New Team Leader Can Read How-To Books, Find Mentor, Ask for Help

Posted by Kristin Arnold on January 15, 2009

There are many ways in which you can learn to be a good team leader.  The first step is that you recognize that you could benefit from some help and advice.  Most people blindly stumble around until they learn by trial and error what works and what doesn’t.  Why not stand on the shoulders of all the team leaders who have gone down this same path?

Read Voraciously.  Read great “how-to” books on team leadership such as Andrew Leigh and Michael Maynard’s Leading Your Team, Fran Rees’ How to Lead Work Teams, and Jerry Spiegel and Cresencio Torres’ Manager’s Official Guide to Team Working.  For those of you well into your leadership journey, try John C. Maxwell’s Developing the Leader Within You, Richard Weaver or John Farrell’s Managers as Facilitators.  Highlight the good points.  Write questions and make notes in the margins.

Emulate Past Leaders.  Consider team leaders you admire from all aspects of your life:  workplace, school, church, community, and sports teams.  What did these leaders do that made you feel part of an “extraordinary team?”  Make a list of specific performance characteristics or behaviors with your new team.

Recruit a Mentor.  Look around you.  Is there a successful team leader within your reach — preferably not working within your direct reporting structure?  Ask them to mentor you as a team leader.  Read Floyd Wickman and Terri Sjodin’s book, Mentoring:  The Most Obvious Yet Overlooked Key to Achieving More in Life than You Ever Dreamed Possible for more guidance on how to create a win-win mentoring relationship.

Apply Your Insights.  Don’t try to be the greatest team leader overnight.  Acknowledge your strengths and how you currently support the team.  From your reading and discussions, identify two or three things that you would like to improve or start doing.  Try them on.  See how it works (or doesn’t!).  If you still don’t know what to do, Susan Fowler Woodring’s The Team Leader’s Idea-a-Day Guide has 250 different ways to help you be more effective as a team leader.

Ask for Help.  Don’t even think about “faking it until you make it;” ask your team to help you in your new role.  Tell them what you are doing, try a few new things, and then ask for specific feedback.  Continue doing the good things and modify the not-so-good things.

Leading teams is a learned behavior.  By following these steps, you will develop into the team leader you want to be.

Question:  What are you doing this year to become a better team leader?

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