Careers Advice: Secrets to successful team management

Written by: Marilyn Smith
Published on: 20 May 2019


Many planners will manage teams of varying sizes and disciplines in their career. There is no one model of management, and everyone brings their own flair to the role. Different leadership styles have varying degrees of success, and different styles are suited to different types of teams, and tasks to be achieved. However, there are a number of basic parameters to be followed to maximise the potential for your team to achieve success:

  • As the manager, make sure you fully understand what role your team has, and what they are expected to achieve. If you don’t understand what the team should achieve, how will the team know?

  • Make sure that your team understands what is expected of them, what they have to achieve, and how success will be measured. Everyone will have their own way of doing this, but regular team discussions to outline where you are going and how you are going to get there are invaluable. Set out achievable milestones and timescales. Telling a team their role is to deliver a local plan in a year is mind-boggling. Break it down into milestones to be achieved per month, so that the team can see that they are achieving tasks and having an influence.

  • Report upwards on your teams’ achievements, and make sure that you bring back any praise. Equally, you must be honest with any failings and missed targets. Do not blindly support your team in the face of poor results. It will only antagonize your own manager. Be honest – if your team hasn’t achieved, admit it, and explain why. Ideally, you will have already discussed this with your team, and come up with a plan to improve this to get back on track

  • Understand the individuals in your team, and what makes them tick. You don’t have to be best mates, drinking down the pub every week, but enquiring about their family, or hobbies, shows that you notice them, and have their interests at heart. A daily “good morning” or “goodbye” doesn’t cost you time, but will engender good team spirit.

  • Find out what the strengths and weaknesses of individuals in your team are. Don’t ask the person who is more numeric than literate to write the creative reports, and vice versa. If someone has a strength / interest, such as in IT, or answering complaints, or appraising new legislation, give them tasks to use this for the benefit of the team, and also to increase the confidence and self worth of the individual.

  • Take the time to find out what motivates the individuals in the team. Always provide the training and support needed to do their role, but also try and offer training and experience in the direction they want their career to go in. The cost of the training will be insignificant if you have fulfilled and dedicated team members who excel at their job.

  • Understand the team dynamics. Not everyone will be best friends, some by their nature like to be central to everything, some are more reserved. You won’t change anyone’s personality, but the role of the manager is to get everyone in the team working together

  • Invest in your team, and work to keep them involved and motivated. Give them the opportunity to progress, to try more complex tasks, take on more responsibility, Recruitment is a long and uncertain process – if you have good people in your team, keep them!

Remember, the performance of the manager is measured by how the team performs. The good manager will make sure that the team is given every opportunity to flourish and achieve.

Marilyn Smith is planning decisions manager at Barking & Dagenham Council