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Empowering with empathy: 8 essential tips for excellent team management

Leapsome Team
Empowering with empathy: 8 essential tips for excellent team management
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According to a recent Gallup survey of 15,000 employees, only 16% said their last conversation with a manager was “meaningful,” indicating that their leader failed to recognize them for their work or to discuss their goals, priorities, and development. (1) This should be a warning sign to any organization that wants to hold onto its employees because, without good management, people are much more likely to quit their jobs. (2) 

Instead of blaming their managers, executives need to realize that team leads often simply lack the skills and training they need to do their jobs well. Great leaders require the ability to manage, motivate, and coach their reports, all while meeting department and organizational goals. 

To help people in positions of leadership create a more engaging environment for employees, this article explores:

  • What team management is
  • What sets great team managers apart
  • Eight expert tips to manage teams more effectively

1. Gallup, 2023

2. McKinsey, 2023

What is team management?

Team management is the set of skills and processes involved in coordinating the efforts of a group of employees. The purpose of team management is to organize people as they work toward completing goals or tasks and reduce the time and effort they require to do so.

Team management also serves another, less obvious but equally important, function: keeping employees engaged and motivated to stick around and collaborate effectively. This means a lot of responsibility rests on the manager to create a team culture that fosters consistent cooperation, camaraderie, and open communication. 

What sets an exceptional team manager apart?

A great manager recognizes how much influence they have on their reports’ work experience. “As a manager, you’re a central character in the lives of your team members,” says Ashley Herd, CEO of Manager Method. “The good part is — you’re the head writer of that script.” Acknowledging that reality, excellent managers should approach their roles with empathy and look to build the following core leadership skills.

Recognizing strengths & essential traits

The best managers are willing to learn about their team members’ needs and strengths as well as their preferred communication and working styles so they know how to motivate and guide them. For instance, according to leadership and team development expert Andrea MacKenzie, a manager should learn how their reports handle time management: “Knowing who’s naturally more driven by plans and processes or more responsive to urgency and deadlines can help teams leverage the right people for handling emergencies and unforeseen curve balls while also keeping the right people focused on the plan.”

Coaching & mentorship 

Managers should act as coaches and facilitators, giving their reports a chance to utilize their strengths and pursue their goals. Through continuous constructive feedback, advice, and support, they can help employees overcome skills gaps and reach their full potential. This skill requires patience and empathy: Mentors need to practice active listening and pose questions that encourage self-reflection to guide team members in taking ownership of their development.

Showing care & encouragement

An effective manager understands that they’re only successful if their team is thriving and achieving both their collective and individual goals. They’re involved and invested in each staff member’s professional journey and are eager to celebrate their successes and milestones along the way. By exhibiting genuine care, team leads foster an environment where each employee feels valued, seen, and supported, which not only boosts individual morale and retention but can also strengthen team bonds and enhance overall productivity.

8 tips to manage a team effectively

 With these key competencies in mind, let‘s explore eight tips that can help managers create the right working environment and provide individual support to each employee.

1. Guide team members with clear goals & expectations

A screenshot of Leapsome’s Goals module.
Leapsome’s Goals module lets you easily align individual, team, and company objectives

42% of respondents to our 2023 State of People Enablement report rated their current goal-setting processes as bad, suggesting that employees aren’t getting clear enough direction from their managers and leadership. 

According to the CEO of LexGo and Lextech, Alex Bratton, this could be improved by training managers on how to set team goals and communicate expectations with greater compassion. “It’s not just about holding your team accountable to [results],” he says. “It’s about asking, ‘How do I support my team? What’s holding team members back from getting those results? What can I or the organization do to support them?’ Digging into that is where managers can really shine.”

Furthermore, team leads need to acknowledge that when their reports don’t meet goals or expectations, it could be due to a lack of guidance or clarity on their end. To ensure team members are on the same page regarding objectives and responsibilities, managers should:

  • Create a team charter — This is a shared document where leaders outline their team’s purpose, goals, and responsibilities and show how they impact the company mission.

  • Facilitate collaboration on shared goals — Managers can look into goal-setting software to support their alignment efforts. Leapsome’s Goals module, for example, allows users to view all organizational, team, and individual goals and set owners for each objective and key result. It also has a Goal Tree view that enables team members to see how their collective goals feed into company goals.

  • Create a space for collaboration and joint problem-solving — Facilitate brainstorming sessions and make the team a part of finding solutions to bigger business topics. This provides opportunities for employees to learn to work together while making use of the team’s collective expertise and improving morale.
🗝️ Unlock your team’s potential

Leapsome’s Goals module facilitates collaboration and ensures teams are aligned with the overall company strategy.

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2. Champion learning & support career growth

A screenshot of Leapsome’s Comptency Framework feature.
Leapsome’s Competency Framework feature shows you what skills and experience each level of seniority requires

Companies that want to stay resilient and weather unprecedented challenges need to make employee development a priority. Indeed, Deloitte’s 2021 Global Human Capital Trends survey found that “the ability of their people to adapt, reskill, and assume new roles” was the top-ranked trait indicating an organization’s ability to navigate disruptive change. 

A lack of learning opportunities, on the other hand, can lead to a significant rise in turnover, with 46% of employees stating they’ll quit their jobs if their employer doesn’t show enough dedication to their growth. 

Where, then, do managers fit into that equation? Great team leaders are proactive about their reports’ growth and curious about their career aspirations. To help team members develop, they can:

  • Utilize competency frameworks and development plans — From assisting reports in identifying skills gaps to outlining a step-by-step strategy for professional advancement, these resources are invaluable for guiding employees toward reaching their career and development goals. If you’re considering software support, Leapsome’s Competency Framework feature shows users the skills each role and level requires so they can get a great overview of what they need to do to make lateral or vertical moves within the company.

  • Provide tailored learning content — When managers take the time to ensure that training materials and learning opportunities align closely with each report’s needs and aspirations, they benefit both the individual and the company. A digital solution like our Learning module enables leaders to create interactive, customizable content based on employee and organizational needs.

  • Schedule regular development check-ins — Allocating the time to continuously discuss team members’ progress with their goals and development plans is vital for their professional growth. Leapsome’s Meetings module can support these check-ins with a shared agenda and transparent action items.

3. Don’t skimp on praise & appreciation

A screenshot of Leapsome’s Praise Wall.
Leapsome’s Praise Wall feature can help teams build a solid culture of appreciation

Celebrating successes is a big component of how great managers keep their teams motivated, but it’s also crucial to prevent turnover. A 2023 Achievers Workforce Institute report revealed that 79% of employees would stay in a job where they felt appreciated, even if it meant earning less. 

Still, recognition is more than just sharing an occasional “good job” or “you’re awesome.” The best recognition is:

  • Specific and recounts a situation in detail 
  • Timely and offered as soon as possible
  • Authentic and doesn’t feel like a scripted, superficial exercise
  • Relevant and connected with a goal or skill the person is working on

Managers looking for opportunities to practice this should:

  • Set up a virtual Praise Wall — These are so effective that Leapsome has one within the Instant Feedback module. They encourage people to publicly share praise and connect their appreciation to specific organizational skills, competencies, and values.

  • Offer praise during performance reviews — Acknowledge where employees have improved and what they’ve accomplished since their last assessment.
  • Start every meeting with wins Share recent team member successes and encourage them to do the same for their peers.

4. Don’t fear feedback — encourage it

A screenshot of Leapsome’s Instant Feedback module.
Leapsome’s Instant Feedback module allows users to solicit feedback so they can identify and address any growth opportunities

Managers rely on input from their reports to improve, but many employees feel nervous about offering constructive critiques. Especially in the current economic landscape, reflected in a rising World Uncertainty Index, team members often worry about being honest with leadership.

Likewise, many team leads have complicated feelings about feedback, especially if they expect it to be negative. 

That’s why it’s important to build feedback directly into your company culture and provide a variety of channels where employees can share their thoughts, such as:

  • A dedicated feedback system — Leapsome’s Instant Feedback module lets users request feedback from colleagues that relates directly to areas where they want to improve. Additional suggestion box and Q&A board features allow employees to share their thoughts and questions anonymously.

  • Confidential engagement surveys — Utilize a tool like Leapsome Surveys to ensure that questionnaires are always anonymous and employees feel safe being candid and honest.

  • 360-degree reviews — Former CEO and current Executive Chairman of Netflix Reed Hastings famously allowed any staff member to contribute to his yearly 360-degree assessment, commenting, “I find the best comments for my growth are often the most painful.” 
🪴 Feedback helps managers grow

Leapsome’s Instant Feedback module helps empower both team leads and reports with clear, specific, and meaningful feedback. 

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5. Make the most of meetings

A screenshot of Leapsome’s Meetings module.
Leapsome’s Meetings module offers customizable templates to keep agendas focused

In learning how to navigate and support his team through a crisis, ex-Googler and marketer Dmitry Vasiliev discovered how important it is to create a comfortable environment during meetings. “Demonstrate that you care for them, not just as employees, but first and foremost as individuals,” he explains. “Provide a safe space for them to express their emotions in one-to-one meetings. Ask and actively listen to their worries, fears, and frustrations, offering empathy and support.”

Unfortunately, an overabundance of meetings has made them feel less about connection and more about getting to the point. Microsoft product research uncovered that Microsoft Teams users are now in three times more meetings than in 2020, and 68% of employees say they don’t have enough focus time throughout their workday.

How, then, can managers reduce the number of meetings while also using the time to check in meaningfully with team members?

  • Share agendas ahead of time — With Leapsome’s Meetings module, reports can take notes on agenda items so managers can anticipate their questions and comments.

  • Build check-ins into every agenda, with time limits — When employees know they’ll be prompted to talk about how they’re feeling, they’re more likely to come with their thoughts prepared.
  • Establish communication guidelines Remote teams, for instance, may decide to prioritize quick, one-on-one meetings as a way to avoid long messaging chains or spending hours of the workday on Slack.

6. Ensure fair rewards & compensation

A screenshot of Leapsome’s compensation module.
Leapsome’s Compensation module helps people teams make transparent, data-driven decisions around pay and rewards

Companies around the world have increased their budgets and total compensation spending in the last couple of years. For example, the US was expecting an average salary increase of 4.6% this year, according to research from WTW. This is likely because adjusting pay is one way companies can respond quickly to fluctuations in the global economy and talent market.

While it’s true that low pay is a major reason employees quit their jobs, people also want to know that a fair, unbiased system informs their employer’s pay decisions. For instance, team members may be curious whether leaders and people professionals consider recent achievements and performance when awarding bonuses.

While managers normally aren’t involved in budget approval, they do have a say in terms of who gets offered monetary rewards through raises, bonuses, and merit increases. Here’s how they can make that process fairer for their reports:

  • Get familiar with the company pay structure — Team leads should carefully review the organization’s compensation policy so they know what role they play in employees receiving raises or bonuses and feel empowered to speak up when they notice inequities.

  • Communicate clearly with team members — Managers should also have a good understanding of the performance metrics that may have a bearing on employee pay decisions.

  • Keep performance reviews as unbiased as possible — It’s essential for leaders to be well-informed about the kinds of unconscious bias they may fall prey to. That way, they’ll avoid impeding team members from earning rewards.

7. Lead by example

In uncertain times or periods of high pressure, employees look to managers for signals about how they should feel and behave at work. When managers are engaged in their role and doing their best to embody company values, team members likely will, too. 

Sadly, few managers seem to be able to make team members feel they can rely on leadership, with Gallup reporting that only 22% of employees trust their organizations.

What team leads shouldn’t forget is that leading by example doesn’t mean that they have to hide the struggles they face. In fact, they can leverage them and inspire their reports by:

  • Being transparent about challenges — While managers don’t need to overshare personal details, they should be candid with employees and feel comfortable asking for their advice and support.

  • Talking about recent difficult feedback they got and how they plan to address it — Team members need to know that they’re not the only ones who receive constructive criticism, and they’ll appreciate it when managers model how they deal with it.
  • Delegating when needed This can empower reports to take on new challenges and encourage them to seek better work-life balance by sharing responsibilities within the team.

8. Celebrate uniqueness & diversity

According to Gartner research into diversity and inclusion, teams that include a mixture of individuals of different genders, ethnicities, ages, and cultures tend to be more innovative and higher performing than non-diverse teams. Still, they can only perform well if their leaders know how to use everyone’s different perspectives and experiences to the team’s advantage. 

The role of the manager is to embrace and empower what makes everyone on their team different. To leverage the complementary skills of a diverse team, leaders should:

  • Practice active listening — Instead of letting preconceived notions steer team discussions, managers should open the conversation and encourage reports to suggest solutions.

  • Provide flexibility — It’s essential for managers to work with employees to accommodate their varying needs and communication styles so everyone feels heard, supported, and encouraged to participate in joint projects and discussions.

  • Assign tasks and roles strategically — Leaders should consider team members’ unique strengths when assigning projects to best utilize everyone’s individual skill set, leading to higher productivity and better outcomes. 

Manage your team with Leapsome

A screenshot of Leapsome's AI features in the Reviews module.
Leapsome’s AI-enhanced Reviews module gives users an objective, multi-faceted view of employee performance

The manager’s role is a challenging one. Senior leadership expects them to deliver on strategic goals and targets, and employees look to them for guidance and coaching. Luckily, today’s managers have access to tools that can help them juggle both of these aspects so they can focus on holding onto their best team members and getting results.

With features designed to collaborate, engage reports, and gather meaningful feedback, Leapsome is an ideal platform for enabling managers to do their best work. For instance:

  • Our Meetings module helps team leads run more streamlined, results-driven meetings.
  • Our Reviews module can make team member assessments more holistic and constructive.
  • Our Instant Feedback module gives managers access to the team member input they need to grow.
  • Our Goals module allows teams to set goals that closely align with overarching business objectives.
  • Our Learning module makes it easier to create bespoke training courses that are relevant to your employees’ roles.
  • Our Compensation module empowers leaders with the data they need to make more objective promotion and pay decisions.
  • Our Competency Frameworks show team members the skills they need to build to excel in their current roles and move on to the next level.

Overall, Leapsome is a comprehensive software solution that’s perfect for empowering managers to lead, inspire, and drive team success with confidence.

🔧 Give managers the tools they need 

Leapsome’s holistic people enablement platform helps team leaders understand, coach, and motivate their reports.

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Written By

Leapsome Team

Written by the team at Leapsome — the all-in-one people enablement platform for driving employee engagement, performance, and learning.
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