Photo by Peter Scott — from Flickr.com

Do You Want Your Team to Follow You?

Work on them first

Bel Perez
May 6 · 8 min read

Abracadabra! You are a manager!

No magic spell or contract signature will make your team work for you the moment you become the boss.

They need a solid reason.

Whether you built the team or replaced their manager; you won’t get anywhere if you fail at handling people.

No matter the size of the team, it’s critical to anticipate issues. Are you aware of their concerns? The potential risks they bring to the table?

We all hear managers blame their workers for failure or lacklustre results. Taking responsibility for the results? Not so often.

Excuses

Did you hire the wrong person?

Did you look away until someone became an issue?

Were you too busy to pay attention to your workers?

If you think you can just blame failure on your team and escape unscathed; think twice.

I know what you’re thinking.

You pay them to do their job.

Well, you are paid to make sure they do it well.

Micromanaging is not the solution. I don’t believe any teams will thrive under suffocating scrutiny.

It isn’t healthy for anyone.

If you think you need to micromanage your team, you either need to replace your workers or give up on the idea of being a manager. Whatever the case, you’re doing it wrong.

But how do you keep your team under control when you’re too busy to breathe? Is there a magic spell to build a team you can trust?

Work on your team may be the answer.

Know your employees beforehand and stay on top of the situation. Give them the freedom to surprise you with what they can do.

With a clear vision of what you’re dealing with, you’ll have the opportunity to draft a roadmap to take them to new heights.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can control everything.

You can’t and won’t.

But with a sharp eye and a smart strategy, you’ll make your team work for you.

Think of your team and pre-assign each employee into one of the following categories: best overall performance vs attitude, average, and conflictive.

Superstars

Don’t mistake them with super-productive workers with a toxic attitude. Those are renegators.

Do your best to keep them away from any renegators who have gotten away with it for too long. Those can stand up as leaders and prevent potential superstars from thriving!

How to identify them:

  • Best overall performance and attitude.
  • Strong personalities. Charisma or influence over their colleagues.
  • Experience. They know their shit and are always ready to help anyone struggling.
  • You can trust them to deal with other teams, clients or managers.
  • They need less supervision and are comfortable with it.

Let them shine!

  • They can have a positive influence on your team’s energy and morale.
  • Their knowledge adds value and confidence to the group.
  • Will stand up and take over during a crisis.
  • Don’t let them get bored. Delegate some more complicated tasks on them when possible to create an achievable challenge.
  • Need to keep improving to stay engaged.
  • Build them to be future supervisors or managers.

Keep an eye out for:

  • Lack of motivation or direction. They need clear goals and always have some room for improvement.
  • Frustration when others are not at their level, or if they feel they carry too much in their shoulders. They need to know their work is appreciated. Work on perspective and empathy by helping others.
  • The core group or renegators envy or openly reject them. Be sensible with communication; don’t show favouritism or compare insecure workers with them.
  • Be careful with apparent top performers who are hidden renegators; they can take the whole group down. Those must be spotted and controlled immediately. If a ‘superstar’ is frustrated and demotivated, why shouldn’t I?
  • You don’t want a team full of superstars; they won’t last long. Use them wisely before ambition takes them somewhere else. Give them growth opportunities and listen to their aspirations. They need gentle guidance and reassurance.
  • If you end up with a combination of some of these points, beware of arrogance or confidence loss. Both scenarios will need a dose of assertive reality and a firm hand to either lift or tame them.

Core group

Core workers are the foundation of your team and the majority. They will either follow the leaders or stay low. There might be some potential superstars hiding there if you know how to spot them.

While stars and renegators have a higher turnover, your core group is likely to stay. It’s critical you do your best to keep them engaged, motivated, and out of their comfort zone.

They aren’t moved by ambition, so they might stay where they are. They will lean toward the superstar or renegator cluster depending on how you lead them.

How to identify them:

  • Decent workers, no superstars by any means but get the job done.
  • Average quality and results.
  • They will do what you ask of them, nothing more.
  • Likely to stay in their role long-term.
  • Followers rather than leaders.

Help them shine!

  • Focus on training to build confidence.
  • Give them the right direction. They might be potential superstars in disguise. Help them get there!
  • They will stay in their role longer. Involve them on onboarding processes and have them mentor new colleagues.
  • Take them out of their comfort zone.
  • Let them feel special. They need to feel appreciated and trusted to stay engaged.
  • Surround them with positive examples. They tend to be followers or stay neutral, use that wisely.

Keep an eye out for:

  • They might feel in the shadow. This cluster needs the most attention, training and personalised guidance. Give them ongoing and continuous training. Show their effort is appreciated and give positive or growth-oriented feedback whenever possible.
  • Frustration or lack of confidence if they don’t progress. Set clear expectations and goals, review them with them frequently. Ask them for feedback on how you can help them become stars.
  • Lack of proactivity can equal low reliability. Delegate low difficulty tasks on them to increase confidence. Feeling their manager relies on them will keep them engaged and prevent unfavourable comparisons with superstars.
  • Don’t let them get comfortable; they’ll expect superstars or managers to save the day when things get ugly. Set clear expectations, ask them to do self-reviews. Do frequent one-to-ones. Show them you know them well, point out their strengths and frame weaknesses as useful feedback. They must know your goal is to help them grow and progress.
  • They are food for renegators; the most insecure workers might give up and underperform. This must be spotted and controlled immediately. Anger and bitterness are hugely influencing emotions for a reason: they feel real when we see them in others.
  • Lack of direction. Be transparent and direct for effective team communication. They should never be left guessing what you meant.
Photo by Jeff Eaton — from Flickr.com

Renegators

They are the most dangerous elements in your team. They are prone to be negative, problematic, loud and detrimental for the group.

If you aren’t a strong leader, renegators will eat you alive and take over quickly. If you are a bad manager, you’ll create them.

Analyse them and craft a plan B. You’ll need to either contain them or repair the damage.

Renegators require you to stand your ground and a massive dose of patience. Be prepared for confrontation and difficult conversations.

They will challenge management at any crack they see, and you’ll lose the group if you don’t handle the situation correctly.

How to identify them:

  • Potentially misleading performance. They tend to be on any of the extremes. Either high productivity full of negligence or underperformance.
  • No matter how big or small, they’ll find a reason to complain openly. They’ll make sure everybody hears it.
  • They’ll threaten with leaving upon any operational change or negative feedback.
  • Signs of insecurity. Everything is about them.
  • They generate tension in the team. Prone to personal attacks or even bullying.

Keep calm and tame them

  • Negligence, carelessness, lousy service, non-reliability. Do regular quality reviews and provide assertive feedback. Learn about them so you can rightfully call them out when needed. If you hesitate, they’ll take it as a win.
  • Lies, conspiring with other renegators, making colleagues uncomfortable, potentially manipulative. Might take down superstars or be arrogant. A renegator can be tamed into a core worker stance, even into a superstar, if handled correctly. Make sure they are aware you know them well and won’t be tricked by manipulation. Don’t be afraid to give them a dose of reality or call them out.
  • They might threaten to leave. Let them go! Never be afraid to replace someone. Nobody is irreplaceable — not even you.
  • Low performance, negligence, bad attitude and no ownership of their actions. Work with and on their insecurities. Renegators are often self-conscious. Highlight their strengths, give sensible points for improvement and try to involve them with superstars. Abort the experiment immediately if you see any signs they could influence them negatively.
  • Turn their misconceptions around and be firm to dismantle their bullshit and unreasonable complaints. It’s not about them; it’s about the full picture. Make a point that you see their potential and want to help them be happy and confident at work. They should never feel they’re on top of you or the team, and you should never give them a reason to become a victim.
  • Monitor any signs of anxiety, exasperation and aggressive behaviours. Zero tolerance for this. Remove them immediately from the group and study further action.
  • Tackle any reasonable complaints before they do. You’ll lose the whole team if you don’t do this. Be transparent with your workers and admit you understand the situation is not ideal. Try to give realistic hopes whenever possible. Make it clear you hear your team’s pain and are working on a solution.

Final thoughts

The truth is there won’t be a manual to handle every single worker, and you’ll find different challenges I didn’t cover in this article.

You’ll never be prepared or see all issues coming, but you still have to do your best.

The last piece of advice I’d like to give you is to train yourself.

Don’t be afraid to ask your company to give you management training.

Take part in leadership exercises and courses and make sure you attend conflict management workshops. You should do this regardless of the composition and size of your team.

Success begins and ends with you.


Do you know your team? How do you handle your renegators? Share your thoughts about this in the comments section.

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Bel Perez

Written by

Bel Perez

Game changer. Anti-fraud strategist. Fascinated by human behaviour. Challenges are just a matter of perspective. Find me on The Ascent, The Glossary & more.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +469K people. Follow to join our community.