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How to manage great teams—and yourself

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Teaming is a science. Systems theory, physics and practice have shown how people work together. 

Dr. Janice Presser is a pioneering practitioner of teaming science and its underlying theory. The cliche is to say she wrote the book, which she has—seven times over. Presser is a consultant to executives while working on the question of how spatial technology will impact relationships in the future.

Not to get lost in theory, she stays focused on people.

“Managers are challenged every day to make sure they have the right person in the right job,” Presser said. “Job descriptions, position requirements and requisition procedures are supposed to make the process easier, but they rarely ask the real question: Is this person the right fit for us—and are we the right fit for them?”

She talked with analyst, brand strategist, podcaster and TalentCulture Chief Executive Officer Meghan M. Biro about “managing not just teams, but everyone we work with—including ourselves.”

Companies struggle with management issues because not all people assigned to management positions are qualified managers—instead moving up through companies based on resumes or friendships. They fall short when faced with actual situations.

“It’s a real struggle to go against human nature,” Presser said. “The best managers understand that people have different motivations for working. If you ask managers to be everything—inspirational, coordinator, trainer, mentor, customer happiness officer—you are setting them up to fail.

“Stop writing job descriptions and instead think of what your organization needs,” she said. “Then figure out who is best to fill that role. Ambitious people will compete. Do you want them to fight for promotions or just get the work done?”

Anti-management 

Presser noted that people who know their jobs probably hate being managed.

“True confession,” she said. “I’m a better leader than manager. So, if you force me to be a manager, I will not enjoy it, and our people will suffer.

“Sometimes all I want is not to be demotivated,” Presser said, citing her motivation blog at Teaming Science. “I’ve been fired more times for innovation than anything else.”

Biro wants to broaden the scope of management.

“It’s too narrowly defined in many companies,” she said. “More than administration or accountability, management is a complex dynamic of interactions, an ongoing relationship.

“Perhaps we’re still adhering to the old vision of hierarchical, top-down management,” Biro said. “Meanwhile, the most successful teams are often managing themselves and managing their manager.”

People who succeed draw from a host of resources.

“Today’s managers can’t be effective without a bigger toolkit,” Biro said. “That addresses not just the job done but the person doing the job and the team of people doing it. Everyone is connected to a larger mission and meaning.”

Applying strategies can improve the approach to managing. The emphasis should be on people skills—starting with communication—to understand the strengths and needs of teams to help them succeed. The first move is not a reflexive reference to statistics.

“Remove stress,” Presser said. “Stop adding to it. Remember, inclusion, inclusion, inclusion. Diversity and equality, too. Start by not screening people out because you think they won’t fit.

“For instance, short people can sell, even if they don’t have a Y chromosome,” she said. “It’s what’s inside. Team with your recruiters so they get it.”

Trickle down humanity 

Recognizing people’s humanity starts from the top. 

“Leadership and management are not generics but are often presented that way in training,” Presser said. “Understand the people you are managing, especially their challenges. What’s easy for you may not be for them.

“Find something to love about each person,” she said with a qualifier. “Spiritual love, I mean, not the kind that lands you in HR trouble.”

In Presser’s books, she covers naughty versus nice in the love department at length.

“If you have a charismatic CEO, do not hire managers like that unless you work for a chaos factory,” she said. “All human relationships are teaming. You want better love at home, try being nicer at work.”

Biro urges leaders to “open it up.”

“Managing is not just a verb,” she said. “It’s a state of being. It’s a continuous process. It’s empathy and connection. Soften it up—that’s a start.

“Redefine managing,” Biro said. “What if instead of calling it managing we called it teaming? What kind of new vision can we bring to an old term?”

Variety also spices up management.

“Being flexible is so important,” Biro said. “We don’t all work—or learn—the same.”

Leaders must clearly state corporate goals and objectives with emphasis on the central role of employees to earn success. Managers should reflect corporate ideals with employee welfare uppermost in mind.

Tech amplifies reality

“It’s tech, tech, tech,” Biro said. “As leaders, we’re often faced with big decisions around tech spend. Now, given the pressures on workforce, on teams, commit to this one: technology that facilitates real communication, in real time.

“Consider managing as an organization-wide initiative to be better people, at scale,” she said. “Managing these days is about coping, innovating, relating, forming teams and getting the best out of everyone.”

Leaders must embody their ideals. 

“Model the corporate love you want to inspire,” Biro said. “Riffing off of Janice, corporate love is when we appreciate and respect the people on our teams for what they do—because we all make it happen. When there’s corporate love, managing comes easier.”

Smart management strategies are not contingent on a crisis. 

Work at home is not just for pandemics,” Presser said. “It’s a smart strategy when you have leaders who can manage at a distance.

“Figure out how to get your people to team better with their tech,” she said. “Tech should be for efficiency, not a threat to job security.”

Presser fired off sharp management observations:

  • Leaders set the pace. Do not be a jerk. Really. I mean it. Behave yourself. Love, Mom.
  • Hello, CEO, I’d like you to meet your HR team, just in case you didn’t know you had one.
  • What has HR done for you lately? The same question goes to the CEO and rank and file. HR peeps, always be prepared to answer with a big smile.
  • Back to basics. Don’t park your Porsche in your reserved space and pay low wages to those who do the work. 

“I hashtag #diversity, #equality and #inclusion more than #SDRR—sex, drugs and rock and roll—these days,” Presser said. “I hope we can make it reality right now.”

To inspire people, she passed along a When the World is One video.

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Jim Katzaman
Jim Katzaman is a manager at Largo Financial Services. A writer by trade, he graduated from Lebanon Valley College, Pennsylvania, with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He enlisted in the Air Force and served for 25 years in public affairs – better known in the civilian world as public relations. He also earned an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science in Public Affairs. Since retiring, he has been a consultant and in the federal General Service as a public affairs specialist. He also acquired life and health insurance licenses, which resulted in his present affiliation with Largo Financial Services. In addition to expertise in financial affairs, he gathers the majority of his story content from Twitter chats. This has led him to publish about a wide range of topics such as social media, marketing, sexual harassment, workplace trends, productivity and financial management. Medium has named him a top writer in social media.

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