When Managing a Team, Don’t Forget to Be a Human Being

Emily Mermell
4 min readNov 21, 2023

--

As the workforce gets younger, expectations of leaders are getting higher.

Gone are the days when solely focusing on the numbers crowns you as a good manager. In fact, avoiding things like showing empathy, caring personally, and creating a safe space for failure can actually prevent you from hitting your goals and getting results.

I once had a manager who told me that she was her best when her team was winning, she used this as an excuse when we tried to give her feedback on team culture and low morale. It was a tough time for the company, and her management style was severely impacting the mental health of her team.

Unfortunately, this attitude simply doesn’t cut it. Being a good manager through thick and thin, showing support, and being human is the only way to get your team through the rough patches and motivate them when they need it most.

When it comes to managing, being a real, authentic human being will help you earn the trust of your team and your peers, leading to more growth opportunities for you and higher morale for your team, allowing them to focus on their goals and empowering them to do their best work.

Let’s talk about how.

Build genuine connections

Individuals on a team are more than just a collection of skills, they are groups of people with emotions, experiences, and personal lives. That means that delegating swaths of work their way without understanding what’s on their plate, what their goals are, and who they are as people, is a completely ineffective strategy that is bound to spiral out of control.

Taking time to connect with your team members will help you understand them on a deeper level, building trust and camaraderie. This will make the easy times easier, and simplify the hard times. Get to know your team on a personal level, understand their interests, and be aware of their challenges before jumping into the deep end with demands and high expectations.

Practice effective communication

Communication is the backbone of any successful team. However, effective communication goes beyond delivering instructions and updates. Be open and transparent with your team members. Share your vision, listen to their concerns, and encourage them to express their ideas.

A human-centered approach to communication fosters a culture of collaboration and innovation, creating a safe space for feedback and opinions without leading to defensive behavior.

As a manager, the way your team communicates starts with you, so make sure you’re always leading by example.

Show empathy often

Empathy is a powerful tool in team management and can be seen as a superpower that helps you instantly become more approachable and trustworthy to others.

Understand the unique needs and perspectives of your team members. Recognize their achievements and acknowledge their struggles. By demonstrating empathy, you create a supportive atmosphere where individuals feel valued and understood. This, in turn, boosts morale and encourages a stronger commitment to team goals.

Practice and promote work-life balance

In the pursuit of success and company wins, it’s easy to fall into the trap of having crappy work-life balance throughout a company. Poor work-life balance leads to resentment and burnout.

Once a manager starts practicing poor boundaries, this signals to the rest of the team that they should be doing the same. If you’re working late, your team will work late. If you send Slacks on the weekend, your team will feel obligated to respond.

As a leader, your job is to lead by example, and that absolutely applies when it comes to showing the importance of work-life balance. You can do this by taking time off often, signing off at a decent hour, and setting realistic expectations when it comes to due dates and goals.

Show that you care about your team’s well-being and you’ll likely see a more engaged and motivated team.

Celebrate successes and learn from failures

Successes and failures are part of any team’s journey. When you experience a win, celebrate it. And don’t just focus on the fact that you hit the goal, but how you hit the goal. Learn from it as a team and brainstorm ways that you can replicate that success as a group.

On the flip side, when faced with setbacks, approach them as opportunities for growth rather than assigning blame. A human-centered leader fosters an environment where learning from mistakes is encouraged, and resilience is built.

Creating a culture where people aren’t afraid to fail will open your organization up to innovation and growth.

Adapt and stay flexible

In a world where technology is constantly changing and markets are on the fritz, adaptability is crucial. Be open to new ideas, and be flexible in your approach to challenges. Understand that each team member has their own strengths and preferred working styles. By adapting your management approach to accommodate these differences, you can maximize the team’s overall effectiveness.

Some of the best feedback I ever received was that I needed to learn how to pivot better when I experienced a setback or something changed in the middle of a project. This changed the way I work and allowed me to focus less on the emotional turmoil of change and more on the opportunity to innovate.

Summing it up

At the end of the day, we all want to be treated with kindness, empathy, and compassion. Focusing on human-centered leadership puts the people you serve at the center of your strategy, enabling them to hit their goals and grow by simply building trust and creating a safe space. This allows your team to focus on their goals instead of internal team politics.

By building connections, communicating effectively, demonstrating empathy, promoting work-life balance, celebrating successes, and adapting to change, you can lead a team that thrives both professionally and personally.

--

--