Managing a large team is very challenging. It’s almost impossible to give every person the individualized attention and focus that they want and need. It can feel like there’s not enough time in the day to balance your personal work and the management of the team.
Over time, I figured out how to manage a large team while achieving top ratings at work and not losing my mind.
1. Build Relationships
Before I was a manager, I used to sit at my desk and do my work hunched over all day. I got up for meetings and bathroom breaks but very rarely got up to socialize with others.
That all changed when I became a manager. I realized that building relationships with the people you manage is key to being successful.
Now, I get up from my desk multiple times a day to perform the rounds. I go by all of my direct report’s cubicles to see how their projects are going, give them updates from meetings I’ve been in, and more importantly, to just chat. I learn about their dogs, their kids, and their upcoming vacation plans.
I never realized how important office chit chat is to building relationships.
It’s important for your team to know that you care about them and for them to begin to care about you.
In addition to getting to know each other better, making the rounds also familiarizes the team with giving you updates.
It’s extremely difficult for a manager of a large team to stay on top of what individuals on the team are working on. Not everyone will alert you when there are problems or issues that need to be escalated. It’s equally as unlikely that you’ll get status updates when things are going well.
By reaching out to your team regularly for updates, you are encouraging the team to reach out to you when they have updates as well. This open-communication helps you stay on top of everything that is going on, helps with decision-making, and also prepares you for discussions with your management.
Keeping the updates conversational helps avoid the feeling that you’re micro-managing the team.
Email updates are the worst.
I had one manager who asked us to email her on Fridays with a list of everything we worked on that week. She was trying to stay on top of everything but It made us feel micro-managed.
We were nervous that we were going to be judged on our list of tasks so we spent time crafting the perfect email to showcase our work.
Never micro-manage your people.
If in-person updates are not possible, than call just to check-in.
I also recommend setting up time once every two weeks for 1x1s. Employees love that set aside closed door time that they have with you. Don’t habitually cancel or reschedule the 1x1s as it comes across like you don’t value them.
2. Delegate Everything
You can’t do everything yourself. Delegation is the key to staying afloat when managing a large team.
In fact, delegate absolutely everything you are able to delegate.
If you are filling your day up with tasks and meetings that you could delegate to your team, you are shortchanging your team.
Managing a large team successfully takes a considerable amount of your work and time.
You should try to clear your schedule as much as possible so you have time to meet with the team, time to plan training to make them better, time to update your boss, and time for them to approach you.
If you’re constantly in meetings or on the phone at your desk, your team won’t feel comfortable approaching you to give you important updates. It’s important for them to know you make time for them.
If you’re afraid to delegate an item because you don’t think the quality of work will be as high or it will take too long than if you did it yourself, you’re also shortchanging your team out of an opportunity.
Extra assignments are a chance for your direct reports to learn new skills but to also get recognized by your management or other coworkers for assignments outside the norm.
The more people that are exposed to their good work, the better for them and for you, especially at year-end when you’re trying to get them a raise or bonus.
The first few times you delegate to an employee, work with them on the assignment or have them return it to you for a quick edit before it goes out. This will help them understand what you are looking for and the extra time you spend now will pay off in the long run when you can continue to delegate to that employee.
3. Empower The Team To Make Decisions
It’s extremely ineffective for you to make every single decision for your team. Empower your team to make good decisions and run with them.
It’s a no risk situation. If you’re able to achieve that open-line of communication, you should be well-informed on what is going on and will have time to correct a less than perfect decision before it goes too far down the wrong path.
In fact, it’s risky to NOT empower your team. Employees like having control and input over their day to day work.
They are closer to the work and may have great suggestions on what should be done. Combined with your input on what is going on with the department or broader organizational goals, they will be well-suited to make a good decision.
Employees want to feel that you trust them and value their input.
If you’re not asking daily, “What do you think should be done?” then you’re not empowering the team enough.
Empowering the team will take items off your plate while encouraging them to be their best.
You will of course be making important team decisions at a management level, but it’s important for them to have a say as well.
Remember, the team doesn’t work for you. You work for them!
4. Implement a Mentoring Program
If you manage a large team, you will likely have employees at different levels. It’s extremely time-consuming to get the new or more junior employees up to speed when you are juggling a million things at once.
I’ve found that implementing a mentoring program does wonders in getting those new associates ready to go.
The most successful mentoring program shifts the responsibility of getting the new hire up to speed on the mentor. While you can set up formal training for the mentee, the best training happens when the mentee is working side by side with the mentor.
This can be a drain on the mentor’s time so it’s important for the mentor to see the benefits of getting a new person up to speed.
- It will result in less work for them long term when they can start to shift some of their work on to the mentee.
- It also gives more senior employees a chance to take on a leadership or team lead role, which eventually might lead to a management position.
The best mentors give feedback to their mentees which helps make the team better.
It’s almost as if the mentors are “managing” the mentees, effectively reducing the size of your team. It’s important to still meet with the mentees regularly but having someone else watching their progress helps with your workload.
Now, it’s important that the mentees feel like they are a partner to the mentor and not a subordinate but if you have good mentors, that issue will not come up.
5. Resource Effectively
The last tip to successfully manage a large team is to resource effectively. In my experience, it’s important to balance developing subject matter experts with rotating people around to different areas.
Many managers resource their team on the same type of tasks all the time. While this approach helps develop expertise, it also confines resourcing later on when the manager has no one who knows how to do that specific task when the person is out sick, on vacation, or leaves the company.
Even worse, if the business need changes, a manager may not have enough employees with a specific set of knowledge to meet that new demand.
Rotating your employees around to different tasks helps keep a well-rounded team but also helps your employees learn new skills. Becoming bored in the role could make someone want to leave. Retain your talent by giving them growth opportunities and stretch assignments in new areas.
Although, you don’t want to rotate too quickly so that the employees never really learn a position or feel stressed that they are constantly in catch up mode. A good rule of thumb is to rotate assignments every 6 months or so to keep things interesting.
Some employees may require more or less time before moving on.
There is never a one-size fits all approach when it comes to managing your direct reports.
Readers, what advice do you have for managing a large team? Do these tips resonate with you?
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