The Five Skills You Will Need as a New Team Leader

penknifeCongratulations. You have impressed everyone with your technical abilities and because you have been the best, you have now been promoted to a leadership role.

Now you find that it’s not as easy as you thought. Suddenly everyone treats you differently and you are wondering if this was a good move or not. I understand.

The good news is that you were not promoted into this position solely on your technical brilliance. Far from it. You were promoted because you showed someone that you had the ability to do the job; the capacity to learn; and the personality to be a real asset to the team and the company.

Now you need to learn new skills along with enhancing the skills that you have already shown. Let’s go over just a few thoughts of where you may have to concentrate. Here are a list of five skills you might need as a new team leader.

1. Learn to Delegate

Yes, you may have been the best technical expert in your field, use it to assist your team, not do all the work.

I’ve met team leaders who think its their job to take on all the hard tasks that the team struggles with. What happens in this situation is the team leader ends up being given all the work that the team doesn’t want to do. You are no longer the team leader, you’re being commanded by the team. By taking on this work you are also limiting the team’s abilities to grow and learn. People grow by learning how to do the hard things, not by knowing how to avoid them.

I’ve also met team leaders who say they will never ask anyone to do anything they can’t do themselves. Congratulations, you have just reduced the team to a single skill set. Your team is a technical team filled with people who may have direct skills that can take years to master.

I’ve also met team leaders who enjoy walking around the team and taking over their tasks at their computer to complete what they may have started. If you would enjoy someone butting in and taking over your ideas, then I suppose there are some out there who like that, but on the whole, you’d just annoy the team.

Learning to delegate correctly is hard but comes with experience. It’s OK to do no other tasks except be the team leader. Yes, pull up your sleeves and help to deliver when needed, but on the whole, you must trust the team to deliver even if it wouldn’t be done exactly how you would do it.

2. Communication

Keep your team up to date with everything that’s happening that might affect them or may interest them. This can be done in quick 5 minute morning meetings, weekly team meetings, or emails or other ways. Whichever way you decide, you need to keep the team updated not only on the progress of their project, but on company happenings and anything else you or the team may find helpful or interesting.

3. Motivating the Team

Everyone occasionally needs to be recognised when they do something right, but the team also needs to be helped to stay motivated on something that may have become very difficult, political, or has just been going on too long.

4. Recruiting new Team Members

Your team may be stable, but at some stage you may need to recruit new team members. Employ your HR advisor to assist you if you have one, but don’t delegate this task, it’s yours. You are entirely responsible for this so gain all the help you can from HR and your own manager.

5. Discipline Correctly

Again, your task and cannot be delegated. At some point, you may need to have a talk to someone in your team. A team member may be causing difficulties for others,they may be going against company rules, or their actions or attitude may need to be pointed out to them so that they understand that it is not good.

Have you ever been in a restaurant when the manager yelled at a worker in front of you? It’s uncomfortable both for the worker and for everyone else in the vicinity. Its possible you will never go back there as you feel too embarrassed. It’s the same with your team, never discipline in front of the team or others unless there is something happening that needs immediate and direct action, for example they may be swearing at or threatening a customer or colleague. Even then, simply stop the action and take the team member aside. All discipline or actions and discussions should be done behind closed doors.

These are all reasonably new skills for a technical person to learn, but you have shown in the past that you either have some of these skills, or that you have the ability and personality to learn them.

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2 thoughts on “The Five Skills You Will Need as a New Team Leader

  1. stevepeacockeSteve Peacocke

    Thanks for that. Yes, there are a number of skills that the team leader can gain. These are just the 5 main ones and touched on very lightly. You are correct in that one of the main functions of a team leader for a technical team is to ensure that you are allowing the team to perform their tasks with the minimal of interruptions and sidetracks.

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