A Survival Guide for the New Team Leader

A Survival Guide for the New Team Leader

Being a new team leader can be intimidating. How will you know what to do? What if you make mistakes? What if you don’t know the answer? In this blog, we will give you some tips to get you on the path to becoming a great team leader.

Ask the Right Questions of the Right People

Have you heard the saying, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question”? It applies to supervisors and leaders too! Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Just make sure to do your research first, and to ask the right questions of the right people. This means that if you have a question about front-line activities, for example, go to the frontline workers. Or, for questions about payroll, you would talk to human resources.

Remember, open-ended questions will typically give the most information. These questions ask, “How?” or start with one of the W’s.

·         Who?

·         What?

·         Where?

·         When?

·         Why?

·         How?

If you’re shy about asking questions, try using the phrase, “I’m just curious.” For maximum effectiveness, these can be combined with the 5 W’s and the H. Some examples:

  • “I’m just curious, why do we process invoices by hand?”
  • “I’m just curious, when are employee benefits renewed?”
  • “I’m just curious, how often are these reports refreshed?”

Go to Gemba

“Gemba” is a Japanese term meaning, “the actual place.” It is a key concept in Lean methodology, a manufacturing-based system that aims to create maximum value with minimum waste.  “Going to gemba” means going to the place where the action is happening. If you want to see how invoices are processed, or if there is a problem with the process, go to the accounting department and watch the process yourself. If you want to understand more about how your company’s products are made, go to the assembly line. Watch what is happening, ask questions from the frontline staff, and get some hands-on experience. This inside knowledge can help you make better, smarter decisions, and can help you help your staff work smarter. For maximum benefit, make sure your team knows that you are there to observe and learn – not to judge or criticize.

Keep Learning!

The most important task for any team leader is to keep learning. A team leader’s responsibilities can cover many types of tasks, so there is always a lot to learn. Start small, but aim big. Set goals for yourself and keep working towards them.

Key skill areas to focus on include:

Training doesn’t always have to take place in the classroom, either. Listening to your team and colleagues, reading books and journals, and watching educational videos, are all excellent ways to learn more and keep improving yourself.

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