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:

  1. 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.
  2. The team expects the team-lead to stand between them and the manager by communicating top-down and defending them bottom-up.
  3. 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!

Jean-Luc Goedermans
Managing Partner