Taking on a leadership position, whether for an existing team or starting in a new one, can be daunting, with no prior experience to draw on. In addition, as a post-COVID effect, more teams are embracing remote working or a hybrid model, adding complexity and uncertainty to new leaders’ challenges.
Your performance in the first few months can significantly impact your success as a team leader and, ultimately, whether your team can deliver optimal results. How are you going to strategize your move? What steps would you take to set your team up for success? We’ve provided some strategies and tips for new leaders and included information on leading remote teams. This article will help you establish and maintain a productive, collaborative team while developing your leadership skills.
The best strategy for a new team leader
Get to know your coworkers
New team leaders should start by getting to know their team in person and understanding their coworkers’ skills, talents, personalities, and goals. They should also encourage team members to learn from each other better, create an environment where people can be honest, open, and vulnerable, and build trust and a team collaboration culture.
It may include facilitating a well-organized introduction session or initiating meetings with team-building exercises. It can entail holding social gatherings for virtual teams or beginning calls by asking how each team member is doing. Some practical team activities can have each person sharing their best and worst experiences working in groups or naming the top 3 items they enjoy or would like to change being part of a team. These discussions will help team members to come together to understand perspectives, feelings, and needs and identify further actions to promote collaboration.
Set expectations and lead by example
To ensure everyone is on the same page and can collaborate successfully and respectfully, new team leaders must lay out their expectations and establish ground rules for the group. Make no assumptions and explain how you expect the team to work. It may include a few things, such as how the organization defines roles and responsibilities, makes collective decisions, delegates work, uses metrics to measure performance, and works together.
It is an opportunity for new leaders to communicate their values and priorities, lead by example and motivate and inspire their teams. Great leaders are committed to the team’s success; they are willing to put in the effort required, listen to the ideas and opinions of their team and act on them as appropriate. It will, in turn, foster an environment of trust and collaboration, which can lead to more successful outcomes.
Start with “why” and clarify goals
Influential leaders start by helping their teams to understand the “why.” Ensure you thoroughly explain why this team exists, its purpose, and how each individual’s contribution is essential to achieving success. Encourage everyone to recognize their roles as part of something larger, creating a sense of purpose for them all.
Another essential task as a team leader is to work with your team and set ambitious but achievable goals with everyone’s input. With a clear understanding of the organization’s vision and the team goal early on, the team members will have a common purpose, team working and decision-making will be more efficient. Team members will hold each other accountable. In practice, it’s advisable to regularly review team goals and re-strategize, realign and reorganize resources to best achieve them.
Communicate openly and frequently
Communication is key to the success of any good leader. When you start your journey, it is crucial to identify your key stakeholders, understand their needs, and structure and cater your communications accordingly. Answer questions such as: Who are the key stakeholders you need to address? What would be the best approach to communicate with them – conference calls, one-on-one meetings, emails, or progress reports? How frequently do you need to check in with them?
As a general rule of thumb, it is better to over-communicate than to under-communicate at early stages. You can adjust your communication as you mature and establish your leadership role. Use your initiative, emotional intelligence, and communication skills, and work with your stakeholders to ensure everyone is up to speed and potential problems are addressed effectively and on time.
Recognize success and celebrate “early win”
Acknowledging the achievement of a team’s work can make all the difference, and achieving “early wins” accelerates the team’s momentum. People are more willing to go above and beyond in their professions and commit to future successes when they believe their efforts are appreciated and rewarded. Set milestones and encourage the team to achieve them; when they do, celebrate their accomplishment, no matter how small. It will motivate teams to constantly strive for excellence, improving team performance and creating a company culture of appreciation over time.
In practice, recognition can take the simplest form of taking a few minutes in your team meeting to recognize people’s contributions or to appreciate their help. Reflecting and celebrating the team’s accomplishment and showing appreciation for contributions can dramatically affect the team’s morale and retention and helps to bind the group together – something every couple needs for success!
Foster continuous learning
Let’s not forget that we operate in a rapidly changing and constantly evolving environment. Good team leaders should foster a learning environment by pursuing their leadership development and providing opportunities for team members to grow and develop their skills. This can be done by enabling regular training, mentoring, and coaching programs, creating a safe working environment, and encouraging teams to experiment with new ideas. Leaders can also become active contributors to the team’s learning journey by providing helpful guidance and constructive feedback.
By investing in the competency and capacity of the team, new leaders will create a more energetic and productive team in the long run.
What should a new team leader do?
Being a new team leader can be an exciting yet challenging experience. It is essential to think about how to lead your team; the following tips can help you transition to your new role successfully.
- Connect with team members and encourage them to connect;
- Establish expectations and be clear about how to evaluate team performance;
- Clarify team goals and align team members to achieve them;
- Communicate and check in with key stakeholders frequently;
- Foster an open and collaborative working culture and promote diversity and inclusivity;
- Lead with empathy and respect;
- Continuously learn and develop own leadership and management skills, and related skill-set and strive for the best work;
- Encourage team development and provide guidance and feedback;
- Identify and celebrate “early wins,” spot and fix roadblocks or grievances;
- Strategize and plan for the first 90 days as a new team leader;
- Dive into accomplishing the work without building relationships with the team;
- Assume new team members are familiar with how you and others function;
- Be afraid to communicate often at the beginning;
- Set team goals without discussing them with the team members;
- Ignore feedback from the team;
- Be a new manager (you are a leader!)
Becoming a good team leader can be an overwhelming but rewarding journey.
Team leadership involves communicating and collaborating with your team members to create an environment of trust, respect, and collaboration. It is a continuous journey of empowering the team to achieve milestones, celebrate successes, and strive for the better. Setting clear objectives and expectations helps team members stay focused and take the initiative to work towards a common goal.
Empathy, emotional intelligence, leadership and management skills, dedication, and hard work are required. If you’re up for the challenge and passionate about creating a team that’s successful, motivated, and makes a difference, start acquiring the skills and practicing!