Team Leader is the Most Pivotal Role on the Team

Posted by Kristin Arnold on March 18, 2010

The team leader is the most pivotal role on the team.  The “leader” sets the tone and expectations for how a diverse group of people will work together to achieve specific results.

The team philosophy may be new to some team leaders and members.  They will instinctively continue to work independently and look to the leader for specific task direction.  To build productive teams, team leaders must direct, guide, facilitate, and coach.

Leading teams means making tough decisions to obtain the appropriate level of involvement, calling upon the experience and expertise of each team member.  Strategies vary according to the maturity of the team — spending more time directing at first, and then developing and evolving to the point where the team can handle more and new responsibilities and work interdependently.  As you build your team:

Tell ‘Em Everything.  As you set the team up for success, clarify expectations, guidelines, deliverables, and deadlines.  Be willing to state what you know — AND what you don’t know.  The team needs to have the same information you have in order to build trust and work together.

Be a Coach.  The successful team leader coaches the team so it can be more involved in preparing and planning the work, knowing what work is being done, and setting high performance goals.  Of course, this means that you may need to bone up on coaching and team dynamics.  Work closely with a team facilitator to train and coach you!

Watch Process as Well as Content.  Be concerned not only with what the team does, but how the team goes about its business.  You can’t achieve great results over the long term without also focusing on what is happening to and between team members.

Share the Wealth.  Traditionally, the team leader “leads” the team (and does most of the talking), records what’s being said on a yellow legal pad, and keeps time (or forgets to watch the time and everyone is stuck for an extra two hours….).  Why not share the wealth?  Ask for a different team member to be the recorder, timekeeper or even “lead” different parts of the meeting.

Don’t Hog Airtime.  Watch how much “airtime” you use.  Do you dominate the discussion?  Are you the first or last to speak?  Do you offer your opinion?  Ask for advice?  Ask others for their ideas?

Be Part of the Team.  You put your pants on just like everyone else.  You are no better or worse than your team members.  So check the ego at the door and look forward to doing great work with great people.

Aim for Consensus.  The most common concern I hear from team leaders is the fear that the team will march off in a direction they don’t think is wise or appropriate.  When the team aims for consensus, THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN.  Think about it.  Consensus means that all can live with and support the decision upon implementation.  If you, as a team member, can’t live with it, then you don’t have a consensus!

Have a Fallback.  If the team gets jammed and can’t reach a consensus (or they possibly could, but will talk longer than you have time for), then “fall back” to a previously identified position.  For example, many teams declare: “We will aim for consensus, but in the event we cannot reach a consensus within this meeting, we will fall back to the team leader who decides.”  Someone has to break the “tie.”  In this case the team leader calls it.  Or you can fall back to a majority vote.

Question:  How do you rate yourself as a team leader?

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