Managing growth: five top tips to keep teams engaged

Scaling up and expanding is one the things most business aspire to. While on the one hand growth is usually a great measure of success, on the other, it can present a range of issues if not carefully managed.

One thing that any manager can probably agree with is the growing pains that come with managing teams during a time of growth. Whether the scale-up is planned or unplanned, issues will and do happen. Factions in teams, problematic communication, performance issues related to disengagement or behavioural problems due to attitude, are common areas that get affected. And then there’s the oftentimes overwhelmed manager trying to lead teams through change.

It’s not easy.

While any change requires a level of discomfort, there are ways to mitigate these challenges and keep teams supported.

  1. Get the fundamentals sorted. By fundamentals, we’re referring to basics like getting clear on company values, establishing cultures, setting up a management structure. Having a strong core, or foundation gives the business a solid foot to stand on. It gives teams a point of reference, assures stability and helps instil trust. Teams want a sense of security, during uncertainty.   
  2. Have a plan. Planning for any change is necessary, especially when it involves people. If the plan is to scale up, then it must first start with getting clear on the state of the current business. This also includes areas of weakness or gaps that should ideally be resolved before bringing in new people. The ideal plan should be flexible enough to change if needed. One benefit that growth does bring is the opportunity to be adaptive and flexible, and course-correct where needed. Scalability and growth provide an opportunity to learn on the go.
  3. Communicate – and then some. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to keep channels of communication open during times of growth. Teams want to know what’s going on, not be kept in the dark. Communicate the plan. Knowing the ‘what’, the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ keeps everyone on the same page and moving ahead in the same direction. Reassurance during change is critical, so keeping teams abreast of plans – including as they develop – is a good way to instil confidence and boost morale.
  4. Adopt a proactive approach. Think about initiatives and approaches that will encourage collaboration and productivity, regardless of scale. Whether it’s a weekly team meeting, once a month company updates, or quarterly offsites, having something that brings people together and encourages connection and collaboration is crucial.
  5. Be open to warning signs. Know what to expect. People are creatures of habit, like certainty and not generally ok with change. As managers, knowing where the issues are likely going to play out and expecting to be met with resistance will help. It’s normal. Putting a regular time each week to check in and reflect with other leaders or managers is a good way to monitor warning signs. It offers a chance to take action to address any problems before they turn into a crisis. Asking teams for feedback can also be a very valuable tool for understanding pain points.

While it’s rarely possible to avoid scaling pains completely, with the right approach you can mitigate as many potential problem areas as possible.