Management & leadership

Charity team leaders: 5 pitfalls to avoid

Go from good manager to great leader!

For your organisation to thrive, it is vital that your staff feel motivated and supported by those in the leadership team.  Take a look at what pitfalls to avoid, to be the best charity team leader you can be.

1. Managing instead of leading

In any working environment most people are not calling out to be managed, but are rather looking for a strong leader; this is why instead of having ‘world managers’ we have world leaders. While managing is about ‘things’, leadership is more people focussed. As a manager it is unlikely that the main issues you will face come from the things you actually manage, for example budgets. However, the challenges lie with the people and if you are able to inspire your staff they’ll be able to help you to achieve your shared goals. When phrases like ‘human resources’ implore you to treat your staff as a supply, it’s up to you to you to shift the focus to the people dynamic rather than viewing individuals as objects to ‘keep in line.’

2. Thinking you need to be a friend

There is a tendency, especially within the charity sector, for managers to act as if they are just another member of the team and there’s often a fear of upsetting your staff. However in reality, when staff are trying to do the best at their job, what they need is someone who is good at leading them in the right direction.

3. Doing everything yourself

It can often be the case that when it comes to things like planning, managers think they must sit in a darkened room coming up with a masterplan to share with their team at a later stage.  However, when future plans are not a collaborative effort, it makes it easier for the team to pick holes in the plan and therefore not fully support it. Being a good leader means achieving through the skills of your staff, not despite them. It has been said that a good manager ‘calls forth the gifts’ of their team which means utilising the skills and gems of knowledge they possess. As a manager you don’t want to be the sole contributor to a project- what you’re really aiming for is to be the person who starts the process and keeps the ball rolling.

4. Measuring everything and letting the systems take over

We seem to have found ourselves in a ‘measuring culture’ and whilst this can be useful in some cases, the reality is that the measurement frequently doesn’t lead to anything productive for your staff or the organisation. Things should only be measured if it will be analysed and leads to a change or improvement. Yet the situation we have now means that although all the correct appraisals forms are filled in on time and filed correctly, time and time again there is no positive impact on the employee or the organisation. Many organisations aim to create a high performing culture by having these systems in place, but your job as a manager is to strip back and evaluate why you’re doing what you’re doing and get from them what you need, rather than letting systems take over.

5. Automatically signing up to apparent truisms

Well known mantras such as ‘money motivates’ or ‘people don’t like change’ are repeatedly mistaken for fact and, unconsciously or not, many managers find themselves incorporating these into their management style. For example, you may believe that a cynical member of the team is unhappy at work because they don’t like change and therefore you avoid giving them new projects. However, you may find that those people are the ones looking for change the most and as a manager it is your job to avoid jumping to hasty assumptions.

To learn more about being a great team leader come along to our upcoming Support and Supervision of Staff 2 course