A growing team can be super exciting; you’re hiring amazing talent, infusing your team with new energy and ideas, and strengthening your team’s capabilities.
But growing your team isn’t always exciting; growth and change come with inevitable growing pains along the way.
As a leader, it’s your job to manage your team through those growing pains—and make sure everyone comes out stronger on the other side.
But how, exactly, do you do that? How do you manage a growing team and make sure everyone has the attention, support, and direction they need to succeed—both individually and as a team?
What are growing pains on teams?
Before we jump into how to manage a growing team, let’s cover four of the most common growing pains teams experience when managers grow and scale teams:
1- There’s a ramp-up period for new hires
According to the 2012 Allied Workforce Mobility Survey, it takes, on average, eight months, for a new employee to reach full productivity.
So, when you hire a high volume of new people, you can expect the overall productivity of your team to decline—at least for a while.
2- A growing team is a changing team
Some teams struggle to adapt to those changes.
Things change when you add new employees to your team. And while some teams adapt well to those changes, others struggle—and that struggle to adjust can’t negatively impact their work.
According to a 2017 study from ClearCompany, a whopping 97% of employees and executives believe that lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of that team’s tasks or projects.
3- Growing teams can lead to conflict.
When a team has been working together for a while, there’s a certain level of trust that develops, which enables them to collaborate and perform.
But when you grow your team and throw new employees into the mix (known as the “forming” stage of the team development model) that trust hasn’t yet developed, which can lead to conflict between team members—known as the “storming” phase.
4- Managers can be stretched thin
Keeping track of employees’ needs can fall through the cracks.
Managing a team of two is a completely different experience than managing a team of 20. As a manager, you have a finite amount of time, energy, and resources to dedicate to your team. And as your team grows, you need to learn how to reallocate those resources to cover your existing team and new employees—and during that transition period, it can be easy for your team’s needs to fall through the cracks.
Clearly, growing your team can lead to some serious growing pains. But with the right management strategies, you can grow and scale your team—without going through that awkward growth period.
Strategies to manage a growing team
Onboard your new employees— and your existing employees
Onboarding new employees is part of the hiring process.
But your new team members aren’t the only ones walking into an unknown work situation; things are also changing for your existing team—so there should be an onboarding process to help them acclimate to their new team environment as well.
While your new employees are going through your company’s onboarding process, meet with your existing team to prepare them for the upcoming changes.
Make sure you fully explain how you’re going to reallocate team responsibilities—and that your existing employees understand how their day-to-day responsibilities are going to change.
The point is, when you hire new team members, it’s important to properly onboard them so they’re set up for success—but as your team grows, it’s equally important to set your existing team up for success as well.
Clearly define roles and responsibilities
As mentioned, when teams grow, responsibilities can change.
But if people don’t know what they are (and aren’t!) responsible for, it can lead to confusion, team conflict, and burnout (according to a 2018 study from Gallup, lack of role clarity is one of the top three contributors to employee burnout).
None of which contributes to growing strong teams.
That’s why it’s critical to make sure that, as your team grows, every team member—new and
As your team grows, it can also be helpful to create role descriptions that clearly outline what each person is responsible for. That way, if there’s ever any confusion, your team can refer to their role descriptions to figure out who should tackle what task—and who is responsible for what.
The more clearly you define roles and responsibilities, the more clarity your team will have on what every member of the team is responsible for—and the fewer growing pains your employees will experience as a result.
Focus on building trust
As mentioned, during the “forming” phase of team development, trust hasn’t formed between existing and new team members. And that lack of trust can lead to conflict, thrusting the team directly into the “storming” phase.
But you can bypass the storming phase entirely (or at least damper its length and intensity) by being intentional about building trust between your employees from the get-go.
This starts with really getting to know your team—and helping them get to know each other. As your team grows, schedule weekly meetings where everyone can get a better feel for each other.
From there, work together to create a set of guiding principles that speak to everyone’s needs, values, and preferences. That way, you’re creating a work environment that gets all your employees on the same page—and where trust can naturally develop.
If you’re working together in the same space, there are spontaneous opportunities for your team to get to know each other and build trust (for example, stopping by someone’s desk to say hi or grabbing lunch with coworkers).
But those same opportunities don’t typically happen spontaneously in a remote environment, which can make developing trust a slower, more challenging process—so, if you’re managing a distributed team, make sure you’re actively creating those opportunities (for example, by hosting virtual happy hours or regular virtual team-building events).
Pair new employees with seasoned employees
As mentioned, as a manager, you only have so much time in the day—and even with the best time management strategies, chances are, you’re going to be stretched pretty thin as you’re growing your team. You may not have time needed to invest in every new team member and set them up for success.
But there are ways you can leverage your existing team to make sure your new employees have the support they need to settle in and hit the ground running—and that’s through a mentorship program.
When you’re growing your team, having a senior employee mentor a new employee is a win-win-win situation.
Even the best teams will experience some challenges as they grow.
But if you want your team to overcome those challenges and come out stronger on the other side, they need to feel confident enough to share what they’re growing through, where they’re struggling, and what they need to change.
And, as a manager, you need to give them that confidence by making feedback a part of your team and company culture.
Getting feedback from your employee on what’s working—and what’s not working—is an essential part of managing your team through growing pains.