Team management in the modern workplace is a balancing act. The best managers make sure their team delivers day after day. After all, it’s up to you to help your team members prioritize and plan their work.

The secret is to get it right without micromanaging. That kind of management style prevents you from doing work that brings real value to the company, and your staff will hate it, too: micromanagement is one of the top three reasons people quit.

As a manager, you want to build an engaged team that achieves consistent business results. Team members typically have different strengths and preferences. Great managers lean on these strengths to create a productive, positive workplace.

We’ve sorted through the most effective team management skills shared by top managers,  based on research and case studies.

Building Accountability Into Teams

When you’re tackling projects as a team, you’ll finish the job much faster, right?

Well, that’s not always the case.

Thanks to a phenomenon known as social loafing, people put in less effort when they’re working in a group.

Because we’re part of a team, we think the task will be accomplished regardless of our individual contribution. The prevailing thinking is that someone else will step in if we drop the ball.

To overcome social loafing, research suggests uniting teams behind a common long-term goal. Use your company’s mission to increase individual performance in teams. People who derive a sense of meaning from their work in a team are typically more productive.

Another way to keep people accountable, is to use an action register - a list of items that needs to be completed. You assign people and dates to specific tasks. As they work, team members update the status of the task.

You can create an action register in Excel or Google Sheets using data validation.

2. Open Communication

It was an awkward moment.

Steve Jobs was sitting around the table with Apple’s ad agency, ready to start their standing meeting. Suddenly, Jobs turned to an Apple employee, asking her who she was.

The employee explained that she’d been asked to attend because she was involved with the marketing projects they’d be discussing; Jobs said she could leave the meeting. Now, Jobs wasn’t out to single out the staffer. He was sticking to his meeting manifesto: small, productive gatherings where everyone had a role to play.

Jobs only allowed people to attend meetings if they were going to participate. And, each person was assigned an action item.

How many times have you been sitting through a meeting, wondering why you were there in the first place?

You’re not alone. A Doodle report on the financial and personal impact of meetings found 72% of U.K respondents, and 68% of those in the U.S, lost time each week due to unnecessary meetings.

But that doesn’t mean you should ban meetings altogether.

If you’re managing millennials - who make up the largest generation in the workforce - you need to prioritize communication: they want “open and frequent communication” with their supervisors.

Another upside is that staff who have regular meetings with managers are more engaged, according to this survey from Gallup. That matters because the more engaged an employee is, the more productive they’ll be.

“Employees who meet regularly with their manager generate higher performance for their immediate team and company and are more likely to report that they regularly receive recognition and praise, that someone cares about them, and that they know someone cares about their development,” reads the Gallup study.

Elizabeth Saunders, time coach and author, said managers should have one on one meetings with staff to communicate the most pressing tasks. When staff are clear on the biggest priorities, there’s less time wasted on frequent escalations to management.

3. Put Your Processes on Autopilot

A U.S company grew its recurring revenue from $200,000 to $2.2 million in two years.

Their secret to success?

It’s thanks to processes and a simple strategy your business can replicate.  

Hubstaff helps remote teams improve their productivity with time tracking tools. The company credits processes as a key element of their “winning strategy”.

In this blog post, Madhav Bhandari, writes:

“The biggest benefit to instituting processes is simple: they help your business run on autopilot.”

Processes form the basis of increased productivity for any team management strategy. You’re no longer being roped into helping with day to day tasks, so you’re free to pursue meaningful activities to grow the business. Team members feel confident to take decisions on their own, moving projects along swiftly.

When you nail down your processes, your team members have a clear roadmap on how to prioritize and deal with unexpected incidents during the workday.

The building blocks of a successful process include:

  • Well-documented, clear processes so there’s no room for confusion
  • Tracking system for detailed reporting -  this helps you decide whether the process is working or not
  • Set benchmarks to determine if, and when, your processes need to be tweaked

Teams can use an internal knowledge base to document these processes. It’s as simple as setting up a Google Doc, but there are open-source options available. And these may be better for organization. For example, the New York Times has released its internal wiki, Library. The open source document management platform is built from Google Docs.

4. Using Automation to Boost Team Productivity

Consider the following scenario. Your team member needs a client agreement signed. It’s a time-consuming exercise that will require printing and scanning of documents. Then, there’s the follow-ups to get the signed document back.

Fortunately, there’s a better way.

More organizations are automating their paper processes.

To begin, make sure all your documents are scanned and indexed correctly.

An effective filing system will save you time. Thanks to cloud-based file platforms like Google Drive and OneDrive, it’s easier than ever before to find files using keywords and other indicators like date modified.

The trick here is to create - and stick to - a filing system that works for your team. Make it so easy that anyone can find that sales agreement template, for instance.

Once you’ve started digitizing your documents, you can take advantage of automating your paperwork with a tool like eversign.

Let’s take a look at how easy it is to get a document signed using eversign.

Depending on where you’ve saved your files, import your document from:

  • Dropbox,
  • Google Drive,
  • Evernote,
  • Box, or
  • OneDrive.

Once you’ve uploaded your document, choose Me and Others or Others Only depending on the agreement. With the signing order option, you completely automate the signing process. So, once you sign the document, it’s emailed directly to the other parties.

Within eversign’s document editor you can easily drop fields into the document.

Once you’re ready, you sign the document, either typing, drawing or uploading an image of your signature. After you’ve sent the document, track its status from your dashboard.

Before, you’d end up emailing documents and battling to keep track of which version you have and who still needed to sign. With a tool like eversign, the entire signing process is efficient.

Gone are the days of manual follow-ups - you’ll get an update when the other party signs. To keep the process moving along, your team members can send professional reminders right from the dashboard. Finally, completing agreements won’t prevent your team from getting on with other tasks.

5. Promote a Flexible Work Environment

Would it surprise you to learn than two-thirds of millenials want a private office?

These professionals aren’t chasing empty status symbols; they’re just desperate to get some work done.

If you’ve ever worked in an open-plan office, you know it’s a productivity killer. Research is mounting, showing that not only is the layout bad for productivity, it also decreases collaboration. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to step into an office environment and find a sea of headphones.

The kind of workspace you have makes a huge difference to productivity. It’s so important that some people would even put up with a longer commute in exchange for a better working environment.

Flexibility is an important team management skill. So, when you’re managing a team, let people work the way they want to. A productive workplace is one where staff can control their working environment, according to a research report by CBRE, a commercial real estate services firm.

“Whether top performers prefer to work in collaborative spaces or in corner offices, the fact remains that employees who have more control over their work environment thrive and create higher levels of engagement.”

Boost Your Team’s Productivity with Process Automation and Electronic Signing

The right team management tactics help team people achieve their best performance. Great managers make an effort to build accountable, productive teams who find a sense of meaning in what they do.

A quick win is to remove a serious barrier to productivity, like paper-based processes. What’s one paper-based process you could automate today to save your team time?