LEADERSHIP: THE BURDEN OF COMMAND
Leadership skills are still taken for granted too often. How often have I seen people been promoted to team-lead, team coordinator, line manager or whatever creative title invented to serve the same purpose: to make them responsible for the results of a group of people without proper guidance. As from that point the “newbee” team-lead is confronted with a whole set of challenges he (or she) was (most likely) unaware of.
Whatever the context, business domain or expertise is concerned, one common challenge and often straddle arises: the manager/company demands better and faster results but the group of people the newbee team-lead got responsible for is not yet able to meet these expectations.
As a result, the team-lead faces a triple credibility test:
- He has to build trust towards his manager by delivering results and explaining what actions are undertaken to close the gap between what is expected and what has been delivered.
- The team expects the team-lead to stand between them and the manager by communicating top-down and defending them bottom-up.
- Last but not least: he has to remain credible to himself even when under heavy pressure, sometimes this may undermine his personal integrity.
Following factors (non-exhaustive list) play an important role in how effective the team-lead can lead the team towards better results:
- Maturity of the team: The less mature the team is (or in worst case group of individuals), the more effort the team-lead needs to put in building the team.
- Time to grow: A rock solid and short deadline may drastically reduce the time the team-lead gets to build the team, forcing the team-lead in a more project- or crisis-manager role rather than that of a people manager.
- The manager: The manager to whom the team-lead reports preferably has been in a team-lead role before so he is aware of the endeavors of this role. This way, the manager is able to identify shortcomings in the skillset and can coach the team-lead or have him/her coached!
Governance of changes and priorities of projects that affect the team are crucial both for the delivery of results as for the ability to create a team and have it perform better over time.
The variety and level of mastery of skills that the team-lead needs, varies from situation to situation. The first step in an approach to comfort the team-lead in his/her new role is to assess him/herself (and the team!) and highlight the strengths and attention points in managing the team, the manager(s), stakeholders and him/herself. Next, a combination of training & (personal) coaching can boost the performance of the team-lead, the team and the results.
I was lucky to meet managers who agreed on the need to coach team-leads: the experiences to grow together towards better and faster results were both successes and fun to do!