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The Frustrations of Team Management

Posted by Eric Friedman

frustrations team management

After reading Sumanth Kolar’s LinkedIn article “How to Handle Your Office Avengers,” in which he breaks down the flaws associated with the superheroes who make up Marvel’s Avengers, I could not help but think about how difficult it is to lead highly talented team members with larger-than-life egos.

During my career I have held many titles that have put me in the forefront of team management, and no matter how awesome the team looks, there are always problems which must be solved before the team can reach its potential.

Great teams have great big egos, and individual members tend to think that they are always right. Using the Avengers as an example, Captain America believes in integrity and honesty, Tony Stark is consumed with using technology and weapons to protect the world, and the Hulk just wants to smash things. You will have team members who disagree on how to solve a problem, and you as the manager have to resolve the conflict and make an executive decision.

That’s not so bad, but there are two things that always make me angry when dealing with team management. The first is when the team does not live up to its potential. For example, after making sure the team has the training they need and tools they desire to perform the job, you sometimes see disappointing performance metrics and productivity scores. Could the data be wrong? Maybe, but now you must dissect the process and the team’s performance to determine the problem. Is the problem in the process or in the team members?

It’s tough to realize a team is underperforming, but the second and absolute worst part is when you have to tell them that they are not as great as they think they are. It is very frustrating to try to push ultra-talented teams to do more, especially when they don’t want to. One reason for this is that talented team members tend to be focused on efficiency and self-preservation, meaning they may take the whole “work smart, not hard” motto a little too literally. And talented people are used to others telling them they’re great and treating them as if they are special, and very rarely does anyone question or challenge them. Therefore, they are uncomfortable with being told, “that’s not good enough” or “you can do better.”

Instead of getting angry and frustrated, try these four suggestions to help keep your cool when you’re managing teams.

  1. Know what motivates them. You need to know what drives each team member individually, and somehow incorporate that into the team goals and objectives. Give them something greater to aspire to, and they will work toward it.
  2. Criticize in private; celebrate in public. Everyone has a bit of an ego and likes to be recognized for his or her accomplishments. But everyone also has a preferred way to be criticized, and it’s not in public. You never want to berate or negatively criticize an employee in front of others.
  3. Don’t be afraid of them. All too often managers are afraid to challenge or question their teams – they don’t want to upset team members or lose them to another company, so they simply let it go. Really good employees do not mind having honest yet difficult conversations. If you have a team member who leaves because of constructive criticism, then he or she wasn’t the right person anyway.
  4. Empower, encourage, and trust. Although managing talented teams requires some hands-on guidance, at some point you have to allow them to do their jobs. You must trust their decision-making skills, their brilliance, and their ability to get the job done as requested.

Again, it would be amazing if employees could work out all of their differences on their own and save the day, but that only happens in the movies.

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About Eric Friedman

Author

Eric Friedman is the founder and CEO of eSkill Corporation, a leading provider of Web-based skills testing for pre-employment and training. With academic degrees in Psychology and Business, and experience with both mature and expansion-stage company growth, Eric has focused on how best to hire and motivate team members to be the best they can be for their companies.

4 COMMENTS Join the discussion
  • Manny L. May, 28, 2015

    In my experience, my team members often criticized me as their manager. In these cases, I tried to imagine that I was just an actor staging a conflict scene, and my role was to handle this as peacefully and inoffensively as possible. It really helped me to not lose my temper and to not spoil my relationships with people. 

  • Sheilla P. May, 31, 2015

    What’s the difference between ordinary employees and talented ones? The ordinary employees follow the rules and guidelines, while the talented ones invent these rules and guidelines. Since they are pioneers, it’s almost impossible to estimate the results and duration of their work, which is frustrating.

  • Ash B. June, 02, 2015

    Can anyone afford to have talented people on a team? If you want to outdo your competitors, you must hire these people. But remember that they make their inventions under the influence of high intellect, inspiration, and intuition. These things cannot be put on a conveyor belt or a production line, and you never know when you will get the result and profit from it. So, be patient. 

  • Mindy L. June, 06, 2015

    Don’t know how to handle a group of talents when they don’t want to do their job? Remember the TV show with the extremely talented Dr. House? He thought that everyone around him was stupid, played video games at work, and did mischievous things to his boss when he was bored. The only way to handle him was to keep him busy. 

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Guest June, 06, 2015