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.
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.
What did the founder of Salesforce think when he talked about the mindset of the Beginner (Japanese shoshin)?
I recently listened to an interview with Salesforce co-founder Marc Benioff on Yahoo Finance. He stressed the importance of keeping a "beginner´s" mindset in business and management.