Guidance, Talent Management
Employee management – 7 basics on how to lead your team successfully

Table of contents

Employee management – 7 basics on how to lead your team successfully

Teamwork and leadership – the basics

Teamwork has been gaining in importance for some time now: the world is becoming ever more complex. This also increases the complexity of the tasks. This requires solutions that an individual cannot fully grasp, but a team can. This makes it all the more important for teams to function well. Because if the team is successful, this in turn strengthens the company’s success. At one of our last Leadership Lounges, Prof. Dr. Eric Kearney from the University of Potsdam spoke about the key success factors of good teamwork. He has defined the so-called 7 Cs that must be in place for a team to function. We have used this as a framework to write about the basics of successful employee management.

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1. clarity – clear roles and responsibilities

You probably know this from your own experience: a team is reassembled. After an initial phase of politeness and rapprochement, rank and role disputes arise. Especially if the responsibilities were not defined at the beginning, disputes arise. It’s not just about the official role of individuals, but also about unofficial roles and rankings.
This is a normal phase of team building – the so-called storming. This term comes from the phase model of team building by the American psychologist Bruce W. Tuckman – with the Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing phases. We have described this model in detail in another article.
In every team-building process, there is the storming phase – a phase in which the balance of power is contested. This phase of the team evaluation is about discussing roles and responsibilities, clarifying different positions and knowing how the balance of power is distributed within the team.

If you want to lead a team successfully, make sure that the team is given time and space to negotiate responsibilities, rank and roles as quickly as possible. It is important that the team clarifies the following questions, among others: How do we treat each other? How do we want to shape our collaboration? Who is responsible for what? Ensure that such processes are consciously designed instead of allowing uncontrolled growth. If you wait too long to actively tackle this clarification, a lot of friction will arise in the team, which can impair successful work.

2. composition – composition

Of course, the composition of a team is also crucial. There are different opinions about the ideal composition. Research has shown that both a homogeneous and a heterogeneous group composition can work. If the team members are all similar, i.e. they have similar qualifications and are of a similar age, this can be positive for the team, but it can also cause difficulties because the skills overlap too much.
If the team is diverse, i.e. the team members have very different experiences, specialist areas and cultures, this can be extremely fruitful. But only if it is possible to develop a common team spirit despite these differences. The decisive factor here is to take the time to discuss differences and find a common way of working together. The guiding principles of this team culture should be: “We don’t hold back our opinions because they are different from those of others, but openly address different opinions and points of view.” In this way, the most diverse core competencies and perspectives can flow into the solution of tasks. This makes the diverse team better suited to solving complex tasks.

If you want to lead a team successfully, you should take the time at the beginning of the collaboration to discuss the common mode of cooperation. This is important so that the team members can come together and a culture of open feedback can develop. Only with a healthy culture of debate can different skills be used.

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3. cohesion

Technical possibilities have changed the way we work together: we know project teams that only work together for four weeks and are based in different parts of the world. However, there are also teams that have existed for many years but rarely work together. Whatever the case, it is crucial that the team members feel a sense of cohesion and belonging so that they can identify with the team. Here too, the start of the collaboration is particularly important.

Right at the beginning of a collaboration, the focus should be on creating a team identity, a team feeling. This is all the more important when people do not meet every day, but work in different places. And this will be the case more and more frequently in the future. In order to be able to work well together over a distance of many kilometers, you need the feeling that “we belong together”. You could do this by organizing a kick-off for shorter projects, for example, where everyone expresses their wishes and expectations for the collaboration and the framework for the project is discussed together. In the case of long-term collaboration, it is even worth initiating a team development event at the beginning – an event outside the workplace. You will then notice that the team is able to work together much more quickly and perform at a high level.


4. commitment – self-commitment

Ask yourself: Does every member feel a shared commitment? Commitment is directly linked to the task, the shared vision and the team’s goal. Commitment also means disciplining yourself to work on the common task. It means being loyal to the team goals and pulling together.

If you want to lead a team successfully, make sure that there is a common understanding of the goal, task and vision. And that everyone is committed to it. It is well worth spending a little more time discussing this goal. The management style of giving instructions is highly unsuitable here, as it does not generate commitment. This means: leave room for discussion and the introduction of different ideas. Allow for resistance until a shared commitment has been established within the team.

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5. competition – cooperation – competition or cooperation?

A fundamental question that needs to be clarified for every team is: do we want competition or do we want cooperation? Many teams fail because the task at hand requires cooperation, but the reward systems, which are often linked to salary, reward competition. It is worth thinking about this question. Competition or cooperation – both can work. In some teams, competition is even beneficial. However, this only applies if the task can also be solved alone. Examples of this are classic sales teams or teams in which everyone has their own, demarcated area in which others are not allowed to poach. There is no need to work together here. A competitive approach can therefore be very beneficial here. In most cases, however, cooperation makes sense for the task at hand. People exchange ideas, support each other and share information. The moment a collaboration becomes more than the sum of its parts, it is also necessary for there to be a common reward system. This reward system should reward joint goal achievement. Pot regulations or a variable salary component that depends on team success or even company success are good examples of this. The unit should be chosen so that every employee still has the feeling that their performance makes a difference and that they are helping to achieve the target.

Ask yourself, what exactly does your job require? And then set the reward system accordingly.


6. communication – communication

If teamwork is to be successful, it is important to consciously shape communication within the team. This issue requires particular attention in virtual teams that do not see each other all the time. Questions you should ask yourself are: How often are there so-called Jours Fixes? And how should they be designed? Are we discussing or just presenting? Are there regular conference calls? What information is so important that everyone should share it? And how should not only the informative, but also the team-building part be practiced? How often do you want to meet in person? And if meetings are not possible, how can team building be strengthened using virtual media? How is the e-mail flow organized? When does who have to go on CC? All these things should be regulated.

Treat the topic of communication as an important priority. Because if you ignore this point, conflicts will quickly arise. And this can be detrimental to team spirit and performance.

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7 Conflict – dealing with conflicts

According to Tuckmann’s phase model mentioned above, there are characteristics of a top team, i.e. a team in which cooperation functions optimally.
An important feature is a constructive feedback culture. This must first develop.
At the beginning of the collaboration – in the forming phase – people keep their own opinions to themselves. This has led to major mistakes in the past, for example because someone knew where a risk lay but did not dare to name it. In the second phase, the storming phase, positions clash. At this point, there is still no way to deal with this constructively. In the third phase, norming, rules for dealing with differing opinions slowly emerge. In the fourth phase, the performing phase, the potential for conflict, such as different approaches and opinions, can be discussed openly. The team members can give constructive feedback. They have developed a way of working that makes solutions easy – a key feature of successful teamwork.

See the team’s good handling of conflicts as an absolute priority in leadership. Conflicts greatly reduce the performance of a team. In order to achieve your goals, you should therefore pay particular attention to ensuring that simmering issues in a team are addressed openly and, if possible, pacified. Going through the various phases of team building can be accelerated by taking time for the team at the beginning of the teamwork. For example, you can develop and strengthen a constructive feedback culture in a team-building measure.



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Are you interested in employee management and team development? Then get in touch with us.

The authors

Annika Semmer
berliner team
Jonas Bergert
Kassandra Knebel
Michelle Templin
Susanne Grätsch
Berliner Team