In this post I will explore the role of the team leader within a team. I have been a team leader for many years both directly and as a manager with team leaders reporting to me. My teams have sometimes been office or customer-facing, and geographically separated – all the above bringing their own characteristics. In my current position, whilst I am based with the team, the role of technology (MS Teams) please an increasingly significant part in communication and process.
The role of a team leader is to lead a team of staff. The staff may themselves have the same role or be a mix of roles and at different levels. These factors will affect how the team leader conducts their role. It also depends on how many staff are in the team; whilst under ten maybe optimal it will depend on the hierarchy, geography, the type of work the team does (it may be multi disciplinary or specialist) and if there is more than one team leader.
The role typically includes:
1. Working with the individuals and the team as a whole to ensure they work well with each other (so they are all genuine team workers). Ensuring they all understand their individual and team goals and/or outcomes. Ensure that their job description is clear in what each staff member does so they understand how their role contributes to the team goals.
2. Being a strong communicator. Be able to apply a range of media (verbal, audio, video, email etc.) to a range of message types (information, instructions, standards, any issues that may arise) so that the former is appropriate for the latter. This mostly applies to communicating with their team but also applies when representing the team and communicating with other teams; and when communicating with stakeholders and higher management.
So a team leader must be able to adapt when communicating with different people in different situations. They need to be able to understand their audience and the situation and apply a strategy that achieves the desired result. Communication can be conveyed verbally (with non-verbal signals) and in the written form.
2. Managing performance. The team leader needs to be able to implement and monitor a set of standards. This will first involve working with the team to agree them so they “own” them. The team leader needs to ensure they regularly monitor the standards so they are able to work to keep them maintained. This can be through setting goals for individuals as well as the team that are appropriate to their level. Underpinning quality should be a set of policies and procedures that the team need to be familiar with and understand.
3. Being an educator and trainer. The team leader has an important role in developing the team and its morale plus the individuals within it. The team itself may have shared needs that team building exercises can develop; and individuals will have their own individual development needs.
Developing individuals can be achieved through coaching, mentoring, and a CPD programme. The level of intervention sometimes depends on the scale of the organisation – larger organisations will have a dedicated training team.
4. Being a problem-solver. The team leader should be monitoring their team regularly and be able to identify any issues as they arise so that swift action can be undertaken to minimise problems growing. Team leaders should make informed decisions about problems and implement different actions depending on the issue. A team leader is required to have problem solving skills.; these involve a) considering the issue and underlying issues, b) analysing the problem, c) consider the impact of different strategies to tackle the issue. Depending on the culture of the team and the leader’s leadership approach the team leader may consider how individual team members may be utilised to support the leader to address the issue.
5. Being a team builder. The team leader needs to be able to build trust in the team so that they can help the team to develop; and through input – acknowledging the input that team members make (for this they need to understand the roles of individual team members and how they contribute to the team). By understanding individual team members – their skills, knowledge and experience – they can gain an insight in what motivates them. Finally, through team building the team leader can instil confidence across the team as a whole.