Teamwork doesn't just happen; it requires good management skills. Here are five to get you started.

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You’ve been made the leader of a team. Congratulations! You were chosen because you are a naturally organized, efficient person who sets a schedule and adheres to it, who consistently follows through, and whose own work is always effective and thorough.

You can’t wait to get started so, naturally, the first thing you do is hold a meeting with your new collaborators. It’s a love fest. Everyone is positive, enthusiastic. Together, you set priorities, agree on a plan and assign action items. All signs indicate that everyone understands his or her role and that the project is set to proceed smoothly and on track.

Then deadlines start getting missed. Some team members send you confused emails. Others produce sloppy, incomplete or just plain erroneous work. Some people seem to go AWOL altogether.

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What went wrong?

In hindsight, it’s clear. You simply expected that people operate the way you do.

Sadly, however, not everyone is like you. Some people overcommit. Some say they understand when they really don’t. Some are reluctant to deliver bad news, so when they run into difficulties they just say nothing at all.

Ah, human nature. It’s a wonder anything ever gets done in this world.

But it does, and the reason is that, over the centuries, leaders have devised ways to keep their teams in good working order. How?

Set mini deadlines. This way you’ll know right away who your weak links are and you can act quickly to bring them up to speed.

Offer individual coaching. People who are reluctant to admit they don’t understand something in front of a group may be perfectly willing to do so to you, personally, in a private session.

Lead by example. You simply do this by embodying the performance you want to see in others. (Don’t forget to take some on some of the less-glamorous aspects of the project for yourself!)

Seek feedback. You believe that everyone understands and is on board with your crystal-clear instructions. But find out for sure.

Offer incentives. Foster some healthy competition and make the project more fun by setting up a reward system. The rewards themselves can be quite simple; it’s the game that’s important.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at