Fostering Excellence
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Seven Important Things to do When Becoming a New Team Leader

If you have recently become a team leader, congratulations! Leading teams and helping them be successful is one of the most satisfying roles in leadership. Whatever the scope of your team, it is the team that ultimately makes the organization successful. Networks of committed individuals, working as cohesive units towards common goals are powerful entities indeed. As a team leader, you are charged with ensuring these teams are well led, well resourced, and are developing and thriving.

 Effective team leaders do many of the same things whether they are leading teams in business, military, civic or non-profit organizations. The best team leaders ensure that they are self-developing, connecting with their teams, adding value, focused on goals and enabling their teams to be successful. Here are seven timely reminders to consider as you step into your new role:
Reflect on Previous Leaders– Before you take over as a team leader, take some time to ponder about the good (and bad) examples you have seen in leadership in general, and in your organization. Make a personal plan of how you will excel as the new team leader, using appropriate models. Spend some time making a development plan for yourself that will allow you to grow fully into your role as team leader, so that you are continually adding more value to the team.

Connect with the Team - You will first want to begin your time as a team leader connecting with your team. Before they can trust you, they need to get to know you. Before you can start to effectively empower your team members in the most suitable team roles, you will need to get to know them. Start off your time as a team leader with a team building day, one that maximizes opportunities for social interactions. Taking a day to get to know one another will be an investment in your relationships. You don’t need to become friends, but you do need to connect and understand one another.

Show, don’t tell – It can be tempting as a team leader to want to tout your experiential background, your educational milestones or career achievements in order to garner credibility. Let your immediate superior do that, but avoid doing this yourself.  You can easily be perceived as a braggart or as not possessing self confidence if you insist on articulating your resume highlights to your new team. Instead, let your actions speak for your competence. Excel in your role, and your team will grow into trusting your expertise.

Reevaluate team goals – When a team gets a new team leader, it is usually a good time to review the direction of the team, reassess the team’s performance and growth. You will want to put your team on a path of growth and achievements, but you and your team need to establish a good understanding of where they are, and where they are going. When doing this, actively include the input of the team and involve them in the goal setting. Not only will you get key insights from the team, but you will earn their trust, and develop more buy-in for the goals themselves.

Enable Team  Members– As you move your team forward to achieve the goals you set together, one of your key responsibilities will be to enable their success. Spend the majority of your time identifying their obstacles, and then removing them. Eliminating or streamlining administrative barriers, bringing in resources critical to their success, advocating for them to the relevant stakeholders will make them successful and will provide them with deliverables you owe them as a leader. Enabling the team’s success is your key function as a team leader; make sure you are spending most of your time in performing these tasks. Don’t fall back into operational tasks at the expense of enabling tasks!

Develop Your Team– As a team leader, you will not only be invested in the success of the team as a whole, you will also be invested in the successes and careers of your individual team members. Spend time getting to know your team members one on one, and then make development plans with them. Investing your time and energy to build your team member’s human capital is one of the most satisfying parts of being a team leader, and fully developed team members bring a lot of added value to the team and its performance.

Recognize Success – Lastly, make sure you recognize your team’s successes. Fully participate in your organization’s formal recognition programs by nominating team members for employee of the month awards, the team for team awards or any other available recognition venues. Informally recognize the team with your praise, time off awards, or something as simple as bringing in bagels and donuts. Make sure they know you are aware of and value their contributions to the team and organization at large.

Being a team leader is a very fulfilling role to play; seeing your team succeed is a fantastic experience. As a team leader, you owe it to your team to be as effective as you can be, adding value to them, and ensuring they have everything they need to be successful. If you are currently stepping into the role of a team leader, make sure you are doing everything you can to enable and recognize their success, developing yourself (to better serve them), and developing them to be as successful as they can be.
Michael Farr, PMP, is a Chief Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and founder of He is passionate about recognition and enabling professionals to motivate their organizations through recognizing their member’s excellence. When he is not slaying dragons with his kids, he can be found at @fosterxcellence on Twitter and @fosteringexcellence on Facebook.

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