Managing a small team can be challenging, especially in the post-pandemic economy. Many businesses are still recovering from the understaffing caused by the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent restrictions. An undersized team usually means limited resources–a small budget and fewer hands on deck. Fewer team members may need to take on a larger and more varied workload, which can lead to burnout. As CEO of Denali Venture Philanthropy, Bo Parfet has helped many entrepreneurs manage a small team and grow in the process. Here are 5 of his top tips to help you effectively manage a small team.
Build Trust among Team Members
A team’s success largely comes down to its leadership. If you manage a small team, set clear goals and expectations. What’s the team’s mission? What are the specific steps you’ll need to take toward these goals?
Software company Knows Your Team recently surveyed 597 managers and employees to get insight into what inspires trust. The results were surprising. Popular tactics like social team-building activities ranked lowest in survey responses. So what really works? Most participants hinted that they really like to see their manager’s true character. They feel more trusting when their team leader shows their vulnerability by sharing weaknesses, exposing mistakes, and expressing empathy. Employees also reported that team leaders should explain the intentions behind their decisions.
Being efficient and productive is all about managing workflow and expectations. Set clear goals and timelines. When speaking to entrepreneurs, Bo Parfet encourages them to be clear when defining the team’s mission from the start so that everyone feels they’re on the same page. One of the best ways to do this is by investing in project management tools for daily tasks and future projects.
In what has been called the ‘Great American Labor Shortage,’ businesses of all sizes across the United States (and globally) are still struggling with understaffing. Many employees felt compelled to quit or change their jobs during the pandemic, leaving employers with a challenging dilemma. In his work, Bo Parfet has noticed that small businesses have been most affected by this, given their already limited resources.
As life returns to business-as-usual, some employers will overcorrect and overstaff. Labor forecasting helps to combat this issue by improving the accuracy of your scheduling. These software tools use historical sales data, for example, to predict how many employees you need each day. Those who manage a small team are now taking advantage of analytics tools to optimize productivity.
Cross-train your Team
Having a small team can be more cost-effective but usually requires team members to wear many hats. Look at where your team’s skill sets may overlap. Bo Parfet recommends small businesses use monthly or quarterly check-ins with team members to ask about their interest in learning new skills. For example, you may have a public relations officer who’s capable and interested in managing your website content as well. Often, staff will become more engaged when given the opportunity to branch out and diversify their portfolio. In today’s climate, it’s always helpful to have talent who’s capable of performing various roles so you can shift them around if one department is in need of extra help. Consider offering new training that would benefit your company’s growth.
Reduce Authority Constraints
Often, having rigid authority constraints will cost you time and money. For example, when a team needs approval from only one or two managers to proceed with work, it can really slow down their productivity. A classic example is the production line model. Most large manufacturing firms have multiple leaders in positions of authority to give the green light on work–otherwise, productivity would slow down considerably. This is sometimes overlooked by those who manage a small team.
Bo Parfet suggests not taking on all decisions by yourself. Prepare experienced team members you trust to make certain executive decisions. Determine the parameters of risk you’re comfortable with. For example, you may allow them to make purchases with a certain cost limit. You might also want to automate breaks so that staff doesn’t feel the need to ask. The key is to treat mistakes as opportunities for advanced training–rather than as an excuse to take authority away. Ultimately, the goal is to build independence and resiliency.