New Manager Handbook: Creating a Positive Work Environment

Becoming a team leader is an exciting and challenging endeavor.  All too often this transition comes without any guidance on what is expected of people managers, or how to be a good one. At Learnitect, we’ve designed a handbook to facilitate a smooth transition into management. We know from our experience that great leaders who are well respected by their teams demonstrate three key pillars of competence:

1. They create a positive team environment
2. They develop the individuals on their team
3. They are excellent communicators

We’re kicking off a longer term blog series with Pillar #1: Creating a Positive Environment for your teams.

As a manager, you’re responsible for team composition and dynamics that enable everyone to thrive. The most productive teams are often those with a positive environment and clear expectations, which means: recruiting the right people, encouraging diversity & inclusion, nurturing different personality types and, resolving conflict.
How to Recruit the Right People 

Recruiting the team involves anticipating how well people will perform in a given role. While there are many techniques from informal chats to structured assessment centres to predict this, companies ultimately rely on structured interviews as a good balance between effectiveness and investment.

Defining Good

Develop a graded interview guide for: the qualities that would describe an ideal candidate; the questions you will ask to assess this; a quantified gradation of possible answers.

Great interview questions

Question should be phrased: “Tell me about a time when…” Asking about past experiences allows for more detail. The STAR format is a good structure to follow:

  • Situation: what specific occasion are we talking about? Who else was involved?
  • Task: what was the candidate’s objective?
  • Action: what did the candidate actually to do?
  • Results: what was the outcome? Were they successful?
Interview technique

Most interviews are short (30-60 minutes), so ensure you make the most of your time:

  • Bring candidates back to the point and dig for more information
  • Push for the information you need to give them an accurate grade
  • Stick to the interview guide, and take notes you can refer back to later
  • Distribute questions across interviews if you have several qualities you want to assess them for
  • Leave time for them to ask you some questions

Encouraging Diversity & Inclusion

There is a clear business case that diversity improves business performance  If you ask people to describe the qualities that they would like in an ideal colleague they will often list things such as intelligence, kindness, diligence and passion. None of these things is immediately obvious from someone’s background – which is why recruiting well is difficult!

The goal of diversity and inclusion initiatives is to try and equalise the opportunities to everyone. Here are some action items to achieve this:
  • Ensure disadvantaged people are visible, heard, and credited for their work
  • Actively support those who don’t share your privileges
  • Make the effort to educate yourself about other identities and be respectful of them
  • Educate others oblivious to their privilege on the benefits of diversity and inclusion
  • Don’t except double standards for different people – treat everyone fairly

Nurturing Different Personality Types

Even among people from similar backgrounds, not everyone sees the world in the same way. If you can understand where the perspective of yourself and others you’ll become a better communicator, create a more inclusive environment, and play to everyone’s strengths.

There are many personality frameworks (e.g. Myers-Briggs and OCEAN) which try to give some insight on how people perceive the world. You and your team can do a free test similar to Myers-Briggs at 16 Personality Types. The aim is to gain some insight into how they think and work effectively with them. Personality types are most useful when someone behaves in line with a particular description, as it will give you ideas on how to interact with them more effectively. Each dimension is a spectrum however, and many people will display both characteristics to varying degrees.

Resolving Conflict

Throughout your career you will unavoidably run into tensions and disagreements of different magnitudes. As leader you will need to mediate disputes, between your team and with others, in a proactive way that often leads to much better team dynamics.

Developing a collaborative solution
The goal here is to creatively problem solve for a novel solution that satisfies everyone. As a first step, it’s important to recognise that this is a difference between:

  • Positions: what people suggest as a tangible outcome
  • Interests: the underlying reason guiding their thinking

Positions are often directly opposed and leave no room for a solution that makes everyone happy. Collaborating involves understanding everyone’s interests so that you have the space and freedom to support creative thinking.

Four steps to resolving conflict
If you find yourself in conflict with someone, the following framework can help resolve the issue in a positive way.
1. Name the elephant: recognise the problem and call out the conflict
2. Listen and empathize: understand their interests and why they are resisting
3. Find common ground: establish an area of agreement to build on
4. Joint problem solving: search for mutually acceptable solutions

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