Is your team thriving or surviving? Fashion headhunter Rachel Saywell-Burr shares her top tips for helping you and your workforce flourish

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It’s such a joy for me when we interview someone who really likes their boss. Feeling empowered, happy and like you’re valued at work  is a great thing. Managing a team isn’t an easy skill to perfect though and both boss and staff can wind up demotivated, frustrated and falling short of reaching their full potential if they’re not on the same page.

No time to do work, not listening and feeling generally frustrated with other people’s work ethics are the norm so here are a few ideas that might help align a frazzled manager with an equally frazzled workforce. We’ve all been there on both sides…

1. Set clear boundaries

As a manager, it’s likely that a significant part of your day (if not all of it) will be taken up by people saying “Have you got a minute?”.

I always recommend making sure that you set clear non-negotiable timeframes when people know you’re available and when you are working. I see amazing talent getting burned out constantly as they don’t want to disappoint their team by saying no, but likewise have nothing left to give when it comes to their own work or even just feeling like they have achieved something themselves throughout the day.

In my experience of seeing teams flourish, and also fall apart, the most important thing is that the leaders are able to have structure themselves, and then impart that around them. If there are clear boundaries then people know where they are with workloads and this tends to support people in their development.

If you want to have an open door policy, that’s cool but just make sure it’s not WIDE OPEN all the time or believe me, you’ll be drained and no use to anyone.

2. Make sure you’re working towards the same goals

Something I am fascinated by is how CEOs and leaders view a business and what its purpose is, versus the people on the ground. Often there’s a HUGE disconnect and it means that people are not necessarily dancing to the same tune.

It’s vital that you know that everyone has the same values and could explain the business you work for to their friends and family in the same way you would.

Is your team aware of the business purpose and are they positive about it? It’s something that gets lost along the way and is certainly worth revisiting. Sidebar is that often this can help enormously as a mini market research project for your clients.

The culture internally of your business is also key here - do you have values that you share with everyone? A global fashion business we work with recently shared theirs with us and I was blown away. They use 5 simple points to define the people they hire and it’s focused on work ethics and personality traits rather than experience or education.

3. Empowering = results

It’s no secret that being able to communicate is the best way of getting things done. Often when there is pressure around us, leaders can end up with a Parent and Child dynamic. They might be “telling off” their team and in return, this tends to mean that the team itself will become stroppy and not want to help out.

Listening is also another obvious thing to include here, but very often people might feel that it’s easier to just do a job themselves than spend the time telling someone how to do it. I know I’m certainly guilty of that but really, if we took a moment to listen to how someone might handle a tricky client or particular task would we get a better outcome?

Someone gave me the term ‘Tools, not rules’ recently and I really took that on board. Empower people to be able to do their job and see what you get in return.

4. Encourage extra skill development

I currently employ someone who is a researcher - her job involves a lot of interviewing and handling a ton of data. I happen to know though that she loves writing and is great at it, so we try and engage this as much as possible by getting her to do content for our site. This saves us money on a copywriter and also means we’ve got an employee who feels like she’s more multi-faceted.

I love the tech industry’s way of spending 10% of your time on personal projects. If we’re being realistic here, that time is potentially being wasted anyway on just getting some headspace on Instagram so could it be useful to set a project that is linked to your business, but is far enough removed that it’s a holiday?

Stealing another term from tech, we’ve started to recommend that businesses do ‘Hackathons,’ where teams are created from people who might not traditionally work together. It can be a day or two spent focusing on a money saving idea, improving the office culture, clients that would be great to work with or even how they could get recycling happening across the company.

These types of tasks engage a totally different way of working and often, skills are unearthed that you might not have noticed before. Just because it’s not on a job description, doesn’t mean it’s not something you can utilise.

5. Review your reviews procedure

Giving feedback is an important part of anyone’s development but it’s an art in being able to deliver information in a way that will invoke positive action. First off, the appraisal system is a really good one, if not time consuming. Some businesses we work with have gone from nothing, to doing a review of their teams every three months. I find this a little intense as there’s a ton of administration and time that goes into things. I would normally recommend a firm six monthly review that’s set in stone. This doesn’t have to be linked to financial reward, but should have goals for both the business as a whole and for the individual attached to it with a “well done” or a “must try harder” plan.

If you’re delivering critique, then my general tactic with this is to make sure you know that person’s achievements and talk about them first. Also, there can be occasions where a personal situation may have impacted on an employee’s performance so be sensitive to that.

9 times out of 10, if you’re performing poorly at work then you know about it already. You won’t be sharing brand new information so it’s about making that person understand what went wrong and talking about how to make things right again.

Another point to note about delivering positive information is that while it’s all “Hooray” and most definitely should be, there needs to be another conversation about what will be the next challenge as otherwise people can get apathetic about their role. Consider asking what they feel could be an interesting goal or career step - if you can’t provide that, then make sure that person feels listened to and that you understand their needs as there’s nothing worse than smashing it and then feeling like there was no point.

And lastly...

At the end of the day, being a manager is generally like being a mirror. If you’re stressed and worried, then your team will be too. If you can balance your working day and are rigid with your time, then you can start to get positive habits formed for both yourself and those working to achieve the same end goal as you.

Being human and showing some emotion is a good thing - everyone is a work in progress, no one is the finished article so we can always improve.

Rachel Saywell-Burr is the founder of  Talent Atelier , a headhunting company whose team of experts work to place talent across creative industries around the world.

Follow Rachel on Twitter  here  and Talent Atelier  here .