  • The first letter of your personality type can either be E or I. E stands for extroverts, whereas I stands for introverts. No need to explain those, right?
  • Then you have, Sensitive and Intuitive (S and N) — that’s the second letter of your personality type. If you’re sensitive, then you kinda live in the moment. Intuitive people think more about the future.
  • The third letter of your personality type will either be (T)hinking or (F)eeling. If you are a T, then you make decisions based on facts and rational thinking. If you are an F, then you make decisions based on your emotions.
  • And finally, the fourth letter can either be Judging or Perceiving. If you’re a Judger, you appreciate structure and order. You prefer to plan things in advance, and hate last-minute changes. If you’re a Perceiver, you’re more of a flexible person. You like to leave things unfinished so you can adjust things on the fly.

Combined, those letters make your personality type — mine is INTJ, same as Arnold Schwarzeneger’s.

If you understand your teammates’ personality types, you can find a whole lot more about their character and behaviour by simply Googling their type. You’ll know exactly what to say and when to say it to make them do what you ask for.

It’s really that powerful.

If you want to learn more about personality types, check out C.S. Joseph on Youtube.

You can also make your teammates take the Myers-Briggs personality test.

The Myers-Briggs test, however, doesn’t tell everything, and people may not be 100% honest with themselves while taking the test. It’s a good starting point though.

Knowing your teammates’ personality types is perhaps one of the most important team leader skills you can obtain if you want to foster effective teamwork and management in order to build a better team.

Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/155937205824969343/

On the whole, it all comes down to having “people management” skills, showing empathy, and creating a supportive team environment.

Set clear goals

Obviously, without setting clear goals, you’ll have a hard time making any progress whatsoever.

If nobody is on the same page, and people are working on tasks that make little to no difference to your project’s success, managing a team becomes more of a chore instead of a pleasure.

Know how to prioritize your tasks

I like to give as an example the “A/B items” team management technique. Scott Berkun talks about this in his books.

Imagine you’re building a car.

The A items would be the tires, the engine, the chassis, and other important stuff that the car can’t work without.

The B items are the doors, seats, radio, AC, and all the rest.

If you have your A items completed, you’ll be able to ship your product in a minimum viable state.

If you’ve been working on B items, however, and you’re running out of time, you won’t be able to ship any product at all.

Attention management

When you’re creating your daily schedule, you shouldn’t focus on how many tasks you can check off from your to-do list.

Instead, you should focus on finishing the important tasks first regardless of how much time it’s going to take.

It’s not about time, it’s about attention.

It’s an effective team management strategy for new managers. It also works great if you’re taking over a team with fresh and new team members.

How to avoid burnout

A big chunk of burnout comes from getting overwhelmed with unnecessary stuff, be it running multiple programs at the same time, having 50+ open browser tabs, using a lightning keyboard or mouse, having your desk crammed with unnecessary stuff, etc.

Clear everything, be minimal. You’ll see the difference immediately.

Also, don’t beat yourself up for missing deadlines.

Burnout doesn’t necessarily come from hard work. I’ve worked for 12+ hours a day, and still felt like I could do another 12-hour run.

The problem comes from the tasks you’re working on. If you don’t genuinely enjoy working on something 4 hours might seem like 24. And that’s how you experience burn out. If that’s the case, then you just gotta embrace it. Take more breaks, focus on the details, and you might find some joy in your assignments.

Increase productivity

There’s very interesting research about productivity done by a researcher named Homer Hibarger.

He introduced two daily five-minute breaks to his employees’ schedule. What he noticed was that productivity went up.

Then he allowed six breaks a day. Productivity went up again.

Then he allowed his employees to leave 1 hour early every day. Productivity still went up.

And finally, researcher Hibarger cut off all the breaks, and reinstated the old regime.

Surprisingly, productivity barely dipped at all.

What happened is that the employees of Homer Hibarger actually became a team and developed a strong relationship.

Homer’s employees were more engaged in their tasks, their communication was flawless, and they felt like their work meant something.

Have lunch with your team at least once a week

It strengthens your team’s relationship.

Many managers don’t do this; therefore, can’t get along with their teammates.

On the other hand, many veterans consider this a ritual, and do it every week (or every day).

Allow your teammates to book 1-on-1 meetings with you, at least once a week.

If people on your team aren’t comfortable with sharing their struggles in group meetings, 1-on-1 meetings will allow them to catch up with you and share problems that may be troubling their minds.

Doing all these things might not turn you into a great team leader instantly, but at least you won’t end up being the manager that everybody in the company shit talks about for years to come. Nevertheless, you’ll find that those skills will serve you not only in the workplace but in your personal life as well.

Now, let’s take a look at…

There are three main management styles you need to be aware of:

  • The Autocratic.
  • The Democratic.
  • The Laissez-faire.

Let’s get down to brass tacks:

The Autocratic management style

The C-level executives hold all the power.

No one is supposed to question what the executives say; employees should simply follow and execute orders.

This is the most controlling of all the management styles, and allows for little to no flexibility in proposing new ideas and suggestions. Employees aren’t allowed to share their thoughts on projects, nor are they allowed to ask questions.

In a lot of cases, employees are monitored closely and micro-managed by managers.

In many companies, employers will ask for a relentless display of loyalty by the employees.

The good thing about this type of management is that it allows for quick decision making. All goals and instructions are clearly understood by the team, and there’s no place for second guessing. Everybody knows what they should be working on.

The cons, however, can be quite troublesome. This style of management can cause an increase in employee dissatisfaction, and before you know it, all your team members will be gone. “Us vs Them” mentality starts to form between employees and managers which leads to missed deadlines, failed projects, and disputes.

The Democratic management style

Unlike the autocratic management style, companies that foster the democratic type of management encourage their employees to share input on the projects… but, in the end, it’s management that makes the final decision.

The democratic management style bonds the team, and managers are no longer viewed as slave masters. Innovation increases along with employee satisfaction.

The democratic management style fits perfectly within teams where the manager doesn’t have the required expertise to advise employees. Therefore, each team member needs to be highly skilled for this type of management to work flawlessly.

The democratic type of management can be one of the best team management styles. It zeroes in on leadership while keeping management on point.

The Laissez-faire management style

This management style can be a great success for some teams but it can be detrimental to others.

It takes a hand-off approach to leadership, and it’s definitely a more collaborative management style than the previous ones. It requires team members to be up to date 100% of the time so nothing slips through the cracks.

The employees are 100% trusted to do their work with little to no supervision. Maybe just 1 meeting is held every month to keep managers in the loop. Only results are measured. This can lead to higher employee retention and satisfaction rate.

The cons, however, of this style of management are that employees who aren’t qualified for their job position might slow down the team. And it’s hard to find employees who are both highly skilled and responsible enough to do their job properly.

In case you don’t use project management tools, here’s something that may open your eyes:

Project management software can save the average employee 498 hours per year.

Or if you’re using a project management tool, but are looking for a simpler, faster, or more feature-rich alternative, here are our best picks:

Codegiant

Codegiant comes with a simplistic and visually-appealing interface. Navigating your way through features and tasks inside Codegiant happens without any hassle whatsoever.

The interface also makes it quite comfortable for you to work on your tasks; you can access whatever you need with just 1 click.

Codegiant also brings robust reports to the table so you can see how your team performs over time, and know exactly what changes need to be made to put your team on the next level.

Features:

  • Kanban and Scrum boards.
  • Tasks and subtasks.
  • Sprints.
  • Epics.
  • Roadmaps.
  • Time tracking.
  • Discussions — tags, mentions, and comments.
  • Burndown charts.
  • One-click Jira importer.
  • You can use it for free.

Pros:

  • It’s as simple as it gets. You don’t need to go through endless tutorials and guides to get on board. You can hit the ground running immediately once you have your account set up.
  • Team members can communicate on tasks freely with tags and mentions so everyone stays in the loop.
  • With Codegiant, you also have access to git repositories, a built-in CI/CD, and a documentation tool. It’s the perfect pick for developers.

Cons:

  • More integrations needed to be added.

Customer reviews of Codegiant:

The tool has a beautiful interface and works really fast. It is easy to setup and get started with Codegiant. Apart from the issue tracker, the tool also has some amazing features such as code repositories, documentation and CI/CS pipelines. The customer support is amazing and always ready to help you.” — Capterra.

Asana

In case you haven’t heard of Asana, the software ranks in the top 5 most popular project management tools today.

It’s founded by Dustin Moskovitz, Mark Zuckerberg’s college roommate, Dustin is also a co-founder of Facebook.

Anyways, Asana is definitely worth trying — it’s visually appealing. What’s more, flying unicorns may appear on your screen when you complete a task successfully.

Getting onboard with Asana is quite easy, no hassle or struggle needed.

With Asana timelines, you can see everything from the small stuff to the big picture, and know exactly what step to take next to move the project closer to the goal line.

Features:

  • List views.
  • Timeline.
  • Boards.
  • Customizable workflows.
  • Robust reporting — real-time charts and status highlights.
  • Reminders.
  • Comments.
  • Time tracking.
  • Asana offers a free plan.

Pros:

  • The best thing about Asana is that it makes you feel comfortable while using it. Its boards, tasks, and all the other features are designed to be visually appealing.
  • The UI is quite straightforward. Finding your way through Asana’s features shouldn’t be a problem at all.

Cons:

  • The worst thing about Asana is that it can be terribly laggy at times, especially when you’re loading an Asana task from an external link.
  • Email notifications can become quite annoying.
  • Asana is quite expensive for teams who need its premium features. The premium plan is priced at $13.49/user per month.

Customer reviews of Asana:

I generally liked Asana and it’s a good product for staying on task and communicating with team members. It was easy to separate projects and to track progress.” — Capterra.

Trello

Trello is one of the best apps for team project management.

It looks cool. It’s easy to use. It has drag and drop functionality. You can bring your teammates on board easily. It’s just fantastic.

It has everything you need to keep everybody in the loop.

Features:

  • Kanban boards.
  • Comments.
  • Attachments.
  • Due dates.
  • Trello cards.
  • Built-in workflow automation with Butler — rule-based triggers, custom card & board buttons, calendar commands, due date commands.
  • Drag and drop.
  • Discussions.
  • Notifications.
  • Free to use.

Pros:

  • Trello is one of the simplest, if not the simplest, project management tools out there. You don’t need to read any docs, watch any tutorials, or go through any onboarding videos to hit the ground running.
  • Updating your tasks in Trello can be done without any hassle.

Cons:

  • Like most project management tools, it can become quite buggy if you stack your boards with hundreds of tasks.
  • No free trials for the Business and Enterprise plans.
  • The mobile app can be clunky.

Customer reviews of Trello:

I like that Trello gives you a great visibility to share your projects and boards with other members in order to be able to track progress and accountability.” — Capterra.

Freedcamp

Freedcamp is a simple open-source project management tool.

There are no learning curves to overcome. You can just create an account, log in, and create your first project in that instant.

Features:

  • Task lists.
  • Personal and public tasks.
  • Kanban board.
  • Drag and drop.
  • Gantt charts.
  • Calendar.
  • Discussions.
  • Milestones.
  • Wiki.
  • 3rd party integrations.
  • Freedcamp has a free plan. Then, it starts at $1.49/user/month.

Pros:

  • Freedcamp is easy-to-use team management software that has tons of features. It can handle both your personal and business projects from A to Z.
  • You can use it even if you aren’t a tech guy. Simple actions such as creating tasks, spreading assignments among your team members, and keeping track of your progress can be done frictionlessly.

Cons:

  • The mobile application can be a bit clunky; it lacks web functionality.
  • Freedcamp can become quite buggy at times, especially if you’ve crammed your board with a multitude of tasks.

Customer reviews of Freedcamp:

We used Freedcamp for its free trial, and were left fairly satisfied with the product overall. It’s a very solid and feature-rich project management system that’ll fit most small-medium teams.” — Capterra.

If you take nothing else from this guide, take this: learn your teammates’ strengths and weaknesses, and use them to propel your team forward.

Learning the 16 personality types can help you tremendously as well. You’ll know your teammates better than they know themselves… which is how you build trust.

Stay unparalleled,

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