Managing Groups and Teams/New Leaders

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What are the basic roles that a new team leader needs to know?[edit]

Four of the key roles that a new manager must master are that of planning, organizing, directing and controlling. Especially when the new supervisor is being promoted from team member to team leader, the new supervisor will be forced to learn these roles in order to be successful in his new role.

Planning[edit]

First, it is essential that the new manager become proficient in planning for his team. Failure to effectively plan can create problems that require a great deal more time and effort to correct than would have been required to develop a good plan.

To plan effectively, the new manager must address the following questions:

  1. What is the task?
  2. Who will perform the task?
  3. How should the task be performed?
  4. When must the task be completed?

In considering the above questions, the new manager must take the time to identify and evaluate all of the possible alternatives before making a decision. Involving team members in this part of the planning process can yield a greater variety of possible solutions and factors that need to be considered.

Once the manager has developed the plan by answering the above questions, it is critical that the manager effectively communicate the plan with the team members. No matter how well thought out and perfect the plan, it must be understood by the team.

Organizing[edit]

In order to accomplish the goals and objectives set forth in the planning stages, the new manager must learn to effectively establish the structure of the team and the people that are part of the team.

In organizing the structure of the team, the manager must determine how to best align the resources at his disposal to reach the team’s goals. The manager must make good decisions in creating formal job descriptions and accountabilities for his team members and develop processes that can be improved upon. By giving team members enough structure to help them understand their roles and accountabilities, team members are clear on what is expected of them and understand how to be successful at their jobs.

Secondly, the new team leader must organize the people within his team. Some of the important steps in organizing the people on the team include:

  1. Understanding the factors that make a team member successful in his job
  2. Interviewing to find the right candidate to join the team
  3. Establishing and providing effective training for new team members
  4. Ongoing training and development of team members

By providing sufficient structure to team members, selecting the right members for the team and training team members, the new manager can effectively organize the team and increase the probability of success.

Directing[edit]

The most difficult and complicated role that a new supervisor must learn is that of directing. Once the manager has planned for his team, set forth structure within the team, and selected and trained team members, he must then develop the skill necessary to direct his team in the work. The main skills that must be mastered are leading, communicating, and motivating.

Although leading is a difficult skill to teach, there are several skills that a manager can develop to become a better leader. Some of the key skills that can be developed are:

  1. Empathy and the ability to listen and understand others point of view
  2. Understand own strengths and weaknesses and how they affect the team
  3. Show team members a willingness to work
  4. Show and spread excitement within team
  5. Show willingness to take on responsibility

Another key skill that a new manager must develop to become proficient at directing his team is communication. Effective communication is centered on the receiver of the communication receiving the same message as was intended by the sender. A new manager must take initiative ensure that the communication within the team is achieving the necessary results.

Controlling[edit]

The final role that a new team leader must learn to perform is controlling the team. Once the roles of planning, organizing and directing have been fulfilled, the manager must be able to control the work to be completed by the team. The steps that are involved in establishing control over a team are:

  1. Establish a means to measure performance
  2. Measure results against established metrics
  3. Make corrections to performance to meet established performance goals

By following the above steps, the new manager can gain a means of understanding the team’s strengths and opportunities for improvement, as well as identify best practices within the team that can be shared with the other team members. Along with following these steps, it may become necessary to discipline employees who are unable or unwilling to change their behavior in order to meet established requirements.

By learning the roles of planning, organizing, directing, and controlling, a new manager can acquire the skill necessary to quickly become effective at his new and important role.

What are some of the key roles a manager needs to take on to be effective?[edit]

Must have authoritive manners but still remain open and slightly passive to gain ideas, opinions to help in decision making

What Are the Best Options for Arranging a Team and Assigning Team Role?[edit]

A primary reason for forming and working in teams is that the combined skills and expertise of the full group can be more effective than the contributions of individual members. The team needs to act in tight coordination with each member performing his or her task correctly and at the right time. When it works, it is easy to forget the team leader’s role in making it happen.

Team leaders have many challenges to overcome before the team can fulfill its purpose. Before a team can start work toward reaching its objective, the team leader must identify shared goals and outcomes and align a group of individuals them, identify the resources that the team needs and make arrangement to provide these resources, make assignments that help improve the skills of each individual while still benefiting the team, help the team run smoothly, and ensure that the team accomplishes the task at hand.

It is like the old adage that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. You have to get the right mix of people. To do this you have to understand what each person brings to the group and match those people to the right roles. Once this is accomplished, the leader’s job is to help the assigned individuals function together as a team. It is important not to have too many or too few member. To be effective, there needs to be a balance between the number of member and the number of role and responsibilities assigned by the team leader. Too many members can result in a team that is hard to manage, too few members and there may not be enough resources to complete the task.

Before building a team you must define the capabilities your team will need to be effective. The team leader must be clear on the objectives that need to be met. Start by identifying the type of work the needs to be performed. Define the team’s objectives. Then look at those goals and desired outcomes and list the skills, certifications, expertise, and talents that will be needed to accomplish those goals. Some of these may be very specific while others are of a more abstract nature.

The following five-step analysis, as outlined in the book “Building Effective Teams”, Duke Corporate Education, can be very beneficial when trying to identify the resources available and the roles where individuals may be most effective.

  1. Define your team’s current responsibilities. Make note of what skill sets are utilized to make the team work now.
  2. Define the tasks that the team will be responsible for a year from now. Make note of the skill sets that will be needed.
  3. Take an inventory of the team members and the skills that they have. Make note of any dormant skills that team members have the potential to enhance and bring to the group.
  4. Compare the tasks in step one and step two with the skills that your team has. Are there any gaps? Do you have back-up for each person? Where can cross functional roles help provide redundancy?
  5. Consider readjusting the team. Are there areas that need development? How quickly do they need to be developed? What capabilities should you look for in seeking new members?

When assigning roles you must also look at how the members work together. Personal challenges can have a definite affect on how the team works and how quickly tasks are completed. Make a list of the norms that you want for your team. If you want everyone to finish work at 4:30 the night before a meeting, don’t look to someone who is a last minute type of person. If you want a casual working relationship where ideas are shared easily, don’t look to a person who always wants sole credit for work done. Look for and find people who can fit into your list of norms.

Members of the team need a clear understanding of what is being asked of them. They need to know that if they are unclear they have someone to go to. They need support and direction at every step. It is the leader’s job to find out the goals of each team member. If a team member feels that their personal goals are being met they work harder for the team. There is no “I” in team but there is a “Me.” Team members want to continue to grow and will grow with the team if they feel like their goals are being recognized.

The following is a checklist, again derived from “Building Effective Teams”, to help identify the roles each member may be capable of performing.

  • Make sure you start with a clear understanding of the work to be done.
  • Complete a gap analysis as previously described to identify individual talents and how best to employ them.
  • Learn your team members’ aspirations as well as their current skill sets and align their roles to support these objectives whenever possible.
  • Understand your organizations strategic direction and structure the team so it has the flexibility to make any changes necessary to stay aligned with corporate objectives.
  • Determine your overarching priorities. Make sure the objectives of the individuals are not allowed to interfere with the objectives of the team. Individual roles may have to be adjusted over time to help keep the team priorities at the forefront.
  • Scope the work to match the capabilities of the team members you have to draw from as much as possible. This often involves negotiation to shape the roles to the members and the members to the roles.

Keep in mind that there are a number of roles that can be formally assigned within teams in the interest of helping workflow proceed as effectively and efficiently as possible. It is the team leader’s responsibility to perform an inventory of the resources they have to draw from and align those resources with identified team roles. While there may be some roles that are fundamental to most teams, each objective is different and therefore each team is unique. It is the process of identifying which roles are necessary in a given situation and which individuals are best suited to perform those roles that determines the effectiveness of a team leader.

What Relationship Aspects Can Be Defined in Advance to Assure Success?[edit]

When given an opportunity to grow within the company, there are challenges that come with the excitement of moving up the corporate ladder. These challenges are centered in the relationship “baggage” that one can bring with them into their new position. So what aspects of this baggage can be defined early so as to avoid any problems and assure the type of success that brought you into this new position? John C. Maxwell, in his book, The 360 degree Leader, suggests that the aspects fall into two categories. First, there are leadership principles that one must develop while still part of the body of the team before the promotion. These are 1) avoid office politics, 2) let the best idea win and 3) don’t pretend your perfect. (Maxwell, 2005, Thomas Nelson) Second are a group of principles that need to be developed after the upward move is made. These are 1) develop team members as people, 2) place people in their strength zones and 3) model the behavior you desire. (Maxwell, 2005, Thomas Nelson)

Maxwell feels that the development of leadership from inside of a team can be a very difficult challenge. Mostly the relationship baggage the new leader brings is the months or years of established interaction with co-workers. This baggage can be minimized with some concerted effort when interacting as a team member.

First, Maxwell defines playing politics as “changing who you appear to be or what you normally do to gain an advantage with whoever currently has power.” (Maxwell, 2005, Thomas Nelson) Many organizations drive people to feel that they must play these politics to get ahead. The suggestion made by Maxwell is that once a person participates in these politics, their reputation among their peers is one of trying to get ahead without merit. As this person moves into leadership roles, based on performance or not, that reputation among his peers will follow him and his leadership will be largely ineffective.

Second, in competitive corporate environments many middle managers are fighting to have their ideas heard and recognized. Many will do so at the expense of the larger company or at the expense of others around them. As a team member, before promotion, a reputation of fairness and open mindedness needs to be developed so that once the promotion does come that reputation will be useful. This is done by listening to all ideas, don’t take rejection personally, don’t let personality overshadow purpose and finally, protect creative people and the ideas they generate. (Maxwell, 2005, Thomas Nelson)

Finally, while working within a team, one should never put on the air of superiority, even in success. The way to combat this is to be real when dealing with oneself. Be quick to admit faults, ask for advice and worry less about what others think. People who are real draw others to them and are easily trusted.

Once the transition has been made to the leadership role, the relationship baggage is still there and still needs to be dealt with. The person in this role is no longer seen as a team member but an ex-team member. With that said, there are still the relationships that one has brought with them. These relationships can continue to develop on a personal level. First, each team member must feel that the leader is interested and willing to help them continually develop. The leader must understand that each team member is different and needs to be dealt with differently. Additionally, by establishing organizational goals that help each person develop outside of the work environment they will feel that the leader is helping them move toward personal progression. (Maxwell, 2005, Thomas Nelson)

Second, many leaders fail in finding the “sweet spot” of each team member is essential as a team leader. Many people feel under utilized when they are performing tasks that do not challenge them. By spending the time to understand strengths and then allowing team members to maximize those strengths, new leaders can develop successful teams.

Finally, good leaders will always lead by example. Leaders that move up through the corporate ladder by performing at high levels, achieving goals and being real can then expect the same behavior from the teams they now lead. This principle may be the most important. (Maxwell, 2005, Thomas Nelson)

References[edit]

  • Building Effective teams, Duke Corporate Education, Dearborn Trade Publishing.

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