My 16 Rules for Managing a Small Team

Have you ever searched “how to delegate” on Google? Don’t worry–we’ve been in your shoes before! Managing a small team is no walk in the park. 🚶‍♀️ 

Delegation is more than assigning tasks left and right and hoping for the best. It’s about leading with intention. In this post, we share 16 rules to help you effectively delegate and manage a small team. 👐

⚠️ Quick disclaimer: We’re not leadership coaches. This guide highlights what has worked for us. Feel free to apply any rules that align with your business model. ⚠️

Watch the video, or keep scrolling for the recap! 

Rule #1: Ask Questions to Inspire Solutions

Your job isn’t to solve problems. This statement may go against everything you know about business, but hear us out. Sure, you may have assumed a teacher role as you hired junior-level roles. Any time an issue popped up, you were ready to extinguish the fire. 🧯

But as you transition to a staff of high-level pros, you no longer need to act like a firefighter. Rather than trying to save the day, ask questions to learn more about the situation and inspire your employees to find a resolution. 

Open-ended questions encourage listeners to provide additional context and use their critical thinking skills.

Rule #2: Build a Machine That Supports Your Team

Many business owners act more like independent contributors than managers overseeing a crew. Yes, you have a demanding to-do list, BUT your role extends far beyond your tasks. ✅

As a manager, you want to both work on and in your business.

Working on your business may look like:

Working in your business may include: 

    • Establishing a healthy work culture 
    • Scheduling routine check-ins 
    • Implementing processes to support your workflows

Prioritize building a well-oiled machine first, then chip away at your checklist. 

📢 Course shoutout: ProcessDriven Foundations™ is our signature program that helps participants create and implement comprehensive processes and systems in their work management software. Discover the best frameworks for your needs and how to incorporate them into your current structure, all with support from experts at ProcessDriven and your fellow members going through the same challenges! 

You can also try our free audit, Systemization Snapshot™, to see how efficient your operations are. Knowing your weak spots can become your strength! 💪

Rule #3: Value Team Interactions 

We know meetings can be a drag for many people. But removing them altogether means fewer opportunities to build culture, especially in remote settings. 🤝

Instead, try to value your interactions with your staff, from Slack messages to emails to virtual chats. That’s not to say you need a meeting about every little issue.

Consider using your meetings to focus on wins, losses, and motivation. These casual discussions can offer insight into resolving internal issues and improving your business.

Rule #4: Overcommunicate and Offer a Clear Plan

The hands-off approach may work for some employees, but that doesn’t mean it’s a one-size-fits-all solution. Some people prefer full autonomy, while others require a lot of support or fall somewhere in between.

For example, handing off a project to your team while riding off into the sunset can lead to:

🔥 Confusion and non-informed decisions 
🔥 Procrastination
🔥 Missed deadlines 
🔥 Poor results that don’t meet your expectations 

At the same time, micromanaging may not be the answer either. There are many levels of delegation, so understanding each team member’s work preferences may save you a lot of hassles. 

Overcommunicate and provide a comprehensive plan to guide your team through the process. Then, check in regularly to ensure everything is moving along. 

Rule #5: Provide Thoughtful Feedback 

Have you ever received a project and wanted to mark it up with a red pen? All you want is the best result. However, spending too much time pointing out flaws can discourage your employees. So, how can you be productive and respectful?

Sprinkle positive comments into your feedback, like seasoning in your favorite dish. 🧂 Let’s say you need to review a newsletter. For every three suggestions, add at least one positive statement. It’s well worth the extra 20 seconds to recognize their effort.

💡 Pro tip: Use this article for reference as you improve your feedback process. 

Rule #6: Double Check the Details

When it comes to small teams, it’s easy to rely on self-reporting, where you trust everything your staff tells you. While building professional relationships based on trust is vital, it’s also equally important to double-check everything. 🔎

Let’s say someone expresses extreme stress. Put on your detective hat and try to get to the bottom of it: 

    • What’s the root cause of their anxiety?
    • Do they have more on their plate than the rest of your crew?
    • Are they working full-time or part-time?
    • Are there personal circumstances at play?

A big part of managing a small team is leading with transparency. Create safe spaces to listen, share, and carefully reflect.

Rule #7: Don’t Criticize Employees in Public

There’s nothing worse than singling someone out and announcing their shortcomings in front of everyone. Not only is it humiliating, but it’s a breach of trust. If an employee makes a mistake at work, don’t confront them during your team meetings. 🛑

Consider scheduling a 1:1 with the other party to explore what happened and what they can do to avoid repeating it in the future.

📝 An exception: The only exception to this rule is if you’re discussing a common enemy, such as overpriced software or bad trends. That’s when you can rally your team together.

Rule #8: Be a Selfless Leader 

As the face of your business, you have more pressure on your shoulders to be a stoic leader. There may be times when you receive public criticism for a mistake you didn’t make. Or you give away credit, even when you made a significant contribution. 

While it may not be easy, managing a small team requires selflessness. Learn to accept public feedback and respond appropriately. Show appreciation to your crew no matter the extent of their involvement. Lead like a movie director and guide behind the scenes. 📽️

Rule #9: Lean Into Your Unique Personality

Don’t try to be relatable. We know you want to bond with your team, but you’re a leader, and you’ve worked hard to secure this role. If you want to earn people’s respect, embrace the unique traits that helped you reach the managerial level.  

You can inspire trust and loyalty by being yourself. It’s certainly better than simplifying your personality for others. 

💡 Pro tip: Schedule 1:1 meetings to get to know your team members individually. Read this post to help you plan for weekly meetings.  

Rule #10: Document Important Information

Your memory skills are likely on point. However, your brain can only store so much data, especially when managing a small team. So, instead of shoving everything into a mental filing cabinet, make it a habit to take notes. ✍   

Documenting everything holds you and your staff accountable for making changes in your business. Plus, it allows you to progress towards your long-term goals and avoid brain fog. 

Rule #11: Don’t Depend on “Common Sense”

Common sense comes from your experiences, knowledge, upbringing, and what you consider “normal.” It’s unrealistic to assume that everyone thinks the same way you do. To avoid this generalization, communicate clearly and provide context.

✅ Offer key metrics
✅ Discuss your desired outcome and how to achieve it
✅ Create a roadmap in your PM tool
✅ Touch base with your team

If you want to delegate effectively, start with open communication!

Rule #12: Focus on Accountability

Once you start the creation process, it’s hard to stop. After all, you have all these cool ideas floating in your head. 

🔔 Mini reminder: You’re a leader first and a creator second.   

As we mentioned in this post, too many new changes can confuse your team. Your role is to hold everyone accountable and find ways to improve your operations.

You may achieve this by: 

Accountability will ensure you keep your priorities in check. ✅

Rule #13: Treat Your Team Equitably

Everyone says, “Let’s promote an equal workplace,” but very few people consider what that means. Or they take it too literally and treat all staff members the same. Here’s where things get tricky: 👇 

Everyone has a unique communication and learning style. To talk, teach, and support every employee in the same way isn’t necessarily effective. 

Meet your team on an individual level and treat them equitably. Explore their preferences and behaviors: 

    • What are their goals?
    • What are their values?
    • What are their motivations, wants, and fears?
    • How do they prefer to communicate?

Use this information to help you create a fair work environment where you can nurture their potential. 

Rule #14: Assess Your Employees’ Needs

Sometimes, your team won’t communicate their needs to you. When that happens, you’ll want to be proactive and take ownership of the situation. Validate their feelings and challenge the outcome.

When you probe a little deeper, you may discover that most people filter what they say. Whether it’s a personal or work-related issue, take the opportunity to question their conclusions and investigate alternative solutions with them. 

💡 ProcessDriven tip: Foster a workplace where your team feels comfortable to share barriers impacting their work performance!

Rule #15: Provide Access to Information

Want exceptional results? Open the floodgates and share as much context, information, and research as possible. The more access you provide, the more you set your crew up for success. 📖

Transparency and communication allow your team to become more independent and capable. If you want to let them run the show, you must give them the tools to perform well. 

📝 Another exception: Don’t share private personnel and performance information unless it affects someone else on the staff. 

Rule #16: Don’t Assume Everything Will Go According to Plan

Are there any perfectionists in the house? ✋ It’s hard to accept that some plans won’t pan out, even when you do your best and follow the rules. The truth is you can have good intentions and still: 

    • Hire the wrong people
    • Mess up disciplinary conversations
    • Have a disappointing launch
    • Overextend yourself and your team

Just like life, your business is a journey of highs and lows. Learn to embrace the unpredictable and trust your team will make things right again. 🤗 

Ultimately, leadership isn’t about holding yourself to an impossible standard. It’s about having the strength to work through anything. 

📝 Note: Consider sharing a review of the previous quarter with your team to see what worked and what didn’t. Need an example? Check out Layla’s quarterly reviews here.     

Managing a Small Team: One Rule at a Time

Leading and delegating can be downright frustrating at times. But as long as you’re willing to offer your effort, time, and attention, you can develop structures that truly support your team. 

Feeling inspired to build a strong foundation so your business can continue evolving? Consider signing up for our signature program, ProcessDriven Foundations™, where you’ll learn what you need to build your business machine, how to organize anything in a PM tool, and so much more! 

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the process!

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