Blog • 14. November 2022

When a specialist becomes a team leader vol2: 11 challenges

For a specialist, an exciting moment in his/her professional life emerges when he/she is proposed to take up the position of a team leader. 

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For a specialist,  an  exciting moment  in professional life comes when he/she is proposed  to take up the position of a team leader.  Typically, he/she has some kind of  experience in  managing or supervising  the  workflow of employees, has the ambition to  test him/herself as a manager, and there is a confidence on the part of  the management that the rest of the team will accept him/her  as a leader.

There are a whole range of new topics that come to the desk of a newly promoted team manager and the need to form new attitudes and values in him/herself. It’s no secret that quite often otherwise good professionals tend to fail in a new role. I’ve noticed that this has been a hot topic in recent years.  So I’ll add a few more thoughts  to the discussion room.


You become more visible

Your words and actions will carry  more weight from now on.  Your statements and actions will now be monitored  more closely. You  can no longer  always afford such pronouncements as  you used to be as a specialist.


Acquiring new leadership skills

The strengths that helped you  succeed as  a specialist may no longer be critical to success as a leader. I recommend starting  with occupational personality  assessment tests (for example,  Hogan)  to understand what  innate strengths  support you in your  new role, what  personality risks you should pay attention to (for example: do you have an  inherently high line of perfectionism that promotes micromanagement of  subordinates and prevents the delegation of tasks?)  and what leadership skills could be  further developed. NB! Take into account the whole context, i.e. in addition to the  new role, the  profile of your  team,  your immediate manager, the company’s expectations for your position, as well as the organizational culture.


Your previous colleagues (possibly  your friends) will become your subordinates

If you are promoted to a team leader position,  your relationships with colleagues will change.  It is possible that  there are also friends among colleagues.  Even if you really liked your colleagues in the past, now you need to understand that you will be their leader and a whole series of new dimensions  will come to the relationship between you and them. You will begin  to target them, evaluate their  performance, give them feedback, be responsible for their development and work environment, discuss salary issues with them etc. It is possible that with some of them you will also  have to have very difficult conversations in the future.


Representing the organization  in a team

Unless you  have  to do something illegal or unethical,  the  organization expects you to represent the  organization’s views on the team and implement  its strategy. It is ok  not to accept proposals at management meetings, but once a  decision is  made, it must  be implemented. You  can’t tell your team that  you don’t agree  with the decision, but you were in the  minority in the decision-making process. This undermines the will of  workers to put  things into practice.  The alternative is always to  look for new  challenges outside the  organization,  if there  is a value conflict or if you  feel that under new circumstances  it  will  be difficult  for you  to meet the  expectations set for you.


Being a buffer between your team and upper level management

It may be that the company decisions raise questions among  your subordinates,  or some of the team members may even disagree  with  some decisions.  Often,  decision-makers on the top level  have  more information and inputs than those on front level.  In this case,  you need to be an  intermediate buffer between the  management and your team and find solutions so that the decisions can still be implemented.  It may be that with some decisions you  do not  even agree yourself. You  should not pour oil into  the fire  in the team with  your doubts and hesitations.  Do not blame yourself  for non-authenticity in this case, but think that this is part of your role.


Use the input provided by the team effectively

Of course, it is important that you listen to your  subordinates, ask their opinion and sell  them your ideas before making a decision, but do not let  a  situation arise in which every decision becomes  consensus-based.  So it  may happen that  at the end  of the day no one is completely satisfied with the  situation.  At some point, you have to make very unpopular decisions in the team, which not everyone likes. Remember that  at the end of the day,  as a leader, you are the one responsible for  the team’s performance and decisions.


Making difficult decisions

Sometimes  the leader has to make a choice between two more or less similar options. It is easy to choose between right and wrong.  Sometimes it seems as if there are not very good options. To support the decision making, it is worth thinking about two questions: how will the decision influence our business and how will it influence our clients?


Adapting your management style to the needs of employees

Your subordinates are different as human beings and must also be approached differently. Being treated fairly does not mean that you treat all employees the same way.  A veteran employee needs a  different approach than a beginner taking his  first steps in the company.  As long as your team members don’t feel like you’re unnecessarily favoring someone, using different approaches for subordinates is ok.


Providing timely and useful feedback

The longer you drag on giving feedback, the harder it is  to do it.  If feedback is given in a timely manner, the  parties will remember important details better,  and the easier it will be  to change behavior.  In addition, it is  easier for an employee to get less amount of feedback at a time. Make feedback regular.


Keep up the pace of work

Do not forget about Parkinson’s law: the work fills the entire period of time given for the work. You’d better set  more aggressive deadlines, get more done. Do the difficult tasks first and keep an eye on the performance on an ongoing basis.


Don’t be shy to ask for help

Don’t forget about the resources your  company provides.  In the  process of becoming a team leader, there  will definitely  be  obstacles and challenges.  Don’t be afraid to ask for advice or help from  other leaders.  The success  of your team is also your success.

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