by Sarah K. White

4 tips for managing multiple teams

Feb 08, 2017
CareersIT JobsIT Leadership

Managing multiple teams and personalities is no easy task, but with these four tips you can lighten the load.

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Credit: Thinkstock

Managers juggle a lot — besides day-to-day business tasks, they’re also responsible for ensuring everyone on the team is working to their full potential. And for managers who oversee multiple teams, it gets even more complicated.

“Managers have a tough job. They must bring out the best in the individuals on their team. They are responsible for coaching each individual to become a better employee, while also driving the success of the team as a whole,” says Kim Duggan, CEO of Betterworks, a company that offers employee performance and feedback software.

But there are a few ways you can set yourself up for success if you’re faced with the difficult position of managing multiple teams. The key is building teams of workers who are so motivated, happy and engaged that they practically manage themselves.

Get to know personalities

The first step is to build personal connections with employees to gain trust and foster collaboration, says Mariano Suarez-Battan, CEO of Mural, a company that delivers enterprise-grade collaborative whiteboard systems for remote teams.

Getting to know your employees will help you learn more about their personality, and what makes them tick, he says. For example, identifying introverted and extroverted personalities on your team can help ensure your introverted workers aren’t overshadowed by chattier extroverts. And, alternatively, you don’t want meetings to run long or get off track because of an overly enthusiastic extroverted employee, says Suarez-Battan.

But introversion and extroversion aren’t the only two things you need to consider. You also need to identify the what motivates your workers.

“Most managers would tell you they have a wide mix of superstars, ambitious individuals and lower-profile folks on their team. Some employees are high performers and competitive, and always thinking about how they and their team can be number one. Others are more focused on collaboration,” says Duggan.

You might find that your competitive workers thrive best if they’re focused on set goals, while your more collaborative workers need “positive recognition or encouragement” to get inspired, he says.

If you’ve ever wondered why a mobile app or game is so addicting — it’s because they’ve cracked the code of motivation. By playing into some of the most common “motivation traits” that most of us have, apps can tap into your reward centers to keep you engaged. The same can happen at work — if you figure out what motivates your workers, you’ll know how to manage them.

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Encourage retention and growth

Once you have a good read on your employees and what makes them tick, you’ll know exactly how to keep them happy at the company. Part of retaining employees is not only training them for the job they have, but pushing them to grow and flourish in the company. And if your employees stay with the company longer that’s less time you have to spend getting new employees up to speed.

Cindy Chu, director of engineering at Yahoo, notes that while there is never a “one size fits all” approach to management, the “one constant should be finding ways to push [your] team members out of their comfort zones, by giving them responsibilities they’ve proven to be capable of.”

Training your employees and pushing them a little can also give you a better sense of their strengths and weaknesses. And understanding that will help you figure out where they will fit in the company or department. You might even realize an employee on one team has skills that can be useful for a project on another team.

“Managers who properly coach employees can begin to see how their particular attributes contribute to the team at large. Managers can help employees fine-tune their skills and even avoid burnout or attrition, because employees desire to stay at companies that are invested in helping them grow in their career,” says Duggan.

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Consider generational gaps

Millennials are quickly taking over the workforce, and there’s been a lot of attention on what that means, how to manage them and how they are — or aren’t — different from other generations. While it’s likely that all your employees value the same basic things — job security, salary and benefits — there are some differences to keep in mind.

For example, Chu notes that your younger, millennial workers are just starting their careers. So you’ll want to focus on guiding them to develop goals and “drive their careers.” But after years in the trenches, your more experienced workers probably already know what their goals are, and it’s your job to help them “develop a plan for achieving them.”

You might also find that your workers want the same things — like communication and feedback — but in different ways. “Younger generations, from Gen Z to millennials might want lightweight feedback, whereas older generations might be accustomed to a longer, written out review,” says Duggan.

Embrace diversity

The tech industry has been widely criticized for a lack of diversity — a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report found that in 2014, around 83-percent of technology executives in the U.S. were white, while 80 percent of all technology executives were men. Stats like these caused a stir in the tech community — with companies pledging to focus on bringing more diversity into tech.

“In the tech industry specifically, you need strong engineers, product people, marketers, salespeople and a customer success team to contribute to the constant development of your product or service. These teams must be full of diverse personalities, or we’d all think in the same way and risk losing out to others who innovate in more unique ways,” says Duggan.

Diversity not only brings more ideas to the table, McKinsey Global Institute also reports that companies with that were more gender and ethnically diverse, financially outperformed the less-diverse competition.

If you’re lucky enough to be a manager of multiple diverse teams, then you are in a great position to foster that inclusion to create stronger teams that need less management. If you’re not, then it might be time to push executives to reevaluate standard hiring practices in the company.

“Because people are different, they have different paths to success. It’s important not to expect everyone to work, communicate, or lead in the same way. As a manager, it’s your role to recognize those differences and help people find what works for them. When you recognize people’s different personalities and support unique opportunities to help them grow, they’re going to feel happier, more productive and invested in their job,” says Chu.

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