I have a coaching client who was promoted from a specialist engineer to the dizzy heights of team lead without the company investing in the skills she needed to transition from specialist to leader.

Because her boss and company did not recognize that they were promoting her into a new profession and invest in her accordingly, their accomplishment was to turn a fine and capable engineer into a poor supervisor!

The difference:

  • Specialists use their skills and experience to create a product
  • Team leaders need management skills, a knack for problem solving and the ability to plan and manage the work – NOT to do it!

So, what is a team leader’s skill set?

1 Balancing between leadership and management

This are separate skills:

Leadership is communicating a common vision of a future state; gaining agreement; then, motivating others in a forward direction.

Management is results driven and getting the work done.

Your job as a good team leader will constantly switch from a leader to a manager as situations require.

2 Be a Team Builder and a Leader

The leader sets the “tone” of the team to lead them through the various team development phases to the point where they begin to perform.

Read about teams

3 Be a Problem Solver

Identify the possible “causes” that lead to the problem, then analyze possible options and alternatives, and determine the best course of action to take.

4 Be a Negotiator and Influencer

Negotiation is working with others to come to a joint agreement. To avoid power struggles, develop influencing skills. Influencing is the ability to get people to do things they may not do otherwise.

5 Be an Excellent Communicator

Being a communicator is a two-way street as. A good way of come to grips with managing the information comes and goes is to ask yourself the following questions: who needs this information? who gathers and delivers it? when or how often do they need it? and, in what form?

Read about communicating

6 Be Organized

Let’s just think of what you need to organize; project documentation, contracts, emails, memo’s, reviews, meetings, etc. It’s almost impossible to stay organized without developing good time management skills.

7 Become a Planner

The skill of planning can’t be underestimated. There are known and logical steps in creating plans. You may well own your team’s plan, but others depend upon your success.

8 Manage Budgets

At the heart of this is the skill is managing the budget, particularly costs. You will need a knowledge of financial systems and accounting principles.

If you are new to team leadership, don’t be overwhelmed by all this. There are well-understood methodologies, tools, guidelines, and procedures to help you on your way to developing the important life-skill of leadership.

The first thing you need to do is book time with your boss and ask what their performance objectives are; what does he need you to do to help them be successful; and, then what professional development do you require to be successful.

Read about partnering with your boss


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