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Got promoted to a team leader and excited about your new role? Is this your first experience in leading a team? Many congratulations on stepping into the first step of a Leadership role. Though it's very exciting I understand that you might be concerned and fretful about the new role particularly how to succeed in it.
A leader is "a person who influences a group of people towards the achievement of a goal"
Leadership is an art of motivating people to act towards accomplishing a common goal.
Effective leadership is to inspire people and engage the team through effective communication.
To make it even simpler, Leader is a director of any action taken by the team. It’s not necessary that the ideas which are being implemented by the leader should be original, it can also be borrowed, and however, a leader is the one who discusses the ideas with the team to come up with the implementable ones and implements the same.
What do you think as a first step you need to know to become a good team leader? Let's look at the first success secret. As a team member you might have concerned more about your success and your career but to become a good team leader you should concern more about your team’s success and team member’s career.
As rightly said by Winston Churchill, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
An optimistic leader will look for an opportunity even in a difficult situation. He or she would never quit even the situation is worst or going against the plan. It’s essential for the leader to have this quality as it would boost up the entire team to work positively towards the common goal.
It’s also important for the leader to be competitive and updated. Stephens Richards Covey mentions the same in one of his most popular book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” as one of the 8 habits which are “Sharpen the Saw”
According to Covey, one must keep educating the conscience in order to develop and grow further.
Gaining knowledge in and out of the work would help leaders to maintain a good relationship and create a professional network. Knowledgeable leaders are always respected much by the team.
While gaining knowledge leaders should be kind and approachable. A team is a group of different people having different skills. There might be a team member who may not be able to communicate fluently or uncomfortable in talking in front of the team. Being kind with the team would help the leaders to find those hidden talents.
Without proper planning, a leader cannot direct the team and achieve the best results. To become the best leader, it’s highly recommended to have proper planning before thinking about the other steps. In this demanding and fast moving technology world, it has become very common to not spend enough time for planning. No planning or improper planning would impact more in terms of cost, quality and schedule. It would also impact the credibility of the management and the team.
Stephen Covey says” The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities”
Break the larger goals into smaller goals and prioritize them in the way that it’s easy to achieve. Discuss it with the team and tune it if required. Managing every day is very important for a leader. True leaders always try the ways to develop the habit of time management and work organization skills.
In my 15 years of work experience, I got promoted 5 times for different leadership positions.I can still remember the day I met my team for the first time as a lead. Until the day before, I was one of the team members and handling a normal team member related activities. This was my first challenge to change the view of the team members and build the trust in them.
Initially, I did not bring any visible changes to the team and behaved the same way I used to. It helped me to build more confidence and trust among the team members that I’m still the same and only my position has changed. As time passed, gradually I tried to bring more initiatives considering the career of the team members. One of the initiatives I brought was to conduct weekly team meetings which included organization updates, presentation by the team members to improve their presentation skills, general discussions on team development ideas and team-related issues.
Weekly meetings with the team helped me to a great extent in getting the support and coordination from the team members. As an outcome of these initiatives the engagement level of the team members had been noticeably increased, I could even change the performance management system with the team's approval.
Understanding the environment and changing the climate as needed and then implementing the necessary changes is a must have a quality of a successful leader.
Since I got promoted as a lead for the same team, I faced few challenges. They are
Make the team realize, I'm still one among them and being for them to solve their issues
Handling conflicts: Since I was pretty new to the role, initially it was difficult to resolve the conflict between the team members. I had the fear that they might think I am being biased.
Understanding the exact demand of the new role: After I had taken the lead position, slowly I started understanding; lead position is not just about work allocation, approving leaves or sending reports to management it’s more than that.
Balancing between the team's expectations vs Management expectations: This is one of the major challenges of a new lead. Sometimes while supporting team’s expectation, it’s required to get the management approval.
To work on self-development and at the same time team's development: Developing the self-skills while creating the opportunity for the team members to improve their skill set was little hard.
"When you delegate tasks, you create followers. When you delegate authority, you create leaders"
As a leader, one should learn how to delegate the work and what to. The right delegation would impact their team members’ career positively and help to build their career. This would also help to elevate successive leaders through succession planning.
This is one of the responsibilities of a leader, However; remember leaders can only delegate their authority and not their responsibilities.
Things to remember when delegating:
Recognizing the right person, as picking the wrong person causes a major failure.
Compare the required skill set and the skill set of the person whom you are willing to assign
Choose the real talent based on the objective criteria.
Discuss and have open communication with the team on the roles and responsibilities.
“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” – George Washington
A successful leader will encourage others to speak up. They will always be surrounded by the people who are smarter than them. They will listen what others say and understand other’s perspective as well. They are true professionals and make sure that the environment is comfortable for everyone to share their opinions and views. By giving the freedom of sharing their opinions they encourage the team to be more innovative and creative.
"Lead with direction, and try to lead by Example”
Leading by example may sound easy but only a few leaders could be successful and consistent with this. Practising what they preach with their action is very difficult particularly for the new leaders. I would like to share my personal experience on this. When I was working in one of the MNC Company as a Supervisor, I noticed that the team members were not coming regularly to the shift timing which typically starts at 6.30 AM. As a new Supervisor of the team, I did not want to insist them to come on time. Instead, though it was not mandated I started coming to office by 6.15 AM. Within a week's time, all the team members were present on time to the shift. This might be a small example but would help to understand the impact the leader can create an action.
Before others find shortfall successful leaders would realize proactively and change the results.
Providing continuous and honest feedback would help team members to identify their areas of improvement.Also, remember it should happen in both the ways. True leaders should also seek the feedback from their team members to get to know about their areas of improvement. They will also analyze the same and act on it if required. These feedback sessions should happen continuously to maintain the good health of the team.
"Recognising and rewarding the right talents at the right place at the right time is vital for successful leader".
Retaining talents is one of the main objectives of a good team leader. The reward doesn't mean to be monetary and can just be an appreciation through an email or an appreciation in a team meeting. This would alleviate the team motivation. As a perfect leader, it is important to be open, honest and unbiased while recognizing and rewarding the team members.
Blaming team members for any failure would impact the inventive environment of the team. By doing this the team would hesitate to take any creative and innovative steps. As a lead, taking accountability for any Failures will lead the team members being more independent and creative. While providing the freedom and hassle-free environment, leads should also learn how to get the control of the activities performed by the team members. While taking the accountability of the failures, effective leaders will not own the success rather they will share it with the team.
Experts through many books on leadership and articles admit that certain qualities are required for a great leader. They say that the true leaders are always willing to develop talents and emerging leaders. They will always be surrounded by the people who are smarter than them as they strongly believe that only the solid team culture will help to accomplish the mission. The most vital part of leadership is about how effectively they accept and deal with the changes. They will also constantly work on the way to improve their emotional intelligence and never stop learning.
An author and leadership speaker Robin Sharma shares his interesting perspective on leadership. He says, “Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It's about impact, influence, and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers.”
Stanley Allen McChrystal, a retired United States Army general known for his leadership skill quotes that “Leadership contains certain elements of good management, but it requires that you inspire, that you build durable trust. For an organization to be not just good but to win, leadership means evoking participation larger than the job description, commitment deeper than any job contract's wording.”
An American author and speaker John c Maxwell say that “Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.”
Don’t take decisions on your own.
Listen to your team and involve them in all the team related decisions. This would allow them to feel engaged and contribute more to the team’s success.
Don’t hide anything with the team. Whether it’s a good or bad news. Open and effective communication always helps to gain team’s confidence.
Every member of the team should know what’s happening in the team.
Any time any of your team members who need your help should be able to approach you.
Being unapproachable would create many issues most of the times it affects the success of the project.
Conflict is common in any team environment. Sometimes it’s good as well. How do we handle it is what makes the difference.
Being unbiased, impartial, treating everyone equally and providing them equal opportunities is the most expected quality of a true leader.
Appreciate the efforts of the team members with no time.
Untimely appreciation would impact the motivation level of the team very badly.
Maintaining emotional connections with the team members would help understand more about their unspoken needs. By fulfilling their need, you can make them realize their importance in the team.
Remember “Team members will work for their Managers if not for the company”, failing to show empathy when required would impact the cooperation level of the team.
As a leader, you must stick to what you say. “When you don’t keep your word, you lose credibility” - Robin Sharma.
Sometimes you may not be able to keep up your promise, However as a leader, one should communicate the reason properly.
Let’s accept the fact. It’s not easy to become a great leader. It requires lots of practice, patience, and determination. Spend time with your team and team members. Greet your team members every day, if possible individually. Appreciate them even when the achievement is small. Again, Leader is the one who not only just shows the direction to achieve the goal, he also travels with the team and supports all their efforts to achieve the mission.
“Great Leaders Don’t set out to be Leaders... They set out to make a difference. It’s never about the role always about the goal.”