Be a Good Team Leader
Being able to work effectively on, and lead a team is critical in the current job market where every employee is closely measured. Teamwork is also essential in school, sports, and group activities. Being a good team leader involves listening and communicating with your team, respecting other’s ideas and inputs, and keeping morale high. With a positive attitude, some creativity, and an open mind, you can be a great team leader.
Establishing Your Role as a Leader
- Establish a hierarchy. Ineffective team leaders aren’t just people who boss everyone around and demand a level of respect that hasn’t been earned. Ineffective team leaders are also people who don’t establish a clear, transparent hierarchy within the team as a whole. If you are the leader, you are at the top. You have the final say on things and assign roles to your team.
- Hold a meeting with your team, especially if you are new to leading or your team has just been established. During your meeting, discuss with your team everyone’s role and be clear about who reports to who.
- Draw up a chart that has everyone’s name and title on it. Your sheet should have a hierarchy that shows you and your role at the top, who reports directly to you, and so on.
- Also make it clear that you intend to respect everyone’s roles and acknowledge how important and vital each one is to your successful team.
- Make the time to lead. This not only means keeping frequent and open communication with your team and helping to answer any questions. It also means filling in any gaps, solving any problems, and that you should be working the hardest, and often, the longest.
- A bad team leader delegates projects and tasks to everyone else and goes home early. A good team leader is constantly making sure everyone is on track, organized, and picking up any slack.
- Make yourself available to your team when you are needed. You should also set boundaries that everyone will adhere to. Your team should be able to get your attention when needed, but not every time a question arises. Use your hierarchy to facilitate a chain of command and set your boundaries.
- Additionally, set boundaries on both your and your team’s workload. Before accepting a leadership position, re-negotiate your own workload with your boss so you can be available to your team. Then, do the same for your team.
- As a team leader, you may have to stay later than your team. Come into work earlier, or even on the weekends. Your goal is to prevent your whole team from having to do this. Give your team workload boundaries that can be followed so the members of your team don’t get overwhelmed or too stressed.
- Lead by example. This is similar to making the time to lead. As a team leader you may have more perks, a bigger paycheck, and an extra vacation day or two, but you also have more responsibility. Your team’s mistakes are ultimately your fault and your responsibility.
- Treat everyone on your team with equal respect. Keep an open and honest communication and show your team that you are here to solve any problems or make any needed adjustments that benefit the team as a whole.
- Be respectful of other teams and people in other departments. Never criticise other individuals or departments, especially around the team. After all, if your team sees you behaving a certain way, members may think it’s ok to behave similarly. Not only is that kind of behavior disrespectful and unprofessional, but it falls on you.
- Delegate when appropriate. Although your job isn’t just to hand off work to others, part of establishing yourself as a good team leader is knowing when to delegate certain tasks. Make it clear what everyone will be expected to do and accomplish. Don’t hover either. Trust your team to do the job at hand.
- Be decisive as well. People are more likely to follow and respect you if you can make quick, well informed decisions. When you procrastinate, your team sees that and it can be perceived as weakness. You’re there to lead and make decisions, so be prepared to do so.
- If you are faced with a decision that impacts any part of the team, or you may not have all of the information you need to make an informed decision, go to your team. Ask for a report or status update on a part of a project that can help you with your decision. Talk with your team about your options and get input.
- Manage projects, lead people. Being a good team leader is knowing how to differentiate between managing all the projects your team is working on and leading the team that is working on those projects. While you need to oversee everyone and all of the projects, you should let your team do the work that each team member was hired to do.
- Managing is more task-oriented, keeping track of meetings and events, building and maintaining everyone’s schedules, and allowing the proper time and resources for tasks to be completed correctly.
- Leading your team requires you to provide support and motivate your team members to accomplish the assigned tasks. A good leader won’t micromanage and tell team members how to do everything. Instead, inspire and motivate your team members to contribute ideas and methods that work best for each individual.
Relating to Your Team
- Earn respect, don’t demand it. Most likely, you earned your role in a leadership position. It wasn’t just given to you because it was your right. Think of being a team leader as a privilege.
- Though you are in charge of your team, and therefore above the other members, your position as the leader needs to be respected by the members of your team.
- Earn respect by being a confident, competent member of the team. Carry a positive attitude towards your team as a whole, and towards each member individually. Listen to your team and get everyone’s input.
- You will sometimes have to be creative and make an intuitive decision on the fly. This decision may not always be what everyone in your team wants. Explain clearly why you made the decision you did, and ask for input or feedback from your team.
- Listen to what your team has to say, and value the ideas that come your way. People will be more willing to accept your leadership role when everyone knows each opinion is valued and considered.
- Keep to schedules. If your team feels like both work and personal schedules can’t be met, or aren’t respected, this could affect morale and your team’s opinion of you as a leader. Give everyone time to have a personal life. Talk regularly about weekly schedules, and hold a meeting on Mondays to sort out the week. Additionally, give your team enough time for a project. If you disrupt one task because another has arisen, this can cause conflict. The minute you know a task will have to be accomplished, inform your team.
- If an emergency task or project comes up from another department or your boss, your job as a leader is to sometimes push back. You should be the first line of defence for your team against other departments.
- Listen to others. Even though you are the team leader and you make the decisions, you should get your team’s opinions and ideas whenever possible. Try to incorporate these inputs whenever it's feasible. Encourage suggestions on how to solve a particular issue or complete a task.
- Take in others' suggestions. When someone gives you an idea, work on it. Think of how you can improve on it. A good leader is one that listens and not just talks. Show the team you are flexible.
- If someone proposes a solution or idea, don’t discount it by saying that you’ve already tried that particular approach. “Yeah, but” statements should be avoided as well. Instead of discounting an idea, think it over again, maybe it could work now whereas before it didn’t.
- Talk things out with your team. Ask questions to get further information on an idea. Your job as a leader isn’t to discount an idea that may not work, it’s to help your team discover a solution.
- Include everyone. If some people are a little behind on a project or task, help them. Keep a positive attitude and spend some time with the individual to assess why there is an issue. Find a task for everyone no matter what their skill or level.
- If you’re helping someone who is having a hard time with a task, don’t just demonstrate how to do the task. Not only will quickly demonstrating not help your team member to learn how to accomplish this task themselves, but it may lower morale. No one wants to feel incapable or inadequate.
- Stay positive and welcome the opportunity to help. Be excited that your team member wants to learn and improve. Walk a team member through the steps for a task. Schedule a time to help if you’re busy.
- Encourage your team. Sometimes people are scared to try something, and this is where the leader comes in. You have to encourage your team members. Show your team that the task is possible, even if difficult, and try to make it fun. Celebrate the positive results of someone’s work.
- Enthusiasm is contagious. If you get excited, then your team is more likely to be excited about the project. If your team respects you and looks up to as a leader, your excitement and encouragement will foster creativity and a desire to perform well.
- Acknowledge your team for a job well done, even if it’s small. Small compliments and acknowledgements can be more effective than big ones. Even if you can’t reward good work with a pay raise, verbal appreciation holds a lot of weight. If your team is doing a great job, consider taking everyone out to lunch one day to celebrate hard work. During lunch, spend the time connecting with everyone on a personal level. Leave the work talk for the office. Get to know who your team members are outside of the office.
- A simple “thank you” goes a long way. Taking a second or two to stop and thank team members shows you are a leader who cares and relies on your team.
- Know what you are talking about. If your team members are as confused as you are, how will they know what to do? As the leader, you must do the research first, have the most information on a project, and know who to assign tasks to.
- Do outside research on a topic or project so that when it’s time to lead your team you have all of the knowledge you need to answer questions and discuss ideas.
- Pay attention to your team. Listen to each member and pay attention to everyone’s individual strengths and skills. When doling out tasks and roles, you need to be able to give the right task to the right person.
- By learning everything you can about your team and the projects you are working on you can provide an authority and give your team the tools to be the most efficient.
- Enjoy being a leader. Even though leaders have to take things seriously, there is no reason you can't have fun. Just don't get too carried away. Balance the serious business at hand with regard for the morale and spirits of the team.
- Sometimes, you might have a bad day. The same is true for everyone on your team. If a member is lost in a task or frustrated, this is your time to shine. Use your great personality and sense of humor to help your team member. Discuss what it is that’s causing stress and help your colleague with finding a solution.
- Helping your team is the fun part of the job. All the planning, handing out tasks, and making sure that everything is completed on time and to standards can get overwhelming. Enjoy the moments when you get to help someone with something.
- Pay attention to morale. A demoralized team won't function. You must set the positive spirit, make the goals clear, show how the job is feasible and possible. No one will work for an impossible goal.
- If morale is low, encourage an open conversation about why. It may be a larger within the company as a whole that you can’t quickly fix. At the very least you can come up with some creative ideas to help your team, even on a small level.
- Take walking meetings. No one likes sitting in a stuffy room discussing the nuts and bolts of a project. Being in motion gets the blood flowing and facilitates clarity resulting in great ideas. If you can, take your team on a walking meeting out of the office, or even just through it.
- Play games as a reward or as a way to brainstorm. Or throw a ball around while you have a meeting to discuss goals.
- Set fun team goals and reward those goals. You may have certain project goals and department-wide goals that your team has to hit, but you can come up with your own too. Perhaps you set a goal that your team has to complete a portion of a project by a certain date. If the team succeeds you go get drinks after work on your dime, or you plan a field trip day somewhere that is fun but can also help the project. This won’t always be the case, but if you work in a more creative environment you may be able to take your team on an outing to foster bonding or research something that is relevant to your work.
- Address frustrations immediately. If you know someone is unhappy or upset, don’t wait until the situation escalates. Talk to that person and work on a solution together. This not only shows that you are paying attention, but that you care.
- If someone makes a mistake, don’t get angry. Your team members are humans and everyone makes mistakes. Just try to help and be kind. Your job is to try to prevent errors, demonstrate the proper course of action, and make up for errors that occur.
- Always respect the opinion of the members.
- If possible, choose members of your team who can work well together. If this isn't possible, your job is to mentor the weakest member, help that individual become better team member. Use peer help. Assign your stronger member as a partner with a weak person and let the stronger member demonstrate how to do the job.
- A good leader always helps others and never leaves anyone behind.
- Always be friendly with team members.
- Don't try to act too dominant. Stay friendly and respectful.
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