Being a team leader can be stressful work. Many people make the mistake of thinking the one in charge doesn’t have to work. But a good team leader works the hardest. As a team leader, it is up to you to keep your staff on task and on schedule. When things go wrong, you’re the one who has to fix them. And if the work doesn’t get done, it’s your neck on the chopping block. The right candidate will have these team leader skills.
Team Leader Skills
If you’re considering the idea of becoming a team leader, you may be wondering what all you’ll have to do. Each role is different based on company policy, but some everyday tasks are universal to the position of team leader.
As a team leader, it’s your job to manage the team under you. It’s up to you to make sure that everyone knows what they’re responsible for and gets it done correctly and on time (or even ahead of schedule). Team leaders have to deal with scheduling, planning, supervising other team members, dealing with any problems or team member conflicts, and communicating with the group.
If things don’t get done the right way, the boss is going to blame the supervisor rather than the lower employees. Because it’s the team leader’s job to make sure that everything gets done. If someone is slacking and putting the situation behind schedule, the team leader should be stepping up to fix the problem.
Maybe You’re Born with It – Maybe You Learned It
Some leaders are born. Others are made. When it comes to being the boss, some people don’t know how they’re supposed to act. They may overcompensate by trying to be everyone’s friend so that there are no hurt feelings. But being too nice can backfire.
Other team leaders might get a big head. Now that they’re in charge, they’re power-hungry. They run their crew with an iron fist, driving the whip on every employee. Morale goes down, and the project often gets behind schedule because the team is miserable.
And then there are the bosses who think they don’t have to do any work because they’re the ones in charge. No one wants to work for someone who isn’t carrying their weight. If the boss never wants to come into the office or hold meetings to make sure the team is on schedule, the team dynamic could crumble, and nothing will get done.
Good Leaders Work as Part of the Team
A good team leader learns how to bring balance to the team. They understand how to be friendly and approachable, yet they also have high expectations and a low tolerance for inconsistency. Some people are born with a natural ability to lead. Others might have to learn their methodology through school and training.
How you gain team leadership skills isn’t as important as how well you implement them. There are some common qualities that all good leaders have. Without these skills, it will be harder for a leader to do their job correctly. But leaders that have these skills have a better chance of being successful in their role as head honcho.
If you want to be a successful team leader, the first thing you’ll need to remember is that you will have to put in the effort. Your team isn’t going to give it their all if they see you slacking in your role. If you want the team to put forth their best effort, they have to see you doing the same. If you’re not ready to dedicate yourself to your job as a leader, you won’t get respect and dedication from your team.
Team Leaders Need to be Organized
When you’re the person in charge, you’ll realize that there are a lot of tasks that you’re now in charge of that you probably had no idea even existed. You’re now responsible for setting up a plan of action for getting your projects done. You have to divide up and assign tasks to team members. And you have to keep the project on schedule.
If you want to be efficient at your job, you have to be organized. It wouldn’t look good for you to be late for the team meeting because you have to rummage through all the papers on your desk for the meeting itinerary.
You have to be good at answering emails on time. Your supervisor might want to be updated periodically on your progress. Or a team member might have a question before they can move on with their task. Or you might have to make adjustments to your current plan to account for the last-minute change from the client or boss.
When you have a regular schedule and a simple organizing system, you can improve your efficiency. You’ll be able to stay on task or even ahead of schedule. And you’ll feel less stressed because you don’t have to worry that you won’t have the materials you need.
Be a Goal Setter
When you’re in charge of a project, you have to decide how it will be tackled. You could assign each team member a task you think they’re suited for, or you could let them select which part they want to do. Allowing them to choose can be beneficial because people are more engaged with a project that they’re actually interested in.
Not only will you be deciding who does what, but you’ll also have to work out a timeframe for how long each piece should take. It helps to have a checklist of goals. You don’t want to have a ton of small goals. Instead, have a few different checkpoints of where everyone should be by a particular time.
For example, by the end of the first day, each member should be ready to turn in a rough draft of their idea. Maybe they’re submitting a plan of action for what all they’ll have to do to finish their part, like research, first draft, editing, finalizing. Or they could submit a checklist of points they’ll be covering.
You’ll then have a larger goal for the end of the week, and a goal for the next team meeting next week. And a final goal to complete the task. Divide your goals up to meet the needs of your project, but make sure they’re obtainable, concise about the expectations, and that each team member understands them clearly.
Team Leaders Need to be Excellent Communicators
Team leaders have to know how to communicate appropriately with their team. It’s crucial to remember that your every move is being scrutinized. If the team feels that you’re just winging your job, they might challenge your authority. Being a poor communicator is one reason that people doubt their leaders.
But can you blame them? Would you put faith in someone who sent you an email full of typos and grammatical errors? How much confidence would you put into a supervisor who leaves your relevant emails unanswered for days at a time or responds with unclear responses? I’d say not much.
A team leader needs to know how to communicate correctly through digital means like emails or message boards, but they also need to know how to speak appropriately in person. They listen without interruption when a staff member has concerns. And they talk in a clear, professional voice.
A good team leader isn’t going to address the team as they would their friends. Leave the slang for after hours. Try to address every member by their name when talking to them. Encourage the group to express their opinions and thoughts. Being able to share their ideas openly improves employee morale.
Give Individual Attention
When employees feel appreciated, they work harder. They put more effort into their job because they know that it will pay off. Personally, recognize the employees that you see going the extra mile. If someone is helping other people while maintaining their workload, show your appreciation by pulling them to the side and commenting on it. Or send an email.
If you notice that a team member seems to be falling behind or that their performance is slipping, take the time to talk to that person. Find out if there’s a problem that you can solve. Maybe they aren’t clear on the instructions. Or they don’t have the skills to do the job you’ve assigned them.
Stress can also affect a person’s work performance. If your employees are cracking under the pressure of their workload, it may be time to reevaluate the way you’ve distributed the material. You might need to divide the work up into smaller chunks or hire more people. Encourage your team to take periodic breaks throughout the day to stretch and decompress.
Team Leaders Have to be Facilitators
Facilitating is a vital part of being a team leader. The primary goal of a team leader is to be sure the team gets their job done. You will need to stay on top of each member’s progress and be ready to offer assistance if they are falling behind. As a team leader, you’re already familiar with every task because you’ve created them and assigned them to the members.
As the one in charge, everything will be falling on your shoulders. But you’ll go crazy if you try to do everything yourself. A good team leader knows the strengths and weaknesses of his staff. When you divide up tasks, you know which assignments will be best suited to which members. By playing on each member’s strengths, you’re increasing team efficiency and reducing the need for you to micromanage each member.
To be an excellent facilitator, you need to be able to listen to your staff if they have concerns. And you have to be able to help find a solution. If there is a conflict, you will be responsible for playing the mediator and getting the issue resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. You should never take sides or play favorites.
Prepare to be a Mediator
Workplace conflicts occur quite frequently. If left unresolved, these negative feelings can infect the entire team, ruining any chance of making your deadline. If you notice that there seems to be a problem among your team, step in, and try to help resolve it.
Never take sides when you have to settle a dispute. If a staff member feels that they’re being singled out by the boss, it could lead to resentment and further problems. A good team leader is always fair in negotiations so that both parties can walk away satisfied.
It’s essential to listen with an open mind and try to help the staff settle the problem themselves without you having to decide for them. Instead of solving the issue, help them find a compromise. Ask open-ended questions that make them give detailed answers to explain their point of view. This gives both sides a chance to be heard while providing the relevant information so a decision can be made together.
Team Leaders Need to Have Confidence
Imagine this: you’re part of a team that just got assigned a massive assignment for a very influential client. This job could make or break all of your careers. Do a good job, and you’ll be the go-to team for all the big clients. If you fail, it could be the death of your career. No pressure.
You’re confident in your ability to get the job done to the customer’s satisfaction – until you meet the new team leader. A young, inexperienced associate who stammers and fumbles with the well-organized briefing documents for information the whole team knows is right there on the first page. Suddenly, you might not be so sure this project will go smoothly.
Team leaders need to be confident in their ability to manage the team. If you look intimidated, your team isn’t going to trust you to get them across the finish line. You might end up with team members who each do their own thing without any cohesion. Or members who don’t put forth much effort and submits a subpar project.
Demonstrate your Confidence
A good leader will be confident about the decisions they make. You should never seem unsure of yourself in front of your team. If you have doubts or insecurities, hide them. Stay positive when you’re talking to the group. Don’t use indecisive words like “This might” or “We hope.” Make sure you express your confidence in them as a team and as individuals as much as you show confidence in yourself.
When you’re addressing your staff, speak in a steady, clear voice. Know what you’re going to say and use your body language to support your words. If you’re trying to inspire your team, use your hands to make a point. Stand up straight and look at your audience instead of the ground. Eye contact exerts dominance and inspires respect.
You don’t have to use a lot of big words to impress your listeners. It’s more about how you present your speech. Keep your statement simple and to the point. But be interactive with it. If you speak in a monotone voice, everyone is going to drift off. Don’t be afraid to be funny if it comes naturally to you – as long as you’re getting your point across in a professional manner.
Team Leaders Have to be Decisive
If you’re the type of person who struggles with making a quick decision, you might not be a good fit as a team leader. Leaders often have to make rapid decisions about sudden unexpected changes. Maybe an employee quits or transfers out of your group. You’ll have to figure out how to pick up the slack before it sets your team back.
You’ll be shocked by how many things will demand your attention when you’re in charge. A good leader knows how to decide which matters need immediate attention and which ones can be put off for a short period.
When you make a decision, you don’t force it down your team’s throat. You take the time to explain any relevant information they might need, like how this decision will be beneficial to everyone. Your word is final, so everyone has to follow it, but you don’t want to cause the staff to resent you for what you choose.
Know How to be Influential
If you’ve ever paid attention to a person in charge, you’ll typically notice that they’re charismatic. They know how to talk to people. They’re experienced in convincing others to see their point of view. Your employees will be more willing to follow your lead if you seem like a person who should be followed.
Address your staff by their names and allow them to share their opinions before you make decisions. Listening to other viewpoints can help you come up with even better options. When your team feels like they were part of the decision-making process, they are more willing to do things your way.
Team Leaders Are Fair
Have you ever had a job where you were passed over for someone less qualified? If so, you know how frustrating it can be when the boss plays favorites. Many companies have nepotism clauses, which prevents family members from working together, so there is no change of unfair treatment.
If you want to be a good leader, you have to be sure that you’re fair. You shouldn’t show favoritism to one person while only using another person for grunt work like running errands and getting coffee. Each member of your team should be treated equally. Each member should have the right to voice their ideas and to be considered for prominent roles.
When you have to delegate work to other members, your decision should be based on experience and reliability. Don’t give a big job to your golfing partner just because he asks for it if there is a more qualified team member who would be better suited.
Be Aware of Your Biases
Whether you like to admit it or not, each of us has a secret biases. Maybe you distrust gingers, and you just happen to have male ginger on your team. If you don’t actively observe your interactions, you can let your personal feelings shade how you engage with this team member.
We often mistreat people based on our preconceived notions, without even being aware of it. Have you ever tried to talk to someone who has a hearing disability? You overcompensate by trying to speak louder, even though it won’t help. Be aware of your behavior, so you don’t end up looking like a jerk.
Team Leaders Should Have Integrity
Poor management can destroy a company. People don’t want to work for lousy bosses. If you’re going to be a good team leader, you should be ready to live up to higher standards. You should lead by example. Don’t expect your team to put in an extra twenty hours a week if you’re coming in late every day and cutting out early.
Integrity is an essential trait for leaders to have. People want to know that they’re putting their faith into someone worthy. When you have respect for a person, you’re more willing to give more effort to please them. If your employees see you acting immoral – maybe you’re drinking at work or using illegal substances – they’ll lose respect for you as a leader.
The same goes for your work ethic. If you’re serious about being a leader, you should be ready to be dedicated to your job. You should be working the hardest and putting in the same effort and time as your staff. And you should never cut corners or cheat. Don’t take credit for someone else’s work. Don’t force someone on the team to do your work for you just because you’re in charge.
Walk the Walk
Many team leaders create guidelines and rules for the team to follow during their collaboration. Maybe it’s required that each team member fill out an end of the day checklist to keep track of their progress, which is shared with the entire group. If the team is required to stay in communication about their progress, a leader should be doing the same.
Send out a final message at the end of the day, summarizing what was done and what will be on the agenda for the next day. Always remember to show appreciation to the staff for their hard work. It motivates them to continue their hard work. Whatever rules the team has to follow should also be done by the leader.
Team Leaders are Qualified
To me, nothing is worse than having to teach the person who’s supposed to be in charge. If you’re a team leader, yet you’re clueless on how to use the new software that your team will be working with, you won’t look very qualified at your job. When a leader seems unqualified, the staff won’t be as inspired to follow the leader.
A good team leader stays up to date on current trends and technology. They might attend professional conferences or listen to podcasts. Some leaders like to take courses designed to improve their leadership roles. And some bosses might decide to petition for a learning course for the entire team.
If you’re concerned about being tech-savvy enough, there are plenty of online courses to help brush up your skills. You can do tutorials or just read articles that give you step by step instructions. Don’t be ashamed of continuing to learn new stuff. Instead, share these materials with your staff. They might have things to share with you.
Encourage Career Development
If you want to get the most out of your staff, offer incentives for members who decide to expand their knowledge on new skills or technology. If someone on your team attends a professional conference, allot time for them to discuss the information they learned with the whole team.
Maybe they can recommend a new program that will help your team be more efficient. That team member could lead a training session, and you could offer a bonus incentive for their extra work. Learning new skills is a great way to add to your resume, so encourage your team to take advantage of any opportunities to further their knowledge. And lead by example, by doing the same.
And make sure to check in with each team member throughout the work process to be sure they are comfortable with their assignments. It’s especially true to remember to do this if you’re using new technology or process that you’ve never used before. Some team members might be scared to admit they’re struggling because they worry the boss will replace them. Be understanding and offer help instead of punishment.
Team Leader Skills Are Important
You could try being a team leader without the skills we’ve described, but you might find it more challenging. Being a good leader isn’t about exerting your power over others. It’s about exhibiting important qualities that inspire the team to complete their jobs to the best of their abilities. A good team leader has the respect of his team and is a valuable member of the team. Not just the final word.