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How to Help a New Team Leader Be Successful

What does it take to succeed as a new team leader, particularly in an environment where not every requirement or metric is clearly laid out?

This question comes up over and over, and I’ve been asked by nervous, up-and-coming managers as well as seasoned executives who are trying to remember what to do to help develop up-and-coming management talent.

Here are some of the things to observe and evaluate when you’re considering what it means to be a new team leader or to develop leaders:

  1. Do the new team leaders understand exactly what their work and their teammates’ work is supposed to be?
  2. Do they always know what each person on their team should be accomplishing and how?
  3. Do they make project assignments according to their teammates’ strengths and expertise as well as their levels of effort and accomplishments? If there’s a lot of effort but little accomplishment, do they know why that is? Are they purposefully helping their teammates to be and do their best?
  4. What are they teaching their people?
  5. How are they managing and directing their people today, prior to any intervention?
  6. Are they taking responsibility for their teammates’ work? Are they taking credit for their teammates’ work?
  7. Do they know how to get the tools and resources their people need?
  8. Do they know how to communicate with their colleagues in order to engender support?
  9. Can they plan and implement collaborative efforts?
  10. Are they helping their people see where they’re heading, and explaining to them why it’s a good path to be on?
  11. Do they look for ways for the team to do more for the business and their colleagues, so that everyone is working strenuously to meet the organization’s mission in a well-functioning workplace?
  12. Do they see deeply enough into the organization that they can put to use their scans of both its internal and external environment?
  13. Do they have their own view of where they think the business should go, and why? And if so, is their view in line with that of their management?
  14. Are they always helping their teammates to understand what’s going on and find their place within it?
  15. Are they always looking for new and better ways to help customers buy, be engaged, and be satisfied?
  16. Do they seek help when they’re not sure what to do or they don’t know something?
  17. Are they learning new skills and coming up with new ideas that will strengthen today’s business and support additional growth tomorrow? And if so, how can you tell?
  18. Are people who work above, below, and sideways to them interested in knowing what they think and hearing what they have to say?
  19. Do colleagues consult them when they have a problem, are unsure about their own work, or just need a reliable sounding board?
  20. Are they able to identify their own missteps? And can they take in and apply feedback when others point out errors or weaknesses?

This is not an exhaustive list by any means. But assuming that the new leaders understand the technical aspects of their functional roles, almost all of their growth and development will come in the areas of communication; decision-making, judgment, and insight; support and development for the employees who report to them; and collaboration and cooperation with colleagues.

Are you meeting all of the requirements on this list yourself? Do you need help thinking through what your role or responsibility is? Do you know how to help someone else meet their requirements? Let me know if you’d like to improve your answers.

Onward and upward,


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