Old Guy Musings: Be an Effective Team Leader

After a 50-year business career, I no longer face the daily challenges of managing the work of others. However, I believe my experiences still apply today. I led a team of 40 highly-qualified specialists in advertising, marketing, video, graphics and other creative skills.

Those bright, talented individuals often made my job challenging. It was well worth it, because the rewards were that much more satisfying. Some thoughts, based on a lifetime of daily efforts to meet tight deadlines, may help others who seek successful management careers.

Create the right stuff in your staff: World War II Army General George S. Patton said, “Don’t tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” Apply that advice to acquire experienced employees with proven creative skills. Then allow them the freedom to do their work to the best of their abilities.

Be there: Your staff should respect and know you’re always available for support and encouragement. Don’t lead from behind an office door. Get into team projects when you’re needed to make the right decisions and meet thos inevitable deadlines.

Be clear: When assignments came in, whether major ad campaign or quick-fix project, I immediately called my team together. The effective manager begins each project with specific guidance.

Learning is continuous: To get the work done, look for ways to improve skills of team members. Formal training, including advanced degrees, should be encouraged.

Know each team member’s job: Before management, I was a news reporter, ad copywriter, exec speechwriter and video scripter. My staff was always aware of that experience and how it could help each of them.

Teamwork works: Getting the job done right and on deadline is always the goal. The manager’s responsibility is to be sure each member knows my expectations and performs to the utmost.

Warning signs: A manager must recognize when an employee is failing on the job. The first step is a closed-door meeting. If the problem can be solved, a warning is sufficient. If not, steps for dismissal must be seriously considered. Other employees will respect your decision, knowing it’s for the good of the team.

Seek new talent: Job openings offer opportunities to add people with fresh ideas to the team. Interviewing applicants is critical, to hire those with the highest skills and best potential.

Reward with words and deeds: Some of the more satisfying management duties include recognizing excellence, increasing salaries and promoting deserving team members.

Celebrate group achievement: Choose the most effective moment to mark the completion of a successful team effort. If it has been a time-consuming or difficult task, a more rewarding recognition, such as hosting a social event, is appropriate.

Of course, General Patton was absolutely right, and his wisdom applies to all levels of management. Let’s all hope today’s leaders will have the common sense to emulate him.

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