10 Team Management Skills Every Leader Needs
Leading a team isn’t a walk in the park. You have to deal with different personalities, foster a cohesive team environment, and of course, make sure all the work gets done —without micromanaging.
Fortunately, there are some key team management skills that can help you master these challenges. In this article, we’ll discuss what those skills are, why they’re so important, and what you can do to develop better team management skills.
But first …
What Are Team Management Skills?
Team management skills refer to the talents and abilities that managers need to effectively manage groups of people. These soft skills include abilities like problem-solving, listening, open-mindedness, adaptability, and creativity.
By contrast, hard skills are those that are gained by practice and education, such as accounting knowledge, coding ability, or foreign language fluency.
While both hard and soft skills are important for any manager, team management skills are essential when you need to organize, motivate, and coordinate the efforts of team members to achieve a common goal.
The Importance of Team Management Skills
Team management skills are critically important because they affect:
Team management skills help to foster collaboration among team members, and as the saying goes, “teamwork makes the dream work.” When teams are cohesive, members help each other out and problem-solve more efficiently.
Because team members trust and respect each other, the entire team benefits–experiencing synergy, as members unite to achieve common goals.
However, in the absence of good team management skills, competition, backstabbing, and gossip can fester among team members. This creates a lack of trust and without trust present, people tend to adopt a “go it alone” mentality.
Because team members don’t feel like they can rely on each other, the entire team suffers, operating less efficiently than it could.
The better your team management skills, the happier and more engaged your team members will be. That’s important because engaged employees are more motivated and driven.
Because they enjoy what they do, they want the team to successfully accomplish its objectives, and they’re committed to the company’s success. As a result, they perform better–often going above and beyond to help achieve team goals.
Furthermore, as an added benefit, engaged team members like their jobs so they’re far more likely to stay on, rather than to seek greener pastures elsewhere.
As we touched upon in the last bullet, team management skills have a significant impact on employee morale–and happy, engaged workers are more motivated and driven.
As a result, they work harder and accomplish more. So much more that according to Gallup, highly engaged teams experience a 17% increase in productivity.
Team management skills aren’t just good for your team members and your employer, they’re also beneficial to your career.
Interestingly enough, research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford Research Center has concluded that 85% of job success comes down to soft or interpersonal skills–meaning that knowledge and technical aptitude only account for a mere 15% of job success!
Team Management Skills List
There are 10 essential team management skills you need when leading a team. Those skills include:
Team managers have multiple people, projects, and priorities to keep track of, which is why managing a team requires good organizational skills.
Without them, you can easily find yourself drowning in emails, searching for misplaced paperwork, or slowing your employees down by peppering them with questions you should already know the answers to … ultimately reducing efficiency and preventing your team from being as successful as it could be.
For these reasons, team managers should have a good system in place for tracking key dates, managing project dependencies, staying on top of their email inboxes, and storing important files.
Furthermore, rather than viewing organization as a one-and-done activity, team leaders need to employ good organizational skills on an ongoing, consistent basis.
There’s a quote from business magnate Malcolm Forbes that goes, “If you don’t know what to do with many of the papers piled on your desk, stick a dozen colleagues’ initials on them and pass them along. When in doubt, route.” Clearly, Forbes knew a little something about delegation!
That said, he was definitely on to something, because delegation is an incredibly important team management skill. After all, as a team leader, you have some very big responsibilities–so many responsibilities that you’re unlikely to fulfill them if you can’t or won’t delegate to others.
That’s why rather than attempting to tackle things single-handedly, you need to be able to assess who the right team member is for the job, assign them the task, and then trust that they have the right skills and requisite professionalism to do the job well and on-time–without you have to constantly hound them about it.
In the course of a regular workday, team leaders need to conduct meetings, respond to emails, answer team members’ questions, and delegate tasks–which is why research shows that managers spend up to 80% of their time at work communicating.
This statistic illustrates just how essential it is that team leaders possess great communication skills–after all, communicating with others is one of the primary responsibilities of the job!
For this reason, team leaders need to be able to communicate clearly, concisely, and effectively–even relentlessly–to ensure that their entire team’s on the same page.
They also need to adapt their communication style depending on who they’re speaking to. Interestingly enough, a failure to do so is cited as the most frequent cause (42%) of poor communication in the workplace, which has been shown to increase stress, lead to project delays, and contribute to low employee morale.
Although “it’s my way or the highway” might be a catchy expression, managers who take that approach are bound to create team discord. After all, nobody appreciates working for an inflexible tyrant!
Instead, team leaders need to be open to differing viewpoints, new approaches, and better ways of doing things, because no one person has all the answers. Good leaders understand that and remain open and flexible to team members’ input.
Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions. People high in emotional intelligence are also adept at understanding and influencing the emotions of others.
Typically, people with high EI possess qualities like self-awareness, the ability to regulate their emotions, and empathy. They also have good social skills; these are the people that know how to read a room–and act accordingly.
One of a team leader’s primary roles is to motivate, encourage, and influence team members. To do that, you need to be able to step into your team members’ shoes and understand their unique perspectives, so you can connect with them in a meaningful and effective way. Emotional intelligence is essential for achieving that aim.
Throughout the day, team leaders are confronted with dozens of decisions that need to be made: “Which task is the highest priority?” “When do you need this by?” and even the more mundane, “Can I take a week off next month?”
Because decision-making is such an important component of managing a team, team leaders need to be able to quickly weigh pros and cons, assess alternatives, evaluate risks, and act decisively–without letting the stress get to them.
This requires not only confidence, but humility as well–for instance, there may be occasions when team leaders need more time or information before they can reach a decision. When that occurs, team leaders need to feel comfortable admitting they don’t have the answer yet, rather than coming to a hasty, ill-advised decision.
Among the many interpersonal and team skills you need as a manager, problem-solving may be one of the most crucial, because it’s such a key part of the job.
As a team leader, you’re expected to handle problems coming from every direction–your team members will come to you with problems, your boss will expect you to solve problems, and you may even have clients, customers, or suppliers with problems you’ll need to solve.
As a result, a team leader needs to employ the talents and abilities of a good problem solver by displaying critical thinking skills, creativity, adaptability, level-headedness, and resilience.
As a kid, you probably tried to push your parents’ boundaries … which is a totally natural reaction when someone has authority over you.
Well, guess what? As a team manager, there’ll be times when employees try to push your boundaries too … perhaps by regularly coming in late, blowing off important meetings, or trying to do as little work as possible.
Although you might be tempted to act like Mr. Nice Guy, that never goes well because it establishes a permissive environment–one that some employees will take advantage of. Perhaps just as bad is that the ones who don’t will resent the employees who do–and you for letting them get away with it.
Bottom line? The ability to establish rules that are non-negotiable is an incredibly important team management skill. Without it, you run the risk of bringing out the worst in your entire team.
Another key team management skill is fairness, because let’s face it … not all employees are created equal. Chances are good you’ll like some team members more than others, whether it’s because they have a cheerful personality, good work ethic, or just a lot in common with you.
However, if you treat team members differently–for instance, by allowing your favorite employees certain privileges that others don’t get or unfairly distributing raises–you’ll create divisions on your team and sow the seeds of resentment, which is exactly what you don’t want.
Instead, you’ll want to be fair and objective when dealing with the members of your team. In doing so, you’ll find it much easier to create a cohesive team that accomplishes the objectives you set forth.
Managers need a lot of confidence to achieve the other skills on this list. Think about it … you need to confidently set boundaries with your team–or risk rogue members running roughshod over you.
You also need to confidently make decisions–if not, you’ll endlessly second-guess yourself and struggle to move the team toward its goals. And then, of course, you’ll want to communicate with confidence as well.
Confidence is important, because not only does it make you more likely to succeed, but it also conveys leadership to others, inspiring trust in them … which is exactly how you want team members to feel about you as their leader.
As you can see, there are a number of important skills you need to be an effective team leader, and this isn’t even a complete list! We could go on and on about other team management skills that are also valuable when managing others, however, these are the 10 team management skills that are the most critical.
If you possess them, you’ll find it that much easier to be successful as a team leader. Fortunately, if you’re lacking in any area, the good news is that you can develop these skills. More on that in the next section …
How to Develop Good Team Management Skills
If you read through our list and thought, “Hmmm … I could stand to develop that skill a little more,” this section is for you. In it, we’ll identify ways you can improve your team management skills, so you can be the strong, effective team leader you were meant to be!
Perform an Assessment
Before you can be a better team manager, it’s helpful to perform an assessment, so you can identify any skill gaps. To do this, start by asking yourself questions, like, “What are my strengths?” “What are my weaknesses?” and “Where is there room for improvement?”
By assessing your current skill set, you’ll find it easier to determine which skills are most important for you to develop, so you can focus your time and effort accordingly.
We all have our blind spots … which is why even after performing a skills inventory, it’s still a good idea for you to get feedback from others. So, talk to your manager and see what he or she has to say about your team management skills.
Likewise, ask the team members you supervise how you could be a better manager. This 360-degree assessment will give you the opportunity to discover potential areas for growth that you may have missed otherwise.
Seek Out Professional Development Opportunities
Once you’ve identified which skills you want to improve, seek out professional development opportunities offered locally or online. These days, there’s literally a class for everything, and you can find management classes on emotional intelligence, effective communication, problem-solving, and more.
So, search around and when you find a class that resonates, enroll in it to further develop your team management skills.
Find a Mentor
Although a mentorship relationship is often suggested when you want to advance your career, a good mentor will help you do much more than climb the corporate ladder. For instance, a mentor can act as your sounding board, provide guidance, and help you develop better team management skills.
To find a mentor, think about someone you admire such as a former boss, a colleague from a previous position, an executive in upper management you’re friendly with, or an expert in your field that you follow. Then, ask them if you can meet for coffee or a video chat. If things go well, you can continue to develop the relationship over time.
Work with a Career Coach
Career coaches are especially helpful if you’re looking to develop the soft skills necessary to successfully manage a team. In fact, according to Forbes, not only are soft skills trainable, but research on the topic suggests that “coaching has very strong effects on an individual’s career success and moderate-to-strong effects on performance.”
To find a career coach, try asking colleagues for recommendations or do a search on the Internet. Once you’ve found a few potential candidates that look promising, schedule consultations to decide which career coach would be the best fit.
There are a number of important interpersonal skills you need to effectively manage a team. Fortunately, if you feel like you’re lacking in any area, there are steps you can take to improve your team management skills. To get you started in the right direction, we suggest you read our article, “The Definitive Guide to Amazing People Management Skills.”