Handling a small team: Prevention is better than cure

Mukti Shah

Fights, quarrels, backbiting... these are all issues that most small teams might face and getting them straight might cost you more time than you can imagine. Well here are some tips to avoid all those problems in the first place.

1.       Align the Team

Small teams can be incredibly productive if they are truly engaged. As a leader it is imperative to ensure that the team is aligned to a common goal. People value being a part of something meaningful. If you are able to make them see how their contribution helps the Organization they are more likely to be motivated and remain truly engaged. When all team members are working for the same goal chances of conflict are reduced significantly. Providing feedback regarding progress on the shared goal then becomes the next step. A visioning exercise once a year and regular reviews can help keep your team on track.

2.       Remain neutral

In small teams cohesiveness is usually high. It is vital for the leader to appear neutral and not favour a particular member over another. Often the relative power and importance of a team member depends on his or her proximity to the leader. One way of managing this is to ensure that there are formal channels of communication and dissemination of information. So instead of just catching up and chatting with team members at the water cooler regarding next quarter’s plan, it’s better to hold formal meetings.

3.       Prioritize and Delegate

It’s important to delegate work by prioirity and ensure all important tasks are tackled first. With limited resources to accomplish targets, planning and delegating is crucial. If this is done on a daily basis resources can be optimized and the fire fighting minimized. This also helps manage stress levels of the team which often leads to heated arguments and eventually conflict.

4.       Identify their unique strengths:

Since resources are limited in a small team, it is important to identify and leverage unique strengths. Mapping your team members’ strengths is critical to keep things moving towards the target. While technical expertise is easier to measure, using psychometric assessments can help you map personality and behavioural strengths and also figure out the best way to deal with each individual. Certain instruments like the Extended DISC can also help map team relationships and predict potential areas of conflict between various team members thus helping you deal more effectively incase of conflict.

5. Resolve issues quickly:

If, inspite of all these cautions things become stormy, don’t withhold concerns until they have become overwhelming. The sooner you tackle small team issues, the easier it will be to resolve them. Remember to separate the person from the behavior while managing team members who are in conflict. Use assertive statements to manage upset parties in a polite but firm manner.

Mukti Shah is a Clinical Psychologist, Corporate Consultant and an accredited Entrepreneurial Motivation Trainer.