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Managerial lessons I’ve learned while working in teams

My initial studies to enter the IT world was for a Computer Science Diploma which was a yearlong course covering the basics of many computer science areas – project management, linux/windows, networking, technician work, SQL and two programming languages as well as a few other short modules. Due to the fact that I was a first-time employee I was not going to be employed as anything managerial of course, so I worked as a programmer for around 3 years.

After 3 years of programming, most of the theory I learned on non-programming subjects such as the management/project management area were long and forgotten. I had just been awarded a lead programmer position where the boss had encouraged me to be the teams leader as well and I was quite interested in this despite being the youngest member of the team.

Despite being “thrown into the deep-end” the boss of this company was a fantastic manager who was hands on and involved, watching him and listening to his methods was a great learning experience for me as he had all the employees proud to be part of the business, it was almost like a ‘cult’, without the negative connotations. His biggest focus was on communication and he stressed me to have group meetings with my team every week, which I ended up doing every Monday and Friday.

Another vital issue that was stressed across the entire organisation was quick and efficient responses to any form of communication amongst employees and of course with clients. If the issue requested was not yet completed, or required a few hours to complete, all employees had to respond instantly to any communications stating that they were “on it” and with any questions that came to mind, sooner rather than later. Failure to do so resulted in the boss questioning the misconduct in-front of all of the other employees (open-plan working environment). This, in retrospect, I would imagine was a tactic of making the rule stick in one’s mind.

These lessons that I had learned I have carried with me and into the past 4 years of running my own business and I believe, besides the obvious requirement of good work, that this has been the prime reason why almost none of my clients have left my services.

While these lessons may seem obvious in theory to most people, the ability to stick to it and actually carry through good communication is surprisingly lacking.

To generalise the lessons I have learned, I would consider training potential employees – managerial and non-managerial – on some fundamental guidelines of communication (stating my above “story” to help realise the lessons to be learned):

  • Put yourself into the “shoes” of the recipient of your communication. If you are dealing with a colleague, client or employee and require information pertinent to what you are doing, always communicate your actions or intentions of actions as efficiently as possible. Waiting on a response can cause irritation, stress and/or anxiety – which can lead to a negative attitude and can cause resentment and many other negative consequences. You are the expert on what you are doing and this needs to be conveyed correctly and within a reasonable timeframe.

Kumar, Kalwani & Dada (1997) state that “waiting experiences are typically negative and have been known to affect customers’ overall satisfaction with the product or service”, while this states a product or service I am comfortable in relating it to communications as well.

Especially in the current fast-paced world, the introduction of the internet, email, mobile accessibility and access to information, people require instant gratification and their needs must be met in order to keep good relationships.

My initial lesson learned regarding the team leadership and watching my boss lead the company, I would outline as follows:

  • Always be aware of the activities of the members in your team and let the members of the team be aware of each other’s activities.

Bring your team together as a group and have regular (without being regular enough to interrupt progress) progress reports from each member of the team, it is important that all members are listening to the progress reports of each other in case they are needed to help or take over at a point in time, they will not be completely in the dark.

Monitor your deadlines carefully against the progress of your team, speak to your team if deadlines aren’t being met to identify problems/causes of delays.

Do not let time wear away on your level of planning and meetings. Persist with your progress reports and meetings regardless of capacity and other potential external factors. It is important to keep to your managerial routine and maintain efficiency. Letting meetings slip, or become too casual can result in members of the team not paying attention, yourself losing track of the teams doings and deadlines being missed.

Maintaining these qualities, I believe, is an important element in maintaining good and successful business relationships.

References

Kumar P., Kalwani M. & Dada M (1997) ‘The Impact of waiting time guarantees on customers’ waiting experience’, Marketing Science, 16 (4), pp.295-314, Marketing Science [Online]. Available from: http://mktsci.journal.informs.org/cgi/content/abstract/16/4/295 (Accessed: 13 February 2011).

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