Transitioning 1: From Team Member to Team Leader

One day you get a promotion.  You’re a salesperson, an engineer, a software developer or an accountant.  

You are good at your job.  How do you know? Because, based on your performance in that role, based on your technical proficiency, you’ve been promoted.  A salary bump and a new title.  As a result of that competency - you’re still an accountant or in sales, you have a ‘day’ job to do - but you are now responsible for leading a small team of people doing the same job.  

Congratulations, you’re now a team leader!

Sound familiar?  This is the first, and possibly the hardest, stage of transition. You have moved from managing yourself to managing others.  No longer is your job just about the task.  For twenty, thirty or even sixty percent of the time, you are required to supervise the tasks and (gulp) the behaviours of other people.  You were once in that team.  Now you lead it.

Now you may be called on to have ‘difficult’ conversations, motivate people, set KPIs, give feedback to the people you were working alongside just yesterday. 

What’s more, you have to create time for doing these things by giving up doing some of what you previously enjoyed – the task.

This process of letting go requires that you learn new skills and behaviours.  Some first time supervisors take to the role instinctively, but most successful transitions work because the new team leader is supported via a combination of training (learning new skills, such as delegation or time management), mentoring (being guided by an experienced manager who has undertaken a similar promotion) and coaching (being encouraged to develop the appropriate mindset and behaviours of a leader).

The landscape you have been working in for the last few months or years has now shifted and you need to find a way to navigate through it.

Plan to be successful in your new role as team leader by detailing what you want to achieve in your first 90 days in post.  You'll need to consider the following;

  • What proportion of your time do you need to set aside for doing and leading?
  • What new skills do you need and how can you acquire them?
  • Who is your new peer group? Do other team leaders get together as a group? Can you learn from them?
  • What are your new objectives? What does success look like in your new role?
  • How can you build a relationship with your new manager?

Map PlanConsider each of the points above and figure out what you are going to do to make each one work.  Create a plan.  Your chances of succeeding as Team Leader, as well as your confidence and your effectiveness, will be greatly improved if you have a plan for each of the points above.

Formulate your plan and and take action.  Review and refine it as time goes by - your plan is just a starting point which will evolve as your time and experience in your new role continues.

Further Reading:

  • The First 90 Days, Michael D. Watkins, ISBN-13: 978-1422188613

Michael D. Watkins is a world leading expert on accelerating transitions. This book is not just for managers at the executive level.  It's also for functional managers, project managers, and supervisors and targets new leaders (and soon-to-be leaders) at all levels that are making the transition from one rung of the ladder to the next.

For further information on specific training to help you develop your skills as a Team Leader, please see the links below;

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