Becoming an effective leader of talent teams doesn’t just happen overnight. Hiring is hard work, and recruiters and sourcers must navigate a sea of competing demands and tight timelines — and, in times like these, a challenging hiring market. These teams look to their managers for guidance and a sense of cohesion, which is especially challenging as employers navigate the aftershocks of the past two years alongside continued robust job growth. What’s more, many recruiters report a rise in burnout since the start of the pandemic

Fostering a strong talent team that supports the company vision, along with honing people-management skills, takes work. But what does having strong people-management skills really mean? 

Whether you’re starting your first leadership position or are a seasoned manager, here are some pro tips to help team leaders build cohesion and help their teams thrive. 

Focus on putting people first

A strong team is greater than the sum of its parts, and good leaders know that putting people first is key for boosting those organizational dynamics. According to Scott Bonneau, Indeed Vice President of Global Talent Attraction and HR Analytics, this means identifying the roadblocks that get in the way of a team’s work, both on the team and individual level, and then strategizing ways to overcome them. As he says, “Every problem is really a people problem,” which means a leader’s role is to find people-based solutions to challenges that inevitably arise. How can managers get started?

Build connections to nurture trust

Putting people first sounds simple, yet many leaders fail to invest the time to get to know their people on a one-on-one level. This lack of trust and communication can impact the psychological safety of a team and ultimately inhibit success. A truly effective leader is empathetic; they know their team members’ aspirations and challenges and can help them cultivate and play to their strengths. 

Strong leaders connect with their teams on both a group and individual level. Relationships are best built face to face, even in a remote environment. Scheduling regular, weekly check-ins can help you get to know every member of your team. This also establishes respect and trust, showing you're invested in their success. What’s more, it creates an environment of openness, should someone need help or just an ear to listen. 

Set regular check-ins

Sometimes leaders have to deal with employees who, for any number of reasons, aren't the easiest to manage. Once again, developing trust and encouraging open communication are vital — but it pays to be strategic. 

Be proactive and set up time to meet one on one before potentially problematic situations get out of control. In these conversations, identify the problem areas by talking to the employee. Approach these conversations with their best interests in mind. Get to the cause of issues by asking questions that are rooted in compassion. Maybe, for example, their direct manager isn’t giving them the opportunity to showcase their full potential; perhaps there's a cultural clash or they're dealing with a challenging personal issue. Resolving problems can be easy — if you’re willing to practice compassionate leadership by being a good listener and offering potential solutions.

Hone soft skills to strengthen communication

This means focusing on soft skills like listening, communication and empathy, both in yourself as a leader and also among your team members. 

“Everybody can build a group of smart people, but can you build an emotionally intelligent group of people?” says Bonneau.

Leadership is hard work, but it’s important to have fun and honor successes. When there are wins to celebrate, make sure all of the team is acknowledged. Showing workers that the time and energy put into successful projects doesn’t go unnoticed is important to good leadership.

A leader is only as good as the people supporting them, so provide those who put in the work the recognition they deserve. This fosters a positive workplace environment and can help boost morale.

Approach mistakes with humility

Feeling frustrated, embarrassed or ashamed when you make a mistake is normal, but this shouldn’t drive your reactions as a manager. Being open to correction can help you recall events more precisely, identify gaps in your thinking and then determine what went wrong. Framing errors as opportunities for growth allows teams to experiment and fail — within reason — without fear of repercussion.  

Everyone makes mistakes. When leaders fail to own their errors, morale can be affected. A sincere apology can work wonders in how the team perceives your leadership, so admit when you’re wrong: Explain what you did and how you plan to correct it, and take ownership of the issue. 

Extend the same grace to team members too. Keeping an open dialogue about what went wrong while creating a culture of continual growth acknowledges that no person or idea is perfect and allows everyone to keep learning.

Lead with integrity

An influential leader has clear convictions about what's right and wrong and combines their integrity and values with empathy for others. People who believe you’re doing the right thing will be more inclined to follow you — especially if they also believe that,  when something goes wrong, you'll have their backs. 

The best leaders use their passion and enthusiasm to drive their teams to new heights. They take the time to explain mistakes and share the wins, all while celebrating their people. Good managers aren’t made overnight, but if you’re willing to put in the work and practice what you preach, that commitment to compassionate leadership can push you — and your team — forward. 

People-centered leaders help their teams shine

Forget the outdated notion that good leaders are feared — to manage teams effectively, hone those people-management skills. Good leaders walk the walk, inspiring their teams through integrity and compassion. As with any relationship, communication is key to team cohesion; if an employee is struggling, a one-on-one conversation can help leaders know how to help. And, as the last two years have demonstrated, approaching problematic situations with empathy builds a solid foundation for trust and continual growth.

Nobody ever said leadership was easy, but putting people first is a solid first step — and embracing compassionate leadership through these tips will elevate your people-management skills to the next level.