Becoming a team leader can happen in many ways. You may be hired from outside the company to take on a team. You might be assigned to create a brand new team. Or, you might be promoted from within the team. Each situation requires some special skills for success.
What to Do If You’ve Been Promoted from within the Team
Being promoted from within the team is often a huge challenge for new supervisors. It is difficult to make the transition from team member to team leader, particularly if you are now responsible for sensitive items, such as salaries or schedules.
To begin, start setting a good example from the moment that you think you may be promoted to team leader. We all have bad habits; take this time to curb yours. Identifying the source of your bad habits and creating an action plan may also help you identify areas for improvement within the team.
Training can also be beneficial. Enlist your supervisor’s help in determining appropriate topics. Some suggestions:
Take this time, too, to do some careful observing. What is the current supervisor doing? Which behaviors work for the team, and which don’t? You will also want to get a clear job description and go over it with the current supervisor to make sure there are no surprises. You will also want to review the job descriptions for each team member.
When you take over the role of team leader, have a meeting with your team. Explain that you have taken over the role and its responsibilities. Clarify that things will continue as usual. It is important to spend your first few weeks settling into the role and understanding the big picture before you make any major changes.
One of the biggest challenges team leaders who have been promoted from within the team face is a lack of respect. For example, let’s say you always had the habit of taking an hour lunch instead of 45 minutes, and most of the team had lunch with you. When you are promoted, you realize the behavior has to stop, but when you request that the team return from lunch on time, they remind you of your previous habits and tease you.
In these situations, simply provide a logical explanation for changing your behavior: “I know I often returned late from lunch before, but that was before I realized how much it was costing the company. The company has this rule for a reason, and I think it’s important that we all respect it.”
Above all, do not respond emotionally to taunts, teases, and jibes. A logical explanation, or a simple, “I don’t think those kinds of comments are appropriate,” should make your position clear in a professional manner.
What To Do If You’re Leading a Brand New Team
Many team leaders feel that heading up a new team is one of the easiest tasks. After all, the team members don’t know each other, so they have nothing to argue about. However, other team leaders feel that this is one of the most difficult, rewarding challenges a leader can face.
To begin, make sure that the team has a clear role and objective. This is particularly important for short term, task-based teams. Then, share this role with the team, and help them to focus on their new task. Often, employees who have been transferred to the team from within the company have a hard time letting go of their old positions.
What to Do if You’re Taking on an Established Team
Coming on board as the new team leader for an established team can be a tough task. Your primary objective in this situation is not to appear as a threat, but rather as a helpful new resource and valuable ally.
To begin, gather information about the team’s objective, team dynamics, and their history together. If possible, be introduced to the team before you start work as their supervisor, and spend some time watching them work.
It is also important to get started on the right foot. On your first day, have a team meeting. Explain your role and what you will be doing in the coming weeks. (Ideally, you should spend your first few weeks watching the team. Avoid making major changes if possible. Be an observer rather than a participant.) If you have been hired to make changes, set expectations for what will happen in the short term and long term.