To be clear, by “collective”, I mean how the team works together, cooperates, helps one another, and respects one another. Building a strong collective is a necessity if you wish to do a little more than manage conflicts during the day, and a strong collective multiplies the speed at which each one progresses as information is shared, tips given, and the manager is not the only reference point for a team member with a question.
That being said, a strong collective is not the signal for a manager that he can pull out of the daily practice and bury himself/herself in pure strategic thoughts or worse, in simple number collecting. A collective has its own dynamics, and can turn to a monster if the goals of that collective are not those of the firm. And if the perceived leader of the collective pulls the rest of the team to thoughts and actions that do not suit the general direction you wish. That can happen if the collective starts adopting a clanic behavior. By that I mean an attitude that would lead to closing themselves to other influences. As the human bonds between the team members become more important and evolve into a sort of friendship, they become the main drive of the collective rather than the goal that is to reach targets and contribute to the growth of the organization.
Closing themselves to other influences might also lead to rejecting newcomers. As said, this has been a concern for me this summer as I needed to add new people to the team, replacing one person who had moved on and adding a new sales position. It would be wrong to consider that such rejections lie on the fear of losing one’s job: it is a typical human trait to form groups and integration for newcomers becomes harder as the team has solidified behind known members and habits. Finally, and this needs to be in everyone’s minds: a strong untamed collective might give the birth of a new leader that would not be the manager. Although the manager is unchallenged as the official leader of the group, he loses his informal leadership and sees his position weakened.
Everyone has probably his own way of keeping on top of their collective, and I hold no unchallenged truths, but here are my suggestions:
First, I do not lock myself in an ivory tower: I take interest in their work and what they do outside of work, I am always on their business deals and I try to find good things to say rather than recriminations to make. The good things are our values and they are stressed and rewarded whenever possible. Overall they are explained. And rules apply to me.
Secondly, I try to get the people to mix. For example I have a few rules on groups who go to lunch for example: I keep each lunch group small so it is impossible for the older members not to go to lunch with some of the new guys.
But finally, and I find this unavoidable, I also have to play harder occasionally. At some point, discussions are finished, and that’s it. The worst part being that you may not be fully right or fair, but it is necessary to show that in the end, the decision is yours. Being unpopular is not pleasant. And as a sensitive person, I prefer to be liked, but I know that the priority of the manager is to make it work. In short, it’s being the catalyst of values and guardian of their application. A mix between being a courteous and friendly working member of the collective and a gang leader. Quite some gymnastics! And yet it is what makes the job of management interesting and you navigate in constant experimentation as the environment, the customers and your own people change.