Nothing is more exciting than being promoted and put in charge of a new project. Yet after the excitement of the promotion wears off, overwhelm may quickly set in as you think about the journey ahead.
As a new team leader, your first order of business is to build an effective team. Whether the team came with your promotion, or your first task is selecting the perfect participants, where do you begin?
All roads lead to you.
As a team leader, your purpose is to lead a team as effectively as possible to its end purpose. The primary reason for forming a team is the combined skills and expertise of many can and should trump the contributions of individuals. The tighter the coordination, the more each team member provides his or her best, the more tasks stay on track and add to the end result, the more beneficial the outcome will be to all involved.
If a team works effectively, it’s easy to forget the team leader’s role in making it all happen. It runs that well.
Yet that doesn’t happen by accident. Team leaders have many challenges to overcome before the team can fulfill its purpose. Before a team can reach its goal, a team leader must:
1. Identify goals and objectives and effectively share them with team members.
The clearer you can define all aspects of the project, the more your team members will align with your thinking. Also keep in mind that the more on board your team is with the ultimate goal, the easier your job will be to keep everyone on task. Start with broad goals:
- What is the purpose of this project?
- What is the end result?
Then break it down into as much detail as possible.
- What tasks are needed?
- Who is the best person for each task?
- What skills are needed?
- How should the task be performed?
- When should the task be completed to keep us on track?
The clearer you see the project, the more your team will as well.
2. Identify all resources needed and make sure they are easily at hand.
Resources come in all kinds of formats. You may need monetary resources, special training and education, specific tools for the job, or applications to help run things more competently.
Teams can’t be productive if they are waiting around for the right resource. The more you can anticipate the needs ahead of time, the more resources you can have in place as they are needed.
In some cases, you as the team leader may know what resources will be needed. In some cases, your team has a stronger idea of needs and requirements. Start an open dialog early to ensure your team has the essentials from day one.
3. Create clear assignments for each team member, providing the appropriate training when necessary.
One of the greatest challenges you can face as a team leader is hearing a member say, “I didn’t know I was supposed to do that”. Not only can it set the project back, it can also cause a rift amongst the team members.
Ensure that you clearly define each team member’s role before the project begins, and clarify tasks along the way. If something changes or moves off task, it’s your job to guide it back into place. If training is necessary, provide it.
You can also assess your own strengths and weaknesses along the way, and watch how they impact the team. If you have a weakness, find a mentor or even another team member that can help you stay on track.
4. Keep the team on track until the team finishes the task at hand.
Staying on task and controlling the outcome are all part of the process. In all cases, establish a metric to be used for measuring performance and outcomes. The clearer you can define each process, the more team members will be able to guide themselves towards the desired result.
As the team reaches milestones, and heads towards the completion of the project, consider rewards as well. Nothing says, “job well done” more than a leader recognizing the work of his team. Remember, you as a team leader only succeed if your team shines. Keep that as your ultimate goal, and you’re well on your way to success.